Finally - There are blooms on top of Hawksbill Mountain
After four years of trying to time the Carolina Rhododendrons up on Hawksbill Mountain, I finally got lucky and was blessed with overall good conditions. I made my first attempt for this year about ten days earlier and the buds were just starting to emerge. So when the forecast appeared good, I made the hike again with Greg Schneider.
If you've never been up Hawksbill Mountain, I will say its a bit of a tough hike when you are loaded down with heavy camera gear. While its short, only about 8/10 of a mile, the final half of the hike is very steep. The first half isn't a cake walk either. But we took our time and made it up OK. We were relieved to see the blooms out when we reached the top. Made the hike so worthwhile.
If you go, I would suggest leaving your longer lenses home. This place is made for wide angle or medium telephoto lenses. For 95% of my photos, I stuck with my favorite lens, the Nikon 17-35mm. I've managed to get out to practice with my D850 and must say I really like its focus peaking option. While using live-view and manual focus, it outlines those areas in focus with bright red (or a color of your choosing) lines. So even in fairly bright sunlight, you can see what is in focus.
Given the dynamic range of the light, I bracketed many of my photos, including those included here, and that seemed to work pretty well. I also used my Lee 2- and 3-stop GND filters along with the Lee 105mm polarizing filter. When using a circular polarizer filter on a wide angle lens, care needs to be taken to avoid getting some odd colorization in parts of the sky.
All in all, we stayed on top about three hours before heading back down. Since some nice clouds were just starting to roll in, I would have liked to stick around a bit longer but lunch was calling for us. : ).
I highly recommend making this hike next spring. But the weather on Hawksbill can be harsh and the blossoms are usually short lived. That's why I've missed them so many times. Give it a try next May, you may hit it just right. Hawksbill is also very nice in the fall.
Hawksbill Mountain is located near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Linville at the intersection of Hwy 183 and US221. Check Google for more specific directions in interested.
Keywords: carolina, cliffs, forest, hawksbill, landscape, mountain, nature, nikon, north, northrup, reid, rhododendrons, rocks, trees
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