Cades Cove Round 1 – The Landscapes

I had the pleasure of visiting Cades Cove, part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in East Tennessee, on Monday June 28.

I came back with over 300 photos! Tons of landscapes and so much wildlife. It was my first time visiting so I got all the “touristy” shots out of the way! It really was a beautiful place, I can’t wait to go again.

I have to give a big shout out to my flickr contact Anthony for the inspiration to visit this amazing place. His shots from Cades Cove and all around East Tennessee are so amazing.

Here is Round One – The Landscapes:

Stay tuned for Round Two – The Wildlife!

This Week at the Lake – 16/52

A similar shot to start this week off as last week – but I really liked it!

My week at the lake started on Tuesday, I set the alarm clock for 4:45 am so I could make it before work. The problem I face with that is that it’s too dark to really get any wildlife photos. I was able to get the sun coming down Otter Creek Rd:

And then I tried to get a shot of the mist/fog rising on the lake with the sunrise:

Also that morning I met big time Ashville, NC wedding photographer Corey McNabb. He was on his way back from a wedding in Memphis and stopped to get some bird photos at Radnor. We looked for the owls but were not able to find them that morning. Check out his site, he’s got some great photos.

Next I went Thursday morning. Thursday was a great day to watch the owls but again, it was so dark because it was early I couldn’t get any good shots. I saw 3 younger owls and one adult. I watched one of the younger owls pretend to hunt in the creek bed, picking up sticks and tossing them aside, fun to watch!
Here is one decent shot of a younger owl:

Thursday is also when I got the top post, with the sun rising just over camera right.
Also got this bird photo that morning:

Since the owls were so active in the morning, I went back at lunch hoping to still see them. I only saw one then but he was too far away.
I’m not sure what type of bird this is but he was very cooperative, posing for me while I was looking for the owls:

I also spotted this doe and fawn:

On the way back to the car, I got this:

A Quick Photo Walk – With the Kids….

When I don’t know where else to go, I go downtown – Downtown Murfreesboro that is.
You can see through out my flickr photostream that every once in a while I do a Murfreesboro series. Usually it’s because I haven’t gotten anything really good in a week or more (not counting what I get at Radnor Lake). Even though I’m going to Cades Cove on Monday of next week (which will surely produce some great photos) I had to get out this evening and get some shots.

Here is what I got this time in downtown Murfreesboro:

(that’s a lot of flare!)

Trying to do more than just HDR’s…:

Of course, I have to include on with the kids!

This Week at the Lake – 15/52

Another great week!
(In my opinion) I had another really great week at Radnor Lake. I got a lot of photos to share this week. I was able to visit everyday, Monday-Friday!

Monday was sooooo hot and humid! I went to Radnor on my lunch break. I saw 2 of the younger owls and 2 adult owls. Here is an adult (snoozing!):

The younger owls were in a tree straight up over the walking trail, while looking up at them I noticed the light comming down through the trees. I snapped this shot that I really like:

Tuesday was a great day, it was the first time in a couple weeks that I was able to go early in the morning. I got up extra early so I could be at the lake at 6am. I parked at the west entrance and made my way to the lake trail. I walked out onto the bridge that crosses the dam to look around. I was right at the middle of the bridge and I heard some noise behind me, I turned around and saw about 8 otter running across the path and into the water! Since I was in the middle of the bridge I wasn’t able to get a really good position to get shots but I was able to snap this quickly:

I continued across the bridge to get a morning shot of the lake (which is posted at the top of this post)

Then I headed back down the lake trail, I came up on this doe and her brand new fawn:

Once the sun started getting higher in the sky, it was able to start shining through the trees. It was soooo humid this morning it created some amazing sun rays!

I made it to this bridge (which is about half way through the lake trail) and figured I better head back

On the way back, I came across the doe and her fawn again, they posed for one more photo!

Wednesday was a lunch visit again, I could not find the younger owls, but perhaps some evidence??? Ha! I don’t really know if this is an owl feather or not!

I did catch sight of an adult owl though

Thursday was again a lunchtime visit and again I saw a couple adult owls but none of the younger owls. I watched one adult owl catch some food and fly off with it, probably to find the younger owls to feed them

(snoozing again!)

Here you can see the food in her talon, looks like a large crayfish

It was so hot on Friday I did not stay long at all on my lunch break. I could not find the owls so I walked down the road a little and got this shot of a dragonfly:

After that, I headed back to the car…

And that was my week! A very hot week but worth the trips, I feel like I got some great captures – Hopefully I can keep it up…

Walter Hill Dam – Murfreesboro

Walter Hill Dam

Thanks to flickr contacts Rhonda and Donna and their awesome shots of Walter Hill Dam at sunset, I decided to ride out there and check it out. We got lucky with the sunset, it was awesome!

This Week at the Lake – 14/52

Week 14 is an all owl week! I visited Radnor Lake on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday – each at around noon. Each day I saw multiple owls! The young owls are often hanging out while the parent is out hunting. I was only able to see the parent on two of those days. I watched her hunt and catch something on both Thursday and Friday. On Friday, she brought the food over and fed one of the younger owls. Unfortunately, I was not in a good position to get a shot of that.

Here are my shots of the Barred Owls at Radnor Lake:

Sunset on my Street

My house faces almost due west so I’m able to see the sunset from inside everyday. If it looks like it might be good, I’ll head outside. Directly across the street is nothing but farm land and tree lines, a great landscape for sunsets.

