Into the Mist

Into the Mist - Toby Gant -2013I captured this image of sailboats heading out to sea during the Sunrise Birding & Nature Boat Excursion at this year’s Florida’s Birding and Photofest. My favorite part of the image   is the two boats that have almost disappeared in the early morning mist. What you cannot see in the image are the four other sailboats that are in the frame but, they had already been completely engulfed by the fog. Thanks as always for stopping by.

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Peace Lily

Peace Lily - Toby Gant -2013

Being trapped indoors and finding yourself in a “black & white-creative mood” can lead to images like this peace lily. (I just coined the phrase “black & white-creative mood“. Feel free to use it.) Thanks for stopping by.

Florida’s Birding and Photo Fest 2013

Roseate Spoonbills - Toby Gant -2013I was able to attend Florida’s Birding and Photo Fest in St. Augustine earlier this month. It is the first time in a few years that I have been able to attend. I had an incredible time and I am very happy that I was able to get away. It was a great experience. I spent most of my time in the classroom. I picked up some very useful tips on Lightroom 4 that I have already incorporated into my workflow. I did not have much time to shoot. But, I made the most of the limited time that I had. It was great to be outside and spend a little time behind the lens. I’ll share more images from trip in the coming weeks. Thanks as always for stopping by.

 

Three Forks to Long Creek Falls – Appalachian Trail

Long Creek Falls - Toby Gant -3482

We went out for a short hike yesterday to enjoy the warmer weather outdoors. My wife chose our destination this time. She selected a short hike along the Appalachian Trail that leads to Long Creek Falls. The drive up was almost as fun as the hike itself. We traveled almost 10 miles one way on a small forest service road. There were sweeping panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and much of the road travels along the creek.

Once on the trail, there were a couple of side trails that lead to smaller unnamed falls. (I’ll have to explore them on another trip.) The view at Long Creek Falls is worth the drive and   short hike. It is a beautiful forested area. The falls were full.

Unfortunately, for me the sun was facing the falls and to call it mixed lighting would be an understatement. It was extremely harsh lighting in the afternoon. There was no possibility of capturing a gallery image unless I waited until the sun had set behind the mountains. And frankly, I was happy to have my family along and did not want test their resolve. I walked away knowing I had lost this round. But, I will be back and when I return I will go in the early morning hours to make sure I have time to get a gallery quality image.

This image of the falls was captured with my 16-35mm f/4, tripod mounted and using a circular polarizer. You can find my gallery images at http://www.tobygant.com/gallery-images-2/. Thanks as always for stopping by.

Shooting in the Blue Hour

Image of DeSoto Falls during the blue hour captured by Toby Gant

Image of DeSoto Falls during the blue hour captured by Toby Gant

The “blue hour” of photography is the period of time that occurs every morning and evening when we are between daylight and darkness. (Known as twilight.) I shoot frequently in State and National parks and most do not open their gates to the public until the sun is well into the sky. This makes the blue hour and usually the “golden hour” impossible to shoot. And it’s unfortunate for those of us that are outdoor photographers to miss the best hours of light each day. So, what’s the solution? Well, you can try to make arrangements with the park office to shoot during those hours or simply stay the night. Most parks have camping facilities and some larger parks even have lodges on site.

In the case of this image, I took my kids camping. We woke about an hour and a half before sunrise. We ate a simple breakfast and trekked in the darkness to the falls. We found ourselves at the falls just at the start of the blue hour and had a great time capturing images. One main advantage other than the incredible light during this period of the day is that you will find you have more privacy. Even though the campground was full, we had the falls to ourselves. We didn’t see another person until we arrived back at camp.

This image was captured using my 16-35mm f/4 tripod mounted using a circular polarizer. There was so little light that I could not gain critical focus using my headlamp. I had to use the distance scale on my lens to estimate focus. (I was dead on in all my captures that morning.) This particular image was a 25 second exposure at f/16, ISO 200. Needless to say, a sturdy tripod is a must. Another advantage to shooting this time of day is that there is usually no wind. This gives you sharp detail even with long exposures. Notice even the foliage is sharp and shows no signs of movement over such a long period of time.

Thanks as always for stopping by. Happy Easter.

 

Panther Falls – Chattahoochee National Forest

Panther Falls - Toby Gant -3219

I captured this image of Panther Falls on my way to Angel Falls in the Chattahoochee National Forest. The visibility of Panther falls is not nearly as obstructed as the view of Angel Falls.

