Spring in the Great Smoky Mountains

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Spring in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is hard to describe unless you’ve been there. It feels like a real spring. Things are coming alive. Flowers are blooming and covering acres of the forest floor. The waterfalls are flowing. The bears are on the move. And the green — the amazing green that the Smokies become in summer — is starting to glow. If you’re lucky enough to be there on a drizzly day that green moss surrounding all the waterfalls becomes vibrant in a way that only Fuji Velvia could fake (you’ll know Velvia if you used to shoot slide film). Sometimes that green gets covered in white. It might snow. It might be 70°F and sunny. Usually, the lower elevations are warm and the upper are cooler. The trees are starting to bud out and the dogwood and redbuds are flowering. It’s the dogwoods that dot the streams and surround some of the old historic log cabins that photographers want to photograph this time of year. That and the plethora of wildflowers. The Smokies boast more that 1500 flowering plants! It’s one of the most biodiverse locations in the world and in spring you can tell.

wild ginger

Wild ginger along a hiking trail.

I’ve been going to the Smokies in spring since the late 90s. I love it out there and can’t get enough. Before I moved to Grand Marais, I’d head to the Smokies to photograph flowers (on slide film!) and go backpacking into remote campsites and remote areas of the park. My better half took her first backpacking trip there with me and I’ve hiked 100s of miles of trails in the park. Going to the Smokies and its warm inviting mountains, its open forests feels like going home. Especially so in the spring when their spring is on-time (instead of in June like northern Minnesota). I managed to squeeze in a full week in the Smokies this spring and decided that it’s about time I start offering a photography workshop in the spring.

For 2017, I’m adding a Spring in the Great Smoky Mountains Photography Workshop. It will compliment my popular Fall in the Great Smoky Mountains Photography Workshop. There will be minimal overlap in locations, except for sunrise and sunset locations. On the spring workshop, we’ll visit Cades Cove, Tremont (along the lower river), Chimney Top area, Roaring Fork and depending on the speed of the group several other areas. We base out of Gatlinburg, which if you have been on my fall workshop it will surprise you in spring about how different it feels. The hotels are cheap in the spring and the town is slower. The park itself feels empty like a completely different park vs. the fall. It’s an amazing time of year to be out in the park.

I’m thinking a full-three day field workshop. That means sunrise to sunset in the field. Because town is slower, we may stop in town for lunch on one or more of the days or we may break for dinner before sunset. It all depends on the group and weather. If you have been on my workshops before, you know how I operate. I have a basic idea of how the weekend will go, but I change the schedule based on the weather and I put us in the right locations at the right time for the best photos. The workshop will happen April 7th to the 9th. I could easily be talked into doing a longer workshop. If you are interested, let me know your preference. If you want on, let me know and I’ll reserve your spot.

Photos from the Smokies

Here are a few photos that I took on this last trip. I took over 1200 photos, so I haven’t had the chance to process them all yet. Click on the thumbnail to see a larger version of the shot.

Cabin Shots

I took many cabin shots, but haven’t processed them yet. These are four that caught my eye. How would you like to have this stream view out of your window?

Streams and Waterfalls

The waterfalls and streams are amazing in the Smoky mountains. There are so many that most aren’t even named. If you can find dogwood next to a good set of rapids, you have a winner of a shot.

Sunrise and Sunsets

Sunrises and sunsets in the Smokies tend to speak for themselves, but I’ll mention that in the spring heading to Cades Cove in the morning rewards you with a gorgeous sidelight.

Snow and Mountains

You never know what you’ll get. The higher elevations might get snow while the lower stay nice and warm. I’ve been trying to get a shot of the tree in the right photo for years. I finally got a shot of that tree that I love!


If you like photographing little critters, you’ll find them.


From finding the perfect trillium to walking through acres of forest floors covered in fringed phacelia, you’ll find what you want to see.

And a Bear

I was sitting in my car when this bear walked by. I almost didn’t get to my camera fast enough to get a shot.


If you haven’t been to the Smokies,  you need to add it to your bucket list. It’s one of the most amazing places in the world.

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