The high point of our recent vacation was the week we spent in Gatlinburg, TN and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). The GSMNP has been one of my favorite places since I was a small kid. The first real vacation I remember taking as a family was to Gatlinburg, somewhere around 1970 or so. I was about five and my brother was three. I've got a picture somewhere of my Mom with my brother and I riding up the Sky Lift in Gatlinburg. Back then, Gatlinburg was a sleepy little mountain town where the old men sat on rocking chairs outside the Drug Store. It was, in a word, quaint. And it has always felt like home to me.
We went back to Gatlinburg about every couple years as a kid, and I've seen the town grow and change over the years. But it's hemmed in by the mountains on all sides, so there have always been naturally merciful limits to how big Gatlinburg could grow. Which of course, explains the explosion in Pigeon Forge over the last 20 years. And while many people prefer that, I've always preferred to stay in Gatlinburg, because in spite of the growth and commercialization and throngs of tourists, it still feels like a small mountain town.
Once, when my brother and I were in our early teens, Dad asked us if we wanted to go to Disney World (I've always suspected Dad wanted to go to Disney World). My brother and I talked it over and told Dad we'd prefer to go back to the Smokies if we could. And so we did. This June probably marked my 8th or 9th trip to the Smokies, and even after all these years, it still feels like home.
First order of business - a mountain sunset. After a good bit of research before the trip, I settled on Morton Overlook as my location of choice. Morton Overlook sits near the top of the Newfound Gap road inside the park. I knew it was beautiful and knew that if the weather cooperated, sunset would be awesome. We got there about an hour before sunset, and were the first photographers of a number that would turn out that night for the same reason. Below is an iPhone image (that's my son in the center with the cheesy grin; he's the one who took the image at the top).
As it turned out, the weather didn't exactly cooperate. There was very little cloud cover, which means sunset would be a lot less dramatic than it could have been.
But since I was there, I did what I could. In looking back at the images, it's interesting to see how many different looks I was able to get from one location. By making both horizontals and verticals, by isolating certain parts of the scene, and by altering the white balance, I ended up with some interesting looks. Here are some of my favorites: