Nov 082019
 

“Meet Me in the Middle” from Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains, TN || Prints available! Click on photo to order yours!

While my buddy, Tim Mead, and I photographed in Cades Cove on a recent visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a number of visitors passing us by in cars stuck their heads out the window and asked us, “What are you photographing?”

When we answered with “the fall colors and fog,” “trees,” and “the woods,” their shoulders dropped in disappointment. “Oh. So no bears?”

“No. Just. Pretty. Trees.”

After several rounds of this, we tired of letting people down. Tim suggested we come up with a new response. So we did.

When the next car asked us the standard question, we yelled in unison, “A wolverine!”

The gent leaned out of the window credulously. “A wolverine?”

Tim said while pointing at me, “Yes, a Michigan Wolverine!”

The guy rolled his eyes, shook his head, and laughed as he drove away. It was true! I graduated from the University of Michigan, which makes me a Michigan Wolverine. Go Blue!

I originally called this photograph “Meet Me in the Middle,” but maybe it’s more appropriate to title it, “Just Pretty Trees.” Or “Look! A Wolverine!”

Nov 192017
 
In the Flow

“In the Flow” || Waterfalls cascade down the Little River along Tremont Road in autumn in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, USA (Click on photo to order a print)

When visiting a place, like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, for the first time (as I did a couple of weeks ago), it can feel a little overwhelming. So much beauty, where does one even start?!

Before my responsibilities at the Great Smoky Mountains Photography Summit began, I took a quick scouting trip along Tremont Road. I made a few “happy snaps,” but mainly so I could start sorting out my budding connections with the Middle Prong of the Little River. I continued visualizing possible images while leading two of my three summit groups to the spots that had initially grabbed my attention. When I teach workshops, teaching always takes precedence over making my own images, so I didn’t click the shutter once.

When I happened to get a few hours off from my workshops and presenting, I rushed back to the Lower Tremont area to try out some of my photographic ideas. But each time I set up along the shoreline, I felt like I was forcing things to happen too much. I stopped photographing and started listening to the river.

I took my shoes off, rolled up my pant legs, and walked into the flow with my tripod acting as my stabilizer. To feel the water, to be the water. The refreshing coolness of the stream, the pulsing current, the smooth shape of the rocks beneath my arches. It felt comforting. It instantly put me into my own flow state.

After only a few minutes of wading around, I turned to look upstream and saw this composition with little to no thought running through my brain. I fell in love with the scene, so I made this image…which was infinitely more appealing than anything I had previously visualized.

The value of my earlier visualizations, though, did not go to waste. The purpose of visualization–or picturing your pictures before you photograph them–is not to develop a strict checklist of “what you MUST photograph.” Rather, the process helps you practice and prepare for the “big game.” For me, it was a way to strengthen my bond with the location without any pressure or expectations to photograph a scene, ask a bunch of “what if I did this…” questions, and understand my photographic vision in a place I had never been to before which, no doubt, helped me eventually create “In the Flow.”