The Long View

General Thoughts
Early Morning — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC © jj raia

Early Morning — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC © jj raia

In the last post we were talking about the signature of HDR processed images and I found them to be a bit of a problem for long distance views as well. So much so that the image at the top of the previous post was a layered composite of several images blended in Photoshop after the attempted HDR seemed too far from reality. The image above was an HDR coaxed back to “normal” with some editing in Lightroom afterward; but I suppose I may never be satisfied with the results because of my presence at the location when these images were taken. Had I not been there, it may be a different story. But even knowing I was going through the steps for making the several frames of the scene for an HDR image, I still continued to use a split neutral density filter to do some of the work of  balancing the wide range of light values.

Late Afternoon - Woolyback Overlook — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC © jj raia

Late Afternoon – Woolyback Overlook — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC © jj raia

The image above was from a single frame (not HDR) that seems to have a more natural look to it; generally more contrasty as we might normally view the scene. A small sunstar was achieved with a very small aperture (f/22) and partially blocking the sun which necessitated moving the tripod in 1/2-inch increments to arrive at just the right position.

Cascading Ridges — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC © jj raia

Cascading Ridges — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC © jj raia

The singular draw for long distance views that the Blue Ridge Parkway holds are the various viewpoints along its course that offer the cascading ridge lines that fade in the dust and distance. There is always another overlook that offers a differing view and, depending on the time of year, will provide that perfect blend of tones as the ridges blend into the sky. This was the only cloud in the sky that evening and I took this shot just as the sun hit the horizon so it still has the warm mauve of the sun in the palette. But as the sun disappears below the horizon, the color temperature rapidly moves toward blue and is aptly named the blue hour. By the way, the air temperature rapidly drops then as well! Although the calendar said May, the temperature said winter while the strong winds didn’t help either. As I drove away afterward, the guage in the car read 38-degrees!!

Blue Hour at Cowee Overlook — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC © jj raia

Blue Hour at Cowee Overlook — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC © jj raia

Of course, long distance views will usually include some panoramas and this trip was no different. Since there were almost no clouds on this evening, I waited for the sun to go completely below the horizon and watched the ridges take on the cooler blue hue of dusk. A total of eight vertical frames using the 80mm end of an 80-200mm zoom were stitched together to create this image. HDR was not needed since the usual 2-stop Split ND filter was used to lower the light value of the sky.

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The Blue Ridge in Spring

General Thoughts
Godbeams — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC © jj raia

Godbeams — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC © jj raia

Springtime along the Blue Ridge Parkway never ceases to amaze me; I always seem to make new discoveries each trip and this year was no exception. A few years back,  it was the white Serviceberry blooms that drew most of my attention, while on another it was the scarlet spring buds of what I believe is a type of maple, but really have no way of knowing for sure, but are unmistakably vibrant when seen. This year, it was the Pink Shell Azalea that were in bloom at the higher elevations, while underfoot tiny bluets were a new addition that I had not noticed in prior years. And I saw my first red trillium this year, but never found an opportunity to photograph any.

Pink Shell Azalea and Rock Wall — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC © jj raia

Pink Shell Azalea and Rock Wall — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC © jj raia

Bluettes — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC © jj raia

Bluettes — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC © jj raia

However, the one constant through all the years is the electric yellow/green (or is it green/yellow?) of newly emerging leaves, so different from the deeper greens of summer. These new leaves are shiny and therefore require the addition of a polarizer to cut through the sheen in order to reveal their rich color. Not only do I have one in front of my lenses, I also wear polaroid sunglasses to see possible images as I would through the viewfinder since there is such a dramatic difference.  The same holds true for wet rock (below) where the reflections are clearly visible on the left and eliminated by the polarizer in the image on the right.