Category Archives: philosophy

Fog Comes on Little Cat Feet

Fog Comes on Little Cat Feet

Smoky Mountain Trail in Fog

I think fog gets a bad name. It’s typically about what fog can obscure: living life in a fog, the fog of war, the fog of depression. Well, like our neighbor over in the mountains of western North Carolina, Carl Sandburg, I think fog has delightful qualities. For example, in the picture above, a dash of fog can actually be a clarifying factor for the beautiful muddy road in the foreground. For the photo below, it’s the opposite, with the fog in the foreground, giving a nice contrast to the clarity of Mt. LeConte, rising above the fog.

It’s that time of year … Is it winter? Is it spring? …  warm and cold and damp … welcoming conditions for fog.

Mt. LeConte in fog

Late winter branches with fog

Smoky Mountain Spirituality

Smoky Mountain Spirituality

Snowy footbridge

The picture above is the footbridge leading to the Ramsey Cascades Trail in the Greenbrier section of the Smoky Mountains. Yes, it’s still cold and quiet around here. Another cold, snowy scene from the Greenbrier is below.

But to warm things up on the waning days of winter, there’s a gallery of quotations down below. If the words are hard to read, click on any image, and you should get a full size slide show. (put your mouse over the right or left side of each picture to rotate through the slide show) I’ve tried to set each of the quotations within a supportive image.

Winter bridge

words-of-wisdomwords-of-wisdomwords-of-wisdomwords-of-wisdomwords-of-wisdomwords-of-wisdom

Finding Deep Peace in Wild Places

Finding Deep Peace in Wild Places

Deep Peace in the Smokies
Deep Peace in the Smokies © William Britten use with permission only

These are stressful times. So much strife in the world, polarized beliefs, and intolerance. Some days it’s too much for a sensitive person, and I have to turn off the news and turn off my thoughts. I use nature, and the grand expanse of Smoky Mountains at my doorstep, to recalibrate and rebalance. I feel lucky to live in such a spiritual place.

My Smoky Mountains photos reflect this search for deep peace and reassurance in nature. The image above especially captures the dark and moody woods juxtaposed with the bright and hopeful morning sunlight. It’s a place to sit by the never-ending cascade and contemplate the cycles of life. The sunlight changes by the minute and yet is forever the same. The rocks sit in the stream for eons, and yet they too are following a cycle of upheaval and settling.

The next time you visit the Smokies, try pulling off the road to sit by the deep woods cascades of the Roaring Fork or the awesome views of Cades Cove. And please consider a stop at the William Britten Gallery on the historic Arts and Crafts Trail along Glades Road in Gatlinburg. In my complete display of Smoky Mountains photos you may find a special memory to remember the peace of the mountains.

Smoky Mountain Inspirations

Smoky Mountain Inspirations

A Life of Quiet Inspiration

 I have been thinking of creating some Smoky Mountains photos with words of inspiration for some time. These four are my first offerings.  All four are currently hanging in the Gatlinburg Gallery, mounted on frameless 8×12 floats. However, they could be printed and framed in any of my standard sizes.

The photo above is a sunset at Morton Overlook with my variation on Thoreau’s comment about “lives of quiet desperation.”  I like my quote better!

Smoky Mountain Inspiration

The image above is Cades Cove on a beautiful summer afternoon with a quote paraphrased from John Muir.

The photo below is one of my favorite “deep woods” pictures, with a quote from the poet, Lord Byron.

Pleasure of the Pathless Woods

 Finally, the picture below is my best seller, with one of my own thoughts added.

If you’re traveling or vacationing in the Gatlinburg area, please stop in to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains photos at the William Britten Gallery.  The Gallery is located on the historic Arts and Crafts trail, in the Morning Mist Village shopping area along Glades Rd.  In addition to framed and matted prints, there are magnets, mugs and notecards for you to find a special Smokies memory to take home.

Listen to the Silence of Nature

Little Bit of Thoreau

Little Bit of Thoreau

A Little Bit of Thoreau in the Blue Ridge Mountains
Rustic Blue Ridge cabin near Asheville, NC

This blog has been inactive for several months. Where has the time gone? Well, most of it was taken up during construction of this wonderful little cabin in the Blue Ridge foothills of North Carolina. No, we are not leaving Gatlinburg, and the William Britten Gallery is still open along the historic Arts and Crafts Trail on Glades Rd. The cabin is a quiet getaway near children and grandchildren. Read on, if you’re interested in a Thoreau-style cabin and the lifestyle within.

