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.

Many of the rock walls along the parkway were soaked with runoff from recent rains, and the polarizer gets through the glare to reveal the rich rock tones beneath. There was one particular wall on the road leading to the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area that encouraged me to park the car several hundred yards away and walk back to take a closer look. There were so many interesting colorful shapes on the rocks revealed fully only after rotating the polarizer to the proper angle that were really set off with some new green growth, and quite a bit of time was spent there exploring the possibilities. Although it was mid-day, luckily the wall was barely in shade, but had the added benefit of reflected sunlight from the roadway just a few feet away; something that necessitated moving the tripod quite a few times when cars went by.

Spring Growth - Craggy Gardens — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC © jj raia

Spring Growth – Craggy Gardens Area — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC © jj raia

Iron Stains - Craggy Gardens Area — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC © jj raia

Iron Stains – Craggy Gardens Area — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC © jj raia

On one of the days of the trip, I spent exploring a bit of South Carolina just across the border and found some small waterfalls and cascades that, because it was a day of clear skies, were dappled with shade and sunlight. Normally I would not even attempt to photograph under those conditions, but being envious of a friend of mine who shoots during the day using an infrared camera, I thought I would make an attempt using HDR.

Little Eastatoe Creek — Long Shoals Park, SC (HDR) ©  jjraia

Little Eastatoe Creek — Long Shoals Park, SC (HDR) © jjraia

I found the post processing of these rather difficult in that they always seem to have the “signature” look of an HDR image. I was attempting to record the scene as it was and was not completely satisfied with the results. One note though, since several images are taken in succession using differing exposures, if trees are included, even in seemingly still conditions, leaves tend to move and there can be a resulting loss of crispness in those leaves as in the darker leaves at the top of the image above. Incidentally, I was saddened to see that many of the rocks along this creek were thoughtlessly defaced with graffiti! To combat this problem of movement, make the HDR attempts in quick bursts using your camera’s bracketing function if it has one. Even though several attempts were made to process the image above and eliminate the “look” of an HDR, I think it still suffers from that signature. After some friendly suggestions and many corrections to the vertical image below, it seems a little less HDR-like, but am still not completely satisfied; it seems to be missing the brilliance of the sunlight that was present.

Carrick Creek — Table Rock State Park, SC © jj raia

Carrick Creek — Table Rock State Park, SC © jj raia

More on this short three day trip coming up in the next post.

 

 

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