 

I captured this image using my 16-35mm f/4, tripod mounted using a circular polarizer. You can view some of my gallery images at http://www.tobygant.com/gallery-images-2/. Thanks as always for stopping by.

 

Angel Falls – Chattahoochee National Forest

Angel Falls - Toby Gant -3197

Last week I visited Angel Falls near Lakemont, Georgia. The Angel Falls Trail leads from the campgrounds near Lake Rabun and is part of the Chattahoochee National Forest. The trail is well maintained. Hiking the trail along Joe Branch Creek, you’ll also pass Panther Falls . The 1 mile trail is rated at moderately strenuous. I would recommend a good pair of shoes and a bottle of water if you are going to visit. But, there is so much to stop and look at along the way, I think you’ll find the journey is quick and exhilarating.

I captured this image using my 16-35mm f/4 tripod mounted and using a circular polarizer. Thanks for stopping by.

Base of the Falls – Fall Creek Falls State Park

Fall Creek Fall - Toby Gant -2999

If you visit Fall Creek Falls state park near Pikeville, Tennessee, you’ll have a great view of the falls from the overlook. But, if you take a few minutes to take the short hike from the top of the falls to the base, you won’t be disappointed. The short trail takes you through an incredibly beautiful heavily wooded forest. And at the end of the trail you come out at the base of the falls of course.

When you make it to the base of the falls you (And your camera.) are showered by a fine mist from the falls. Wanting to show the flow of the falls, I set my shutter speed to a full second or more. But, after only a second, my polarizer was saturated. I had to shoot and dry the filter over and over again. I was concerned momentarily that I would not be able to get a clear image at all. But, looking around at this incredible place that is serene and volatile at the same time. The experience alone was enough even if I didn’t get a single capture. Thanks for stopping by.

New View at a Familiar Location

Amicalola Falls - Toby Gant -3119

Amicalola Falls State Park near Dawsonville, GA is not very far from my front door. This makes it a frequent retreat for me if I am working under time constraints. I visited it again Monday with the intention of finding a new perspective on my routine subject. After a few minutes of exploring, I was rewarded with a view of the falls I had not seen before and walked away with a few great images. It was an incredible experience outdoors and it was extremely rewarding when I sat down to look at my captures in post. And best of all, the spring season will arrive soon opening up endless new opportunities for me at this beautiful park.

This image was captured using my 16-35mm f/4, tripod mounted using a circular polarizer. Thanks as always for stopping by.

Fall Creek Falls – Tennessee

Fall Creek Fall TN - Toby Gant -2972

I revisited Fall Creek Falls State Park near Pikeville, Tennessee last week. There was no snow forecasted for the area. I found the roads open and the waterfalls accessible. I had left the house planning to visit Cloudland Canyon State Park in Georgia. But, traffic was not heavy and when I realized just how close I was to Pikeville, I literally made a last second change in direction on the interstate to visit this incredible park.

 

This image was captured from the Fall Creek Fall overlook using my 70-200mm VRII tripod mounted and using a circular polarizer.

 

You can see one of the other beautiful falls at this park on my recent post http://www.tobygant.com/2013/02/03/no-substitute-for-planning/. As always thanks for stopping by.

 

No Substitute for Planning

Rockhouse Falls - Toby Gant -2783

I broke from recent process of planning my shoots over the weekend. I made no advance plan and talked the family into a “quick” excursion up to Fall Creek Falls State Park near Pikesville, Tennessee. I checked their website and there was no mention of closures. We loaded up and headed north. Everyone enjoyed watching snow fall on the way to the park. The “snow thing” is still new to them. I was mostly excited about shooting the six falls that the park has to offer. I had left our park maps on the printer at home and we just followed the signs when we arrived. When we finally arrived at the “gorge scenic drive motor nature trail” we found that it was barricaded and closed. We followed the main road to the inn in order to freshen up and grab some snacks after our journey. I asked the cashier if the falls were closed for the season and she quickly retorted that the roads are sometimes closed due to poor weather conditions. But, that the ranger had just called her and let her know the road had just been reopened. She also interjected that the falls were just a short walk from the gate and if we were to ever find the gate closed we should just park and walk in. We raced back to the car and to the nature trail where we once again found it barricaded and closed. So, either they opened and closed them in the 5 minutes since we had talked to her or I suspect she may just say that to people when they start to ask questions. We had less than an hour of light left in our day. Since the cashier said it was a short walk we decided to tough it out. I put my pack on and we walked for about a mile and a half when we determined that her idea of a short walk and ours may have been different. We did not have enough light left to proceed. We went back to the car and in search of the access area to Rockhouse Falls on the other side of the park. The sun had long set behind the mountains. I struggled to capture a couple of images in the dark. But, it was too dark for me to get critical focus through the viewfinder and too dark for my D300s to autofocus. (It was too dark for photography altogether.) There is, however, enough of an image to get some idea of what the falls look like. I will definitely be planning my next shoot there well in advance.