Blue Ridge Cabin
Little Bit of Thoreau in the Blue Ridge Mtns

The foothills directly behind the cabin are within the Pisgah National Forest, and if you were to set out walking, you would find yourself exploring miles and miles of uninhabited wilderness, much like in the Great Smoky Mountains. You could keep on walking all the way to the Blue Ridge Parkway. So, right from the start, we don’t have Thoreau’s Walden Pond, but we do have Pisgah.

Rustic Cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains
Warm Wood Interior of Reclaimed Barn Wood
Rustic Cabin Kitchen
Custom made kitchen cabinets from barnwood, with a Black Walnut counter made from sawmill planks.

A well was sunk 325 feet down into bedrock, and it greatly pleases me to think of this pure water flowing out of the undeveloped, pristine watershed. The cabin is less than 400 square feet of living space, plus a small loft area, and a generous porch overlooking the valley below. The cabin exterior is board-and-batten rough-sawn Hemlock, and the interior is all wood–some North Carolina harvested Hemlock, Oak, and Cypress, and some reclaimed from local barns. The exterior doors were made by a local craftsman, who also made the kitchen countertop from 2-inch thick Walnut found at a local sawmill.

Our little cabin is a riff on the Appalachian culture and its architecture. We tried hard to make it be as if it rose from the local woods. We were happy to find local craftsmen with the tradition of seat-of-the-pants resourcefulness. Hopefully it echoes the Appalachian traditions of small is beautiful, and richness in simplicity.

Rustic Cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina
Nestled in the arms of Pisgah National Forest

The cabin is very spartan … nothing more than a bed, a few chairs, and a table barely large enough for two dinner plates. It does have electricity and running water, but Internet access requires a walk down the hill to get within range of my daughter’s farmhouse. This is where Mr. Thoreau comes into the picture: at first I thought this would be a temporary situation, that we would finish off the cabin with furniture, a fully outfitted kitchen, some more decor, etc. But after three months of weekly getaways, I have no desire to move beyond the sense of raw simplicity that the cabin exudes. I stoke the wood stove with a few sticks to take the edge off the morning chill, sit in a straight-back chair and watch the light change, follow the moon setting through the branches of a Hickory tree. Later in the day, I’ll look forward to grandchildren’s knock at the door (chocolate milk in the fridge!). I read books. And of course, tromp around outside with a little hatchet in my hand.

Rustic Cabin Interior
Small spaces are happy spaces.

No, I don’t need a microwave oven or a TV set. I don’t really need anything. Contentment comes in the form of observation, contemplation, appreciation.

A final observation: just above the front door, the grain in the wood appears to bless those who enter (photo below). It’s curious enough that the wood-grain carries this message, but to think of how it came to rest just above the door is miraculous. I asked the carpenters about it. Yes, they did take notice, but not until after the siding was nailed up.

I think of a large stack of hemlock drying in the wind. Hundreds of feet of lumber used over several months … cut this way and that … nailed up in various positions. And this special board came to rest in the perfect spot.

Message in the Wood
Message in the Wood

Click on any of the photos to bring up larger versions.

 

Look Up!

Look Up!

In the Treetops
In the Treetops © William Britten use with permission only

It’s a Spiritual Sunday again. Time to ponder whatever comes to mind. Like walking in the Smokies with your head pointed upwards. Watch the squirrels jump from treetop to treetop. Appreciate the soft sunlight filtering down through the canopy. Maybe spot a woodpecker at work.

These two Smoky Mtns photos illustrate a simple philosophy: look up!  Studies show that a positive outlook and reaction to life’s unexpected detours are a key to happiness and longevity. It’s not always easy, and it takes some faith to know that the even the dark areas in your life’s picture add to the overall beauty.  Just as in these pictures, it’s the contrasts between light and dark that give the scene some “pop.”

The treetops pictured above are some of the big trees along the trail above Laurel Falls. The photo below is a stand of Poplars along the Roaring Fork. They probably took over the cleared forest after the logging operations of the 1920s, or after the homesteaders moved out. They’re all competing for a small piece of the sunshine pie. No time to relax and stretch your limbs. No time to be an individual. You need to grow fast and straight to establish yourself, just like those around you.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mtns Photos at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. I’m located in Morning Mist Village, along the historic Arts and Crafts Trail on Glades Rd.

