Shenandoah National Park

Bloom of the Mountain Laurel
That summer day started with rain. I had little hope that it would improve. Yet, by the time I completed my morning hike, low clouds thinned, letting some sunlight through. This scene caught my attention when I drove back out of the park - a big white and pink bush of blooming mountain laurel. I pulled over to a nearby overlook and walk to this spot with my 4x5 camera and panoramic film back. After a bit of waiting, I captured a moment of gentle warm light and traces of dissipating fog over the scene.
Greenstone, Lichen, and Pine Needles
One thing I like about scenes like this is that they are almost like a signature of the place: greenstone, that played major part in the mountains composition, elaborate pattern of lichens, that indicate the quality of the air and to some extent elevation where they grow, and pine needles, suggesting that there is a forest around.
View at Old Rag from Pinnacle Overlook, August
Last days of summer, an early morning in Shenandoah. I was greedy and spent more film on the scene than I usually do. But when the light is so painterly soft and colors are subtle, it is hard to resist the urge to trip the shutter one more time.
Morning Light in Shenandoah Valley
I would describe this view as ordinary beautiful. After all, this is what you would see on a typical cloudless winter morning from Gimlet Ridge Overlook on Skyline Drive. I think that the panoramic format that my new Intrepid 4x5 can offer is perfect for this scene. The film rendered a beautiful palette of colors and a fascinating amount of details.
Fall Colors Near Little Hogback Overlook
Just a few steps from the Little Hogback Overlook took me to a viewpoint at the Appalachian Trail. The sight was pretty. Many trees on the mountain slope shed their leaves. But those, which did not, exhibited vibrant shades of orange and red. I did not have high hopes for the outcome but decided to at least attempt to capture this beauty. It was an overcast day, and the dull sky was not in accord with the mood of the moment, so I had to exclude it in the final image.
July Sunrise at Thornton Hollow Overlook
It is not that often when you see such a beautiful morning light. I drove in the parking area at Thornton Hollow Overlook just in time to understand what is coming. By the time the sun appeared above the mountains, I was ready to release the shutter. Now, looking at the result, I feel deep satisfaction with this photograph. If that would be digital, I had to capture multiple exposures and blend them in the post, to show all the gradations of the bright light of the scene. But with an astonishing latitude of color negative film, I captured it all in one frame and got properly exposed sun, glowing haze over mountains and illuminated clouds in the sky.
Clouds and Late Fall Colors Near Buck Hollow Overlook
Only two weeks ago, people crowded the park. Thousands of them gathered to see the changing fall foliage and enjoy the views of the Shenandoah Valley and Virginia Piedmont. With most of the leaves shed, the visitation has sharply dropped, but it seems to be the time when I, in turn, find the beauty. It is this transitional period between autumn and winter that attracts me, the period when the weather tends to change more dramatically, mixing into the charm of these mountains.
Trees and Jones Run Falls
My hike to this waterfall was easier than anticipated. Although the August weather was quite hot at that time, the morning was fresh and invigorating. Recent rains saturated the air with wet smells of the forest, making my hiking experience even more enjoyable. I made a few stops along the way, studying peaceful scenes and watching squirrels being busy with their squirrel life. Maybe this made its impact on how I approached my destination. I did not want to step to the open space right away but stay under the forest canopy a bit longer. It took me a few minutes to find a pleasing composition, which, I think, became the best capture of that day.
Blackrock Summit
An extensive array of huge boulders at Blackrock Summit creates a tiny ecosystem. Rocks are piling one on another and offer no place for soil, making it not frienldy for vegetation. But these cliffs provide a home for a marvelous community of lichens.
Icy Lands Run Falls
Lands Run Falls was sitting on my list for quite a long time. But this name popped up in my social streams several times recently, and I thought that this is a sign to pay a visit to this place. The fire road brought me to the top of the waterfall, but there is no trail further to the base of it. I spent more than an hour exploring these cascades and still not sure that got enough of them. I now wonder how it looks in spring, when all the ice melts and gives way to fresh vegetation.
Morning Forest Near Timber Hollow Overlook
I've been sitting on this photograph for a long time. I remember myself standing in the forest with my camera and waiting for the sun to move to the right position. I knew that if I trip the shutter when the sun is half-blocked by a tree trunk, then it will create a little star on the film. Well, it did. The problem is that the negative was difficult to scan due to the extreme range of light. The sky rendered so bright that some tree branches melted in it, creating some glow effect. The green forest floor was too dark. I had to put a lot of manual work to extract all the details that I saw that morning. I'm still not sure that this photograph will go any further than a computer screen, but at least I decided to release it from my private archive.
Shenandoah in Winter Blue
I love this spot. From here, Blue Ridge stretches to the horizon, offering a spectacular view of layers and layers of mountains. Although not the tallest mountain in the Shenandoah National Park, the Old Rag appears to stand above all. I like to sit on these rocks and study the scenery under my feet. And although it is not always that I walk away with a pleasing photograph, this time the luck seemed to be on my side.
