The Great Smoky Mountains is one of those places that draws you back again and again. If you see it in the spring, with waterfalls at full bore from the spring runoff, wildflowers exploding in bloom on the hillsides, you’ll be awestruck at the beauty you see. But at the same time, you’ll find yourself wondering how it looks in autumn, with the leaves changing colors, splashing the countryside with color. The Smokies are amazingly beautiful no matter when you visit.
In October 2015 I had the opportunity to visit the Smokies to photograph the foliage, and I managed to capture near peak color. I didn’t have as long in the park as I would like, but I did manage to hit some of the best spots and make some great images while seeing the incredible beauty of the area. In 2017 I am planning another trek to the Great Smoky Mountains, this time in the spring, leading a photography workshop for Worldwide Photo Tours.
The great thing about the Smokies is the mix of natural beauty and history. There are vistas galore to look out from, starting with the views from Clingman’s Dome and Newfound Gap, straddling the state line between North Carolina and Tennessee. But beyond these easily accessible vistas, there are countless waterfalls, found along many of the trails in the park.
In terms of history, the Cades Cove area, found on the Tennessee side of the GSMNP, is an unbelievable trip into the past. Cades Cove is a broad valley where settlers made a home in the early 1800s. There are restorations of settlement buildings along the loop road, including a grist mill, three churches, and several cabins. All make for outstanding photo opportunities. In addition, some of the best opportunities in the park for viewing wildlife are found in Cades Cove.
Finally, I visited Cataloochee, a valley on the North Carolina side of the park. There are several historic buildings to be found in Cataloochee as well, but to me, the real treasure of Cataloochee is the herd of elk that were released in the valley in 2001. The elk can be found in the fields in the valley, especially in the early morning and evening. A long lens is a must, but it was incredible to watch these majestic beasts wander the field, the males bugling to try and catch the females attention.
I’m looking forward to visiting the Smokies this spring, showing attendees around and teaching them some of my favorite landscape photo techniques for capturing better images. If you’re interested, send me an email or visit Worldwide Photo Tours for more information.