Smoky Mtns Photos: Tall Trees
Smoky Mtns Photos: Tall Trees © William Britten use with permission only
Spiritual Sunday: Special Gifts

Spiritual Sunday: Special Gifts

Morning Majesty
Morning Majesty © William Britten use with permission only

I’ve been working on a small project, and I’m ready to share it. The basic idea is to use Smoky Mountains photos as the context for a short philosophical statement. The statements are about the capacity of nature to lift the spirit. These photos and words can be sent to a loved one or friend as a little “happy.” Something like a notecard … a small “Spiritual Gift.”

I’ve created three of these pages so far. First I’ll share links to the pages … if you care to read them … and then I’ll let you know how to share them with someone.  Here are the pages:

    Morning Majesty – features a sunrise over the endless Smoky Mountains … the timeless beauty of another morning.

    Dogwood Homestead – features the photo below and some thoughts on the idyllic tranquility of another era.

   Finding Deep Peace in Wild Places – features the photo at the bottom of this page, with thoughts about how time in the mountains can serve as an antidote to a stressful world.

Smoky Mountains photos: Dogwood Home
Smoky Mountains photos: Dogwood Home © William Britten use with permission only

There are a couple of ways to share these “Spiritual Gift” pages. First, you can click on one of the links above and then click on the “Share” button on the top of the page. From there you can email to someone, post it to facebook or twitter, or other possibilities.

The second way, is only for facebook users, but it’s pretty cool.  Click on this link below, and follow the instructions to send one of the gifts to a facebook friend.

     Spiritual Gifts on facebook  

If you’re visiting the Smoky Mountains, please consider a visit to the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. My Smoky Mountains photos are on display as framed or matted prints, as well as magnets, mugs, and notecards.

Finding Deep Peace in Nature
Finding Deep Peace in Nature © William Britten use with permission only
The Road to Serenity

The Road to Serenity

Smoky Mountains photography: miles away
Smoky Mountains photography: miles away © William Britten use with permission only

Welcome to Friday. A weekend! Gratitude for another day. The simple beauty of dawn drifting towards the fullness of the day, weather becoming whatever it will. The road beckons, cares and worries in the rearview mirror. Miles away.

Leave it all behind
Leave it all behind © William Britten use with permission only

There are many opportunities in the Smoky Mountains to let the road carry you away. Even some of the very popular driving areas like Cades Cove or the Roaring Fork can be deserted and ethereal in the very early morning mist. You can turn off the air conditioner, roll down the windows, and just be one with the softness of the moment. You’ll probably see some wildlife enjoying the quiet of their morning too.

Head east out of Gatlinburg on Route 321. After three or four miles, look for the right turn at the Greenbrier entrance of the National Park. Just follow the road, you can’t get lost. Get out whenever you want, sit by the creek a moment. Or keep on driving past Greenbrier, on over to Cosby. Turn right at the stop sign, toward Cosby campground. But go on by the campground and just wander for miles, way over to the Cataloochee Valley, watching the trees roll by. The road gets a little rough, but not for long. Keep on going for a real experience.

Serenity Road
Serenity Road © William Britten use with permission only

Perhaps your road of wandering will lead you to the Arts and Crafts Loop along Glades Road outside Gatlinburg. If so, please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Morning Mist Village.

Deep Woods

Deep Woods

Deep Woods in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only
Deep Woods in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only

It’s another Spiritual Sunday. Today we are in the Deep Woods.

Something about being among Big Trees speaks to a person’s soul. If you’ve ever stood in a grove of California Redwoods, you know the feeling. They’ve lived for so long, and withstood so many of nature’s hardships. They tower above their peers, leaving you to gaze at the massive trunk, or crane your neck to look up into their canopy. If you hike the same Smoky Mountains trails again and again, some of these giants become like friends. To stand in a forest of old-growth big trees is to be within Nature’s cathedral.

Smoky Mountains photos: Big Trees
Smoky Mountains photos: Big Trees © William Britten use with permission only

Where to find Big Trees in the Smoky Mountains? Since much of the Smokies was cut for timber before the Park was formed, there are only a few large groves left. One accessible spot, where both of the pictures above were taken, is above Laurel Falls. Most folks take the popular hike to the falls and then turn around. But if you continue on for another half mile or so, there is a nice grove of old growth trees.  Another one can be found along the Ramsay Cascades Trail in the Greenbier section of the Smoky Mountains. And of course, a great experience with Deep Woods can be found outside the National Park, in the Joyce Kilmer National Forest near Robbinsville, NC.

