Day 3 in the Smokies – “There’s No Picture Here”

Those were the words of a photographer I found standing inside the fence of a field along the Cades Cove scenic drive.  I begged to differ with him, so I set up my camera and tripod, set in a one minute exposure using my Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter, and took one exposure. I present the results of my effort from that location.

Even at their height the day before, the fall colors in the Smokies had been pretty subdued, and the strong winds that had been blowing throughout the day had stripped the trees of most of their remaining leaves, making it really difficult to do any sort of close-up work because of the almost constant movement of branches and leaves. I had decided to use a long exposure to capture some of the movement in the clouds, and while my new photo buddy told me the foreground grasses would just turn into a white streak, I thought that blurring them would help to force the viewer’s eye to the middle of the image where the yellow tree stood out.

Post processing was a little more complex than my usual workflow.  Once I brought the image through ACR (where I boosted Clarity and Vibrance) into Photoshop, I converted it to black & white Silver Efex Pro 2, where I used the High Structure (Smooth) preset, and the Ilford HP5 film emulation to establish the basic look and feel.  I then did some fine tuning to structure and contrast, and once exiting Silver Efex, I set the blending mode from Normal  to Luminosity, bringing back the colors, but retaining the changes I had made to the contrast and brightness in Silver Efex. I then went into Color Efex Pro 3, where I used the Foliage filter, which works well in bringing an autumn color balance to a scene.  I then desaturated most of the scene very slightly using control points in Viveza to counter the out of gamut colors in the trees, while adding some very targeted saturation to emphasize the yellow tree against its background.  I also used the Graduated ND filter in Color Efex, inverting it so that the darkest portion of the filter was at the bottom in order to darken down the blowing foreground grasses, making them “less visible”, and creating a visual distinction against the other layers in the scene.

I am glad I decided to make this exposure; I think it really  conveys some feeling I was experiencing of late fall in the Smokies.  I have a couple more pictures from that drive around Cades Cove that I will share over the next couple of days.

Thanks for stopping by.