Last week the kids fell asleep early so my wife and I decided to take a walk down the street. I wasn’t even going to take the camera, but after a hundred yards down the road I had to run back and grab the camera and tripod. The sunset was amazing! Because I had to run back to get the camera, I was only able to get a few shots before the color was gone. The shot above is one that I got.

A few days later, we took a walk at sunset again – this time with the kids and this time I brought my camera! Here is the resulting image:

Here are some others taken on my street:

Incredible Skies

Heavenly Mailbox

A New World


A Black and White World

I recently downloaded the trial version of Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro. I have to say, I like the results. Here is an example:
Here is a color photo I took at Walter Hill Dam in Murfreesboro, TN:

Here is a version that was simply converted to grayscale in photoshop (Image – Mode – Grayscale):

Here is how I would have converted to black and white before Silver Efex Pro:

And Here is the Silver Efex Pro version:

What’s the difference?
Well, I tend to like very contrasty images and silver efex pro seemed to help with that. The contrast in the last is the best, in my opinion. See the trees? The rocks? The waterfall? The building? They are all a little brighter but with out losing the darkness of the image, which I like.

So after downloading the trial version I went out with a black and white frame of mind. I decided to head over to Murfreesboro’s Cannonsburgh Village. What could be better for black and white than historic buildings?
Here’s is what I came away with:

Here are some others shots I got during my trial period:

Hills Repair... Needs Repair

Not to bad, huh? The problem? Silver Efex Pro runs for $199.95…..
I have not paid for the full version, so expect more color from me!
On a side note, I also tried out Nik Software’s Dfine. I really liked the results and it only sells for $99. That would be used for every photo, every time. I think that one may be worth it! I will try out some other noise reduction software first though, I’ll let you know what I find….

This Week at the Lake – 13/52

I visited Radnor Lake twice this week. Once on Thursday at lunch and once on Friday after work -which is the first time I’ve been there in the evening since Week 4.

The lesson of the week is: CHARGE YOUR BATTERIES!
Thursday at lunch, I got out of the car, turned the camera on and noticed the battery was very low. Since it was already Thursday and I had not gotten any shots yet, I decided to try to find something easy like geese rather than hope to see another owl. So I walked down the road and noticed that they had opened a portion of the road that was closed due to storm damage. I made it to a deck that overlooks the lake and got this:

I took probably 10-15 photos of these geese. I started walking back to where I had seen the owl last week. Forgetting that my battery was low, I took some photos of deer that were practically on the other side of the lake…

Then I made it to the spot- the long bridge on the west end of the Lake Trail. I walked out there and right away I spotted:

I thought it was awesome! Two times in a row at Radnor I saw a Barred Owl. Then I started looking around, I looked up…..

I couldn’t believe it! There were 2 more owls watching me. I walked around to see if I could get a different view of these owls. When I got to the other side of the tree, I looked up and….

A fourth? Are you kidding me? I’ve seen one owl in 12 weeks and now here are 4 in one day!
Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw another – a fifth owl that was hunting. He had just flown back to a tree with something in his mouth. Then he flew towards me, and stopped at a tree that was so close to me and was in the perfect light. I raised my camera, pushed the button and…..

I looked down and read “Change The Battery Pack”

Then the owl flew right over top of me. It was my chance to get an awesome Owl-in-Flight shot. He flew to the other owls and gave one of them the food he had (I’m no owl expert but I’m guessing the others in the tree were younger owls). Then he flew from there and into another tree. And I have no shots of that event…. If only I hadn’t taken so many shots of geese. Oh, and before I saw the fifth one, I took this:

So I went home and charged the batteries. I couldn’t make it on my lunch break on Friday so I went after work. I went to the “owl city” and there weren’t any there. After sitting there for 15-20 minutes I headed down the road. I wanted to get a couple HDR’s this week so I stopped and got these:

Also got this along the road:

Then heading back to the car I got this dear in the road:

These people were walking around the corner and this dear didn’t care one bit.

I also snapped this near where I had seen the owls:

And that was my week – 2 days, lots of pictures, and one missed opportunity! Oh well, it’s only week 13…

3 Parks in 5 Days

In addition to the Savage Gulf Trip we took on Thursday May 27, we all went to 2 other state parks over the Memorial Day weekend. On Sunday May 30 we went to Old Stone Fort State Park in Manchester Tennessee:

We’ve been there before, but this time we went to cook out. We had a great time, the kids even got to cook some marshmellows:

(she was not happy that it was burnt!)

Other shots from that day:

There are several great waterfalls there but they are kind of hard to get to (especially with two young kids!). I think we found a way but then it started raining so we headed back to the car.

Here are some shots from previous trips there:
Old Stone Fort State Park

The Leaning Tree of Middle Tennessee

The next day, Monday May 31, we went to Rock Island State Park near McMinnville:

View Larger Map

This was our first time at this park. Shortly after we entered the park, we saw this:

There were lots of waterfalls there but this place was a composition nightmare! None of the falls were easy to get to and I didn’t get a shot of most of them. None of them looked really great from the overlooks. Maybe I’ll go back with out the kids….

We also cooked out for lunch here and then the kids got in the water. It was packed but still fun:

My son under one of the many small falls

Other shots from that day:

(this one took a long time to get as people kept walking through the scene….)

On the way home, we stopped just outside of the park and got this:

It was a great weekend! Hopefully we will do more of this all summer…