And in the naked light I saw
10,000 people maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
–From The Sound of Silence by Paul Simon
At this point it must appear, based on the last few entries I’ve posted on this blog, that I spent most of my time in the Smokies this past April confronting yahoos. That’s not true; but I can certainly understand why it might seem that way. I’ve simply used the handful of such encounters as an excuse to post some images from the trip thematically, rather than as a day-by-day or location-by-location chronology.
On the morning of my first full day in the Smokies I decided to shoot sunrise from the Foothills Parkway. The Parkway, which is managed by the National Park Service, has a section with a terminus just a few miles northwest of Townsend, Tennessee, and encompasses a series of scenic pullouts overlooking the Smokies to the south and east and the Tennessee Valley to the north and west. From Townsend, it takes ten minutes, tops, to reach the first Smokies overlook. I’ve visited this spot numerous times without ever seeing a brilliant sunrise, and in my continuing quest to do so, headed to the overlook in the early morning darkness on April 16.
Sunrise, Foothills Parkway, Tennessee
The overlook is beautiful, even without a phenomenal sunrise, but I enjoy having my cake and eating it too, so I was hopeful, based on the weather forecast, that something truly special might be in the offing that morning.
I was not disappointed. There were broken clouds in the eastern sky and as the light came up I could see evidence of fog in the valley below me. All the elements of a great sunrise scenic were firmly in place.
All of the images accompanying this post come from that morning’s shoot. I have a number of others, but I just wanted to provide a taste of what I witnessed and captured that morning. It was, by far, the best sunrise I’ve ever seen from the Foothills Parkway, and one of the nicest I’ve seen anywhere in a very long time.
Sunrise, Foothills Parkway, Tennessee
The first overlook on the Foothill Parkway, where I was stationed that morning, is a good-sized one. I’ve often seen a dozen or more photographers at the spot for sunrise, and there’s no concern about anyone getting in the way of someone else. On this morning, there were only two others, and they appeared to be shooting together; they were set up approximately 50 feet to my left.
When the sun cleared the mountains to the southeast, the other two photographers started to pack up their things. I continued to shoot, because I’ve had some success with long lens landscapes from this location. As they were gathering their belongings, I heard one of the photographers say to the other:
“Well, that was a shrug.”
He was referring to the sunrise.
The other responded: “Yeah, that’s far from the best sunrise I’ve seen.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Maybe that’s because this was, hands down, the best sunrise I’d ever seen from the Foothills Parkway. Perhaps the other photographers had seen better from this spot. But, even though this wasn’t the most spectacular sunrise I’ve seen it was still breathtakingly beautiful. I simply couldn’t–still can’t, in fact–believe that anyone who had experienced this sunrise would describe it as “a shrug,” regardless of their experiences.
Is it possible to reach a point where people become so numb to the natural beauty surrounding them that, even when they intentionally visit a spot specifically for its aesthetics, they’re unable to appreciate it, even when it rises up and slaps them directly in the face?
As the last few posts have surely implied, my main photo opp this past spring was my trip to the Smokies in mid-April, but I was able to get out with the camera closer to home on a few occasions and I thought I’d share a few of those images.
I was wandering around the Morton Arboretum, located about 20 minutes from my Chicago-area base in DuPage County, Illinois on an unseasonably warm day in the first half of April. This was very, very early in the spring blooming season, so as the trail I was on that traverses the Arboretum’s East Woods snaked its way along, I was treated to a mostly brown and gray landscape. There were some small, early wildflowers in bloom, but not many. This was, in any case, not a photo excursion; I didn’t have my gear with me.
Virginia Bluebells, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois
During that hike, I spotted a large patch of green–which stood out like the proverbial sore thumb–well off the path, and I wandered over to take a look. I had to hop a small stream, but I was able to get close to the sprouting plants, and I could tell that these were Virginia Bluebells in a very early stage of growth. I was aware of several stands of Bluebells in other parts of the Arboretum, but I’d never known about this stand. This was a far larger spread of plants than the other areas I was aware of, and I made a mental note to check back another time, when they were likely to be in bloom.