Smoky Mountains photos: Deep Dark Woods
Smoky Mountains photos: Deep Dark Woods © William Britten use with permission only

If you are on vacation or traveling through the Gatlinburg area, please stop in for a visit to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photos at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. I’m located in Morning Mist Village along Glades Rd. in the historic Arts and Crafts district.

Lichen in Winter

Lichen in Winter

Lichens in the Smoky Mountains
Lichens in the Smoky Mountains

I’ve noticed that lichen seems to come alive in the winter. In the Smoky Mountains, lichen are everywhere, on boulders and rocks and tree trunks. Maybe they stand out in winter because they are not competing with the lush green foliage of summer. In any case, wandering the quiet winter trails, the lichen really jump out at  you.   The photo above is a large boulder sticking out of the ground along the Porters Creek Trail in the Greenbrier section of the Smokies. In summer it is quite ordinary, but in winter … neon green!

A lichen is an odd organism made up of a fungus and a partner that provides photosynthesis … either an algae or a bacteria. This can happen in many different ways … if you think wildflowers can be difficult to identify, don’t even think about lichens!

Lichens are persistent and long-living, existing in extreme conditions. I admire them for that, and for their subtle beauty. It’s a fun winter pastime to look for abstract compositions in the boulders and lichens. There are literally hundreds of possibilities.

Lichen patterns on bare rock
Lichen patterns on bare rock

As usual, the door is open out at the William Britten Gallery on the Arts and Crafts Loop along Glades Rd in Gatlinburg. You’ll find my complete display of photos of the Smoky Mountains. Also, if you enjoy facebook, please click the “Like” button on the panel to the right for frequent updates, bonus offers, and extra photos.

Still life with rock
Still life with rock
Smoky Mountain Zen

Smoky Mountain Zen

Smoky Mountains Zen
Smoky Mountains Zen © William Britten use with permission only

It’s Philosophical Friday once again. Today’s post is about making stacks of balanced stones as art and therapy.

Some days you just need to go out and stack some stones. Right? Just head out along some creek and start wandering, looking for a good selection of rocks. The right color, right shape, ability to get along in a stack. Then spend some time forming your stacks. First some failures and some flops, but finally a nice little tower of stones with good balance. And in the process you might find a little balance in yourself. Stacking stones seems to be of universal appeal.

I like to find a good location for these zen stacks. Maybe near a road where a passerby will glance over and see the stack in its natural setting and be touched by the small mystery.

The stacks in these images were all created along the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon river in the Greenbrier section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Greenbrier entrance to the Park is closest to my home, so I spend a lot of time there.

Smoky Mountains photos: stacking rocks
Smoky Mountains photos: stacking rocks © William Britten use with permission only

Thanks of course to Andy Goldsworthy, the master of transient art in nature.

When you’re done stacking your stones and taking your hikes, come on out to the William Britten Gallery along the historic Arts and Crafts Loop on Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg. You’ll find my complete display of Smoky Mountains photos which are also full of zen tranquility. There may be a special memory for you to take home with you.

Smoky Mountains Zen
Smoky Mountains Zen © William Britten use with permission only
Stillness in Motion

Stillness in Motion

Stillness in Motion © William Britten use with permission only

Philosophical Friday here. Standing beside the Lynn Camp Prong, taking in the autumn splendor. It’s so quiet, so still. So many details to look at and appreciate. The way the leaves contrast with the beautiful gray of the rocks and tree trunks. The way the water makes endless currents and flows. The vine snaking down among the branches of that tree across the creek. The sense of completion. The long growing season, which started last spring, finally finished. Time to rest, be still, be mindful of all that is here.

Willie Nelson has some lyrics that say  “I can be moving or I can be still, but still is still moving to me.”  Standing here, I know what  he means. But I can also feel the opposite, that a lot can be happening, but still there is stillness.

When you come out of the woods, come on over to visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

End of Summer

End of Summer

Two buck deer in Cades Cove
Two buck deer in Cades Cove © William Britten use with permission only

It seems like every year as we move from August to September, all the signs suddenly point to the end of summer.  In these Smoky Mountains photos of buck deer in Cades Cove, you can almost feel what they feel.  The easy days are slipping away … the days of fattening up on lush grass as they graze in the moonlight of a warm night. Soon the grass will be brown, the leaves gone, the wind cold. The two young ones above may not remember what’s to come, but the old guy below does.

But then again … soon it will be mating season! There is that silver lining at least.

Smoky Mountains photos of buck deer in Cades Cove
Smoky Mountains photos of buck deer in Cades Cove © William Britten use with permission only

No matter what the time of year, please consider a visit to