Clearing Weather Over Browntown Valley
I generally find daytime landscapes with open skies not appealing enough. The light is usually harsh and ordinary. Colors are dull, and any air pollution makes the situation even worse. But things get a bit different when the weather is changing. Fast-moving clouds create areas of shadow and light that transform the view, and sometimes in a pleasing way. I pulled in to the Signal Knob Overlook when low clouds over Browntown Valley were rapidly melting, making the light very dynamic. Without their foliage trees allowed to see more of the landscape than one can observe during the summertime, and their branches created a charming contrast with the light, scattered over fields in the valley. The framing of the composition was easy: just what any visitor would see from this point. Although I had to be careful and accurately meter the luminosity of the cloud over the nearby hill, to make sure that I have enough texture of it captured. A few minutes of waiting, and it took a flat and dense shape, marking the moment when I was ready to release the shutter.
Mount Marshall
Stepping into large format photography might be intimidating. I felt compelled to try it, but did not want to walk away from my medium format workflow. At the same time, 6x12 panoramas were what I wanted. This is how this photograph - my very first capture of that kind - came to live.
Rocks of Compton Peak West
Compton Peak hike is rated moderate and has two viewpoints, located on West and East of the Appalachian Trail. I like to come to the first one, sit on rocks and observe the mountains in front of me. That morning presented me with marvelous light, that lasted for quite a while, allowing me to walk around and try some compositions, that would show not just the vista, but the place itself. I had a choice of film at that moment: the color negative Kodak Ektar 100 and black and white Ilford HP5 Plus. Shades of green on mountain slopes and the texture of the rocks with subtle color variation asked for color. The result looks very pleasing to me. The image has a lot of details where I wanted and some elements of soft focus that make the image more dimensional.
Summer Portrait of Robinson River
Most of the time, I prefer my photographs to retain some level of textures in running water, but this portrait of Robinson River is an exception. I knew that there is not enough light to capture all the details on the slow color film that I had (Kodak Ektar 100). My calculation indicated a 30-seconds exposure, that would smooth the water into a colorful mist. But the light was so soft and the moment was so serene that I decided to photograph this scene anyway. Final image turned out even better than I anticipated. I like that intriguing difference between the level of fine details in trees at the top of the frame and the soft look of its bottom part.
Upper Doyles River Falls
Waiting for this photograph to appear on my screen was a bit emotional. I did a good hike with quite a load of the gear on my shoulders, meticulously planned the composition, carefully metered the light and waited for a break in the wind to stop moving leaves. It was my first exposure on the roll of Fuji Pro 400H, so I had to work on nine more frames, which took me more than a week. I'm pleased to see that the final image came out as I pre-visualized it on the location.
Autumn in Shenandoah Forest
Autumn in the Appalachian mountains is all about colors. And there is no better day for that when clouds are covering the sky, acting as a huge softbox. I felt lucky that day in this regard, not saying that chance of rain scared away a substantial amount of visitors, making parking and enjoying the views at placid pace. I had one frame left on my roll of Kodak Ektar 100 when I stopped at Lands Run Gap parking area. The colors of the trees around appealed to me, and I set my camera for this simple composition. I photographed it with my slide film as well, but the leftovers of green, still present in the foliage got exaggerated above what I remember from the moment I stood there. The negative film, on another hand, captured those shades that I wanted. Not oversaturated, but still bright and mellow.
Moormans River Overlook
I made several mistakes that morning. Working with both digital and film cameras was the first. While handling my Canon 6D is almost my second nature, analog photography was still new to me. I captured the images I wanted with DSLR and rushed to do the same with film. I had very little time, and this had a big impact on the decisions I made. My second mistake was a poor assessment of the scene that followed by choosing the wrong exposure value, dialing in unfavorable aperture, and failing to properly adjust the graduated filter. As a result, the whole top of the negative came out not usable. But the amazing thing is that despite this, I like the imperfections of what remains. I think that the overall contrast and colors of the scene do the trick. I even do not mind the flares, which I would not accept to see on any other photograph.
Whiteoak Canyon Reflections
With all its beautiful streams and waterfalls, Shenandoah National Park is a place where reflections are not a common sight. I had little hope to find any until suddenly came across this scene on my way down from Lower Whiteoak Falls.
Cascades of Tims River
Tims River is a tributary stream that dumps its waters into the Robinson River. There is no trail to its cascades, so I had to bushwack through the forest. My search of the composition was not long, though. After only five minutes in the woods, I approached a set of pretty cascades. One of them attracted me with its combination of greenstones, water flow, and light. Upon getting closer, I discovered an additional bonus: the wet surface of the rock caught the reflected light from a canyon wall behind my scene. This subtle golden glow and movement of the water called to be the central elements in my composition. The camera setup was tricky, though. I had to set the tripod in a precarious position on the edge of a rock and not knock it over while metering the light, and hide low between rocks later, to avoid my shadow being in the frame.
Upper Doyles River Falls
This photograph sat in my archive for quite a while. I photographed this beautiful waterfall back in July, but another very different composition pulled all my interest at that time. Now, I'm glad that did not walk away immediately and stayed a bit longer to enjoy these cascades. I exposed two frames, one on Kodak T-Max 100 and another on Fuji Pro 400H. I usually try to make my mind at the location, but that time I hesitated with my color/monochrome choice. Perhaps for a good reason. Both images are very charming in their unique way.
Above the Valley
This dead tree at the Browntown Valley Overlook always fascinated me. Some may see it is as an obstruction of the view, but to me, it is an integral part of this scenery with its own story. I had no idea, though, how to convey it in a photograph. My new acquisition, Intrepid 4x5, and a panoramic film holder allowed me to interpret the scene the way I feel it. I probably need to find time and come back here in the evening to see how this looks at dusk. Nevertheless, I like the daytime look already.