Photography in the Great Smoky Mountains


Photography in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains Blue Mist photography by Richard Weisser
Great Smoky Mountains Blue Mist

I have had the extreme pleasure of taking photographs in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for over forty years.

Over that period of time there have been a lot of changes. Not only has the art of photography dramatically but the park itself has matured and been affected by weather and other environment influences.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Like so many others I started out with a simple point and shoot film camera. I then moved up to to a 35MM manual focus Olympus XA until I graduated to a Nikon 8088 SLR. As my collection of lenses and filters grew so did my desire to capture the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in a way that could somehow capture the majesty and immensity of the mountains and compress these attributes into a two dimensional image.

Eventually those lenses and filters found their way into digital bodies and now when I shoot the glass is the same even if the image rendering is electronic pulses rather than a real picture burned onto film.

And whether one is shooting film or digital there are several things I have learned over the years that I will share here:

Deer crossing the road in Cades Cove Great Smoky Mountains National Park by SmokyPhotos
Deer crossing the road in Cades Cove

First and foremost always carry a tripod. Just like smoking good barbeque, I like to to take my shots “low and slow” by using a small aperture and a long exposure. This increases the depth of field dramatically and helps to gather all of the color information you’ll need for a good rendering.

Using filters at the time of shooting the image is preferable that trying to make software corrections later. I always endeavor to create the effects I want at the time the image is creating. This can greatly reduce the amount of post-production editing required to get the image that was originally envisioned.

Early morning and late afternoon are the best times for dramatic lighting that will produce the best photographs, especially when shooting from overlooks or wide-angle mountain views.

Finally, be ready for anything! If you happen upon a black bear you may not have as much time to set up your equipment and you do at an overlook. Better to get any shot than to miss the opportunity entirely. I always have one camera preset for a possible wildlife encounter “just in case!”

Have fun and enjoy the park. If you have specific photography question feel free to post them in the QUESTIONS area on this site!

About the Author: Richard Weisser is a noted photographer and has been taking photographs of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for over forty years. His works have been published in numerous books and magazines and have been incorporated into many products with a Great Smoky Mountains National Park connection. His website, SmokyPhotos has been online and active since 1999.

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