 

This image of Rockhouse Falls was captured with my 16-35mm f/4 tripod mounted. You can find my gallery images on my site at: http://tobygant.com/gallery/index.html.

 

Serenity Now!!!

Tulips - Toby Gant

So, I was trapped in the house for some reason that I cannot remember now. I simply wanted to go outside and photograph anywhere. But, that option was not available. What else can an outdoor photographer do other than capture an image indoors? I decided to get some practice in with my trusty speedlight. My wife had some tulips on the table that became my subject. I ended up having a great time shooting and in post and I learned much along the way. I actually left the comfort of Lightroom and ventured into CS5 and learned some new techniques. And the most surprising part of the entire process was that the image actually makes an excellent wallpaper for my work PC. Now when I am at the office and stressed, I can set it as my wallpaper and think about relaxing at home.

The image was captured with my 50mm f/1.4 set at f/2 using a SB800 bounced off a white ceiling. You can find some of my gallery images on my site at: http://tobygant.com/gallery/index.html.

l.

 

God Rays on Cades Cove – Tennessee

Cades Cove - Toby Gant -2222

I captured this image on our recent trip to the Smoky Mountains. The morning had been entirely overcast. The clouds that had been dusting the mountains with snow overnight were thick and showed no signs of rolling back. However, weather conditions can change rapidly in the mountains and as the heavy clouds began to retreat, I was able to capture this image. I was shooting with my 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII at 70mm.

 

You can find this image and more in the gallery image section of my site at: http://www.tobygant.com/tobys-gallery-images/. Thanks as always for stopping by.

 

Back to Merritt Island – Florida

Merritt Island - Toby Gant -1719

On my recent trip to Florida, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go back to Merritt Island and drive the Black Point Wildlife Drive again. I was pleased to see that the water levels all appear to be back to normal. And with the normal water levels there was wildlife everywhere. As a matter of fact, I think there was more birds than I have ever seen there at any one time. While following my normal modus operandi (searching for osprey), I stumbled across this magnificent bald eagle. Armed with only my 70-200mm VRII and 2x teleconverter, I was not able to get as close as I would have liked. But, I had a great time observing it all the same.

Upper DeSoto Falls – Georgia

Upper Desoto Falls - Toby Gant -2422

I got an early start this morning to visit the DeSoto Falls Recreation Area in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest near Blairsville, Georgia. I visited the lower falls in March of 2012. I made an attempt to visit the upper falls in October 2012. (See http://www.tobygant.com/2012/10/12/plan-b/) But, this morning I was far more successful.

This morning was uncharacteristically warm for this time of year. And there was a heavy fog hanging over the higher elevations of the Blue Ridge. This allowed me to shoot late into the morning. While some photographers try to avoid foggy conditions, I embrace it. Not only can you shoot later into the morning. But, colors are more saturated. And it also adds a “moody feeling” to your captures.

The upper falls are incredible. The hike is much longer than the hike to the lower falls. But, it has a slower grade and was far less strenuous. With near perfect weather conditions, I found myself at the falls alone for well over an hour before others started straggling up to the falls. I could not have asked for a more perfect outing.

This image was captured with my 16-35mm f/4. Please stop by and see my updated gallery at http://www.tobygant.com/tobys-gallery-images/.

Wildlife in the GSMNP

Cades Cove - Toby Gant -2316Wildlife is abundant in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We have yet to drive the Cades Cove Loop Road and not see plenty of wildlife. The usual suspects are deer and turkey. We’ve seen elk, coyotes, wolves and bobcats in other areas of the park.

I captured this image of a whitetail buck on the loop road. I used my 70-200mm VRII at 200mm shooting from the Suby using my Puffin Pad.

