Tag Archives: winter

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

Posted in Landscape Photography, Locations | Also tagged , , 36,676 Comments

Winter Beauty

First of all, welcome to the new Light of the Wild blog. I’ll be updating this regularly with insight, photos and general musings about the natural world and how us photographers relate to it. For now, the best way to keep up with updates is via my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter or catch me on Facebook.

That said, it’s starting to get very hot here in the North Carolina mountains and that’s making me miss the cold and snows of winter, greatly. I’m an unusual soul in that I particularly enjoy what most would consider miserable conditions. Cold, snow, sleet, wind… bring it on. So, with that said, please enjoy a few of my favorite images from a wonderful 2011 winter on this first day of June.

Mount LeConte Winter:


Mount LeConte Winter

After a grueling backpack up the Alum Cave trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I was greeted with 14″ of fresh snow on the summit of Mount LeConte. A frigid night gave way to a clear morning at Myrtle Point as rolling fog hung in the valleys at dawn. This is an image that I had in my mind’s eye for years and it was a real pleasure to see it all come together.

1.6 s @ f/14, ISO 200. Canon 5D Mark II with 17-40 L at 20mm. 2-stop hard-line graduated neutral density filter was used to control the exposure.

Alpine Light:


If the Colorado Rockies have one winter trademark, it’s wind. Cold, slicing, demoralizing wind. It seems to perpetually pound downslope from the 13,000′+ summits with little care or interest in whatever happens to be in its path. On this particular morning in the high country of Rocky Mountain National Park, I was climbing towards Longs Peak when I was greeted by a ferocious amount of wind. It was impossible to keep my balance during the hardest gusts so I decided rather than going for any summits that morning that I would take advantage of the wild conditions for some photographs.

Having given myself plenty of time to reach the summit of Longs Peak before dawn, I had around a 2-hour wait until the sun rose. Luckily, I brought a shovel with me for the trip and proceeded to excavate a wonderful snow cave/shelter just below treeline to wait until dawn. This image was shot looking directly downslope with the wind at my back. The “fog” is actually ice-laden wind!

1/13 @ f/18, ISO 200. Canon 5D Mark II with 17-40 L at 28mm. No filters.

Winter Spirit:


Finding compositional order in a chaotic forest can be one of the most difficult challenges a nature photographer faces. Stumbling around this particular grove of hardwoods near Soco Gap along the Blue Ridge Parkway, I finally settled on this composition looking up with the rising sun peeking into the frame. The jigsaw puzzle canopy frames this large tree in the center in a way that I could not have envisioned ahead of time.

1/125 @ f/18, ISO 160. Canon 5D Mark II with 17-40 L at 20mm. 2-stop soft-line graduated neutral density filter was used to control the exposure. No other filters used.

If you have any questions or comments, leave them below. I’m looking forward to the future of this blog and will be constantly on the lookout for ways to improve it.

- Scott Hotaling

Posted in Collection | Also tagged , , , , , , 51,806 Comments