Category Archives: Landscape Photography

Black Balsam

Located along the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina, the Black Balsam area is a stunning, year-round location for productive landscape photography. Sandwiched between Devils Courthouse and Graveyard Fields, it’s easy to overlook the small spur road that leads off the Parkway to one of two parking locations in the area. But, those that know it’s there don’t forget! The first parking area is around 1 mile up the road and provides great (quick!) access through a forest to the open ridges and peaks the Black Balsam area is unique and famous for. The second parking area is a bit farther up the road where it dead-ends and provides a bit more typical parking with a small pit-style restroom. From here, a leisurely stroll along a level road-grade leads into the backcountry. The Art Loeb Trail passes through the area and if followed for a few extra miles, it eventually runs into the beautiful Shining Rock.

In spring and summer the balds consistently see thunderstorm activity as clouds, wind and harsh (compared to surrounding areas) weather rolls through. The ridge between Black Balsam Knob down to the saddle before nearby Tennent Mountain is one of my favorites for shooting crepuscular rays as seen below in my recent image Appalachian Light.

Appalachian Light

Canon 5D Mark II + Canon 17-40 L @ 40mm, 1/40 @ f/13, ISO 200. 3-stop Hard-line Graduated Neutral Density Filter

Winter brings more difficult access and greater reward, a common theme not only in the Appalachian Range but anywhere. A closed Blue Ridge Parkway means a ~3.5 miles hike or ski is required to access Black Balsam from the Highway 215 junction. But, for the hearty soul that makes the adventure after a snowstorm, beautiful scenes await.

Winter Flame

Canon 5D + Canon 17-40 L @ 24mm, 1/15 @ f/16, ISO 200. 2-stop Hard-line Graduated Neutral Density Filter

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- Scott Hotaling

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