The Puffin Pad is a great tool to use when shooting wildlife. As long as you shoot from your vehicle, most wildlife will not even be remotely concerned by you. It’s when you get out and set up a tripod they tend to want to go elsewhere. The Puffin Pad was indispensable to me on my vacation between visiting both Cades Cove and Black Point Wildlife Drive.

I have recently added new images to my gallery. You can see them at http://www.tobygant.com/tobys-gallery-images/. Thanks for stopping by.

Winter Falls

Amicalola Falls - Toby Gant -1366-I found an opportunity to get out to Amicalola State Park near Dawsonville, GA today. There were heavy grey skies and light freezing rain that turned to snow when I reached the higher altitude. It was exhilarating. The weather kept away most other traffic and I had the falls to myself except for a single group that passed me by when they were returning to their car.

I’ve had this particular image in my head for almost a year. I have not been able to position my tripod low enough to get the proper angle. But, thanks to St. Nick and my new set of sticks, I was finally able to get my camera where it needed to be to get the shot.

I like many others have put any extra capital I might have lying around into camera bodies or lenses. But, after spending just a couple of days with my new tripod, I wish I’d made the investment years ago. I hate to think just how many shots I’ve missed over the years simply because of the limitations of my old “compromise” tripod. I’m happy to close that chapter and push the limits of my newest hardware.

Please share any thoughts you might have. And as always, thanks for stopping by. You can see more of my images at my gallery: http://www.tobygant.com/tobys-gallery-images/.

Raper Creek Falls in B&W

Raper Creek Falls in B&WI had an extraordinary time shooting the Raper Creek Falls several days ago. I am still reviewing my captures in post. I found myself editing this image tonight in LR4 and it is truly amazing how powerful it is. I am able to accomplish everything I was able to do in the darkroom. The process is much more convenient than mixing chemicals and working in the dark. I still look back on those days with a little nostalgia. I am also grateful for the experience. But, I wouldn’t want to go back. My digital workflow keeps my interest just like the darkroom did. And it also makes extra time for other things.

This image was captured with my 16-35mm f/4, tripod mounted with a circular polarizer. Thanks for stopping by. You can see more gallery images on my site at http://www.tobygant.com/tobys-gallery-images/.

Gurley Creek Falls – Georgia

Gurley Creek Falls - GeorgiaSome family members came up to spend the week at the Enota Mountain Retreat near Hiawassee, Georgia. With it being so close to home we went up to spend part of the day with them Saturday. I started looking online for some falls in the area that I had not visited. I planned to slip off for a couple of hours with my camera. My wife immediately said that there were falls at the retreat and I was sceptical about what I would find there. The falls were a short hike from the campground and I thought there couldn’t be any harm if it was a bust. So, I mounted my camera and trusty 16-35mm on my tripod and slung it over my shoulder. (I put my 50 mm in my pocket for good measure.) And we headed up the mountainside.

After a short and fairly steep hike we found the falls. Much to my surprise, the falls were impressive. The light was terrible in the mid-afternoon. But, most of the falls were in the shade. With some creative composition, I was able to get a couple of great shots.

This image was captured with my 16-35mm f/4, tripod mounted with a circular polarizer. Thanks as always for stopping by and feel free to leave your thoughts. You can see other gallery images on my site at http://tobygant.com.

 

Raper Creek Falls – Georgia

Raper Creek FallsI made an opportunity to get out this morning. I wanted to visit somewhere I had not been before and after a little research, I selected Raper Creek Falls near Clarkesville, GA. I could not find clear directions to the location. So, I emailed the only 2 sets of directions that I could find to myself and headed out. There were no signs or markers along the drive. So, I found myself wandering in search of the falls. When I thought I was near I put down the windows in the Suby and listened for the falls. I was able to locate them by listening for falling water. There was no real trail or path to the falls. But, I wandered down a wooded ravine toward the noise and went directly to them.

The falls were stunning, the air was clean and fresh, and I was very much all alone for the duration of my visit. Even though I got a late start on the morning, the lighting was incredible. Between having heavy overcast clouds and a dense wooded canopy, the light was soft and diffused. I spent about an hour leisurely shooting and soaking it all in. It was an incredible morning.

This image was captured using my 16-35mm f/4 and a circular polarizer. Thanks as always for stopping by. Please feel free to leave your thoughts or comments. You can follow my blog and see gallery images on my site at: http://tobygant.com.