Smoky Mountains, October 2011

I’ve been to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park twice before but it’s been many, many years since then and I wanted this trip to focus on photography and antiquing. Autumn is quite possibly the most breathtaking season in the Smokies and I wanted to plan the trip for when the leaves would be changing colors. So, as any social media addict would, I researched Flickr photos to see when the most colorful photos were taken, mostly focusing on the past few years. It turned out that my research, along with a lot of luck, actually worked.

This was a short trip last month — only four days including the 9.5-hour drive each way. The first day in the park was mostly spent driving scenic loop roads and setting up my tripod along side of a river to catch reflections and mini waterfalls. I also got to test out my new close-up filters on leaves. It was the perfect setting for this.

Brook at Great Smoky Mountains

Autumn in the Smokies       Tree colors

Red tip

When I take photography trips, I like to follow a specific set of photography guide books. They always lead me to hidden spots and even talk about what time of day or which direction to aim in for the best shot. The Photographing the Great Smoky Mountains book mentioned talking Cades Cove loop road for the single best view in the entire park so, of course, I had to try it.

Side Mirror Reflections

Tree at the Smoky Mountains

The road itself was very scenic but to get to the “best” view, you had to take a one-way gravel road for approximately 10 miles. The view was of a small white church, nestled among the trees.

Afternoon sun

The next day was spent photographing the area at Clingman’s Dome in the morning and antiquing in the afternoon.

The Smokies panoramic

The Smokies from Clingman's Dome

Fall trees

Rooster PlateI found some great treasures in a few stores in Sevierville, TN, which is just north of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

There are actually several antique stores right in the same area of Sevierville but as I was researching stores for this trip, I came across several online listings for Antique Castle.

The don’t have a website but I found an email address for them and inquired about their hours, to which they quickly replied. They hoped that I would get a chance to browse around and it was this little statement that hooked me. Now I had to stop by.  In addition to being extremely polite, out of all the other antique stores I went to in the in the area, Antique Castle also seemed to be the cleanest and most reasonably priced.

My most treasured find was this vintage rooster plate — only $7.95! It’s perfect for right about the stove in my kitchen, which was the main item on my antique store shopping list.

The next morning was my last chance to get amazing photos so I decided to start early — very early — and catch the sunrise. Once again, I headed to Clingman’s Dome, set up my tripod and froze while standing outside experimenting with different shutter speeds, f-stops and views. Even though most of my night shots didn’t turn out well, just being out there, almost in the middle of nowhere, was an incredible experience. And the stars were amazing, of course.

Night Sky at the Smokies

After a while, a few more cars came up to the parking lot and everyone got out and set their tripods up. They were taking a photography workshop and the instructor was kind enough to give me some pointers with the rest of his students.

Sunrise at Clingman's Dome,

Blue Mountains at Sunrise

As soon as the sun was all the way up, it was time to head out of the park and start the journey home. Traveling through the lens of a camera gives you an experience like no other. I can’t wait until my next trip.

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