Craggy Gardens - Blue Ridge Parkway, June 2017Craggy Gardens - Blue Ridge Parkway, June 2017

Great New Finds

July 16, 2020  •  1 Comment

After living here in western North Carolina now for five years, I really needed to find some new places to visit.  While I revisited some familiar places I was able to find some great new locations.  Even better... I found them on near perfect days with great conditions.

Early to mid-June brings the annual blooms of the wonderful catawba rhododendrons all over the mountains.  Two prime locations to photograph them in a stunning setting is along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Roan Mountain.  But I was shut out again this year in capturing the sort of image I was seeking.  The blooms were a bit late this year and are never really predictable.

A few years ago for some reason, park personnel cut down numerous rhododendron plants on the Parkway.  I think it may be because too many people were stopping along the road to photograph them.  Prime locations are now are essentially bare.  It was likely done for safety reasons as too many "less intelligent" tourists were causing traffic issues.  Once again, a few bad apples ruin it for everyone.  So I have to work with the ones that remain to get a good image.  The photo below is one I do like from this year.

Parkway Blooms -      June 2020Parkway Blooms - June 2020 One of the best places to photograph rhododendrons is on Roan Mountain.  Most of my photography friends noted this was one of the hardest years to get good images.  Most days were extremely foggy and rainy.  The day I went was suppose to be good.  But when I started to reach the top of Round Bald I was met with horrendously high winds.  It was a bit late in the bloom season there too.  So I had to write off Roan Mountain for this year and look forward to 2021.

While the rhododendron season may not have gone well, things turned around with some early waterfall outings.  I visited several wonderful new waterfalls and revisited some I hadn't been to in years.

One new waterfall I hiked to was Grassy Creek Falls.  How have I missed going here before?  While it's on private property, the owners have allowed visitors. But recently I've heard that has either changed or may be changing.  But I was lucky enough to have made it there in time.

Grassy Creek Falls - June 2020Grassy Creek Falls - June 2020 The day I visited the conditions were not the best as it was partly sunny.  For numerous compositions I had to wait for a passing cloud before snapping off the shutter.  This photo only shows the top portion of the total waterfall.  Below here are a couple more small drops and cascades.

One of the early waterfalls I visited upon moving to North Carolina was Dill Falls.  While it's nice I never really found it particularly good to photograph.  But one day I was nearby and I thought I'd revisit it.  I'm so glad I did.  During my previous visits my compositional skills were lacking.  That's not to say they're great today but I have improved in that respect.  I now know to explore more, which includes getting into the stream.  When safe, that is.  So that's what I did during this visit, i.e., got my feet wet.

Dill Falls - June 2020Dill Falls - June 2020

In earlier visits I was more to the right of this position.  There are a lot of downed trees, which reduce the quality of the image.  But by moving my vantage point, I was able to exclude that tree rubble and get a more interesting image in my opinion.  Given the closeness to the foreground leaves, I needed to focus stack four exposures to get a full range of detail focus.

My last image is once again from a waterfall in South Carolina that I visited a long time ago.  My first visit  to Virginia Hawkins Falls resulted in zero quality images mainly due to my poor photography skills at the time.  I just wasn't seeing the potential of the waterfall.  Then storms dropped a lot of large trees which totally ruined any chances of getting a quality image.

But recently I saw a photo of the falls and it was gorgeous so I knew I had to go back.  Apparently, a few well intentioned men got permission to clear out the downed trees.  They did an absolutely incredible job on what must have been days of very hard work.  But their efforts provide visitors to see a truly beautiful waterfall during good conditions.

During my recent visit we had just had some good rain so water levels were up a bit.  But on this day the flow could have been a bit better but everything else was perfect.

Virginia Hawkins Falls - June 2020Virginia Hawkins Falls - June 2020 This first image was from the far side of the falls.  Moving around those rocks was difficult as they were extremely slippery.  But as you can see the downed trees have been removed leaving just a beautiful, almost tropical scene.

The following photo was taken further up and to the right side of the falls.

Virginia Hawkins Falls - June 2020Virginia Hawkins Falls - June 2020

I felt so lucky to have been able to visit this spectacular waterfall with such good conditions.  I plan to go back after some harder rains.

The weather now is western North Carolina is the typical dry and warm weather we get in summer.  That has limited my excursions but I hope to make it out again soon.

For those of you who are out and about, please follow good personal practices for COVID-19.  Please wear a mask to help protect others and hopefully get a handle of this deadly virus.  Working together we can beat this thing and get back to normal.  Stay safe and take care.






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