Fall Color in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park 2014
I’m starting to look backwards at 2014 in preparation for my annual best of eBook. As I did, I realized that I never shared the images that I made in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park last fall. I teach a Great Smoky Mountains Photography Workshop each fall, and during it we explore a good portion of the 500,000-acre park. What I love about the Smokies is it offers a combination of vast mountainous views and stacked ridgelines as well as moss-covered streams that tumble over countless waterfalls. During my workshop, we explore locations on both the North Carolina and the Tennessee sides, and we stay in Gatlinburg which gives us almost instant access to the park’s entrance.
The following photographs were made not only on my workshop, but also before and after it as well. I tend not to shoot much on my workshops — depending on the participants — because I like to be available to help everyone, so I tend to stay longer and put in a couple of extra days to satisfy my personal shooting and scout new locations. We had favorable conditions in 2014 at the sunrises and sunsets. Unfortunately, early in the week before the workshop a wind storm with 80+ mph winds whipped through the Smokies and denuded the peak colors from the top of the mountains.
I love looking down on the fall color, but I love the fall color along the streams more. With the tops of the mountains bare and the bottomlands just changing and the Chimney Top area closed, it was tough to find great fall color. Luckily, I was there early to scout out locations and put the workshop into the locations with the best colors.
On of the most interesting features of the Smokies is the diversity of the ecosystem. The top of the mountains are similar to northern Boreal forests and the bottom lands are southern hardwood forests. That also means that the color happens first at the top of the mountains and works down to the valleys over about three weeks to a month of time. Due to a schedule shift, I’m planning my workshop for the following weekend next year. That will allow the color to descend down the mountains a little longer, and get into some of the river valleys that I love to shoot. Although the ridgelines may be less colorful, I’ve never really thought that the sunrise and sunset pictures need that much fall color and I have a few lower locations scouted for sunrise and sunset, so we will still get good color and great color along the best streams. That’s going to be awesome for the workshop. I’m so looking forward to getting back to the Smokies to photograph it. Hopefully, I’ll be able to return this spring as well.
Here are my favorite 33 shots from the Great Smoky Mountains in Fall 2014. Click the thumb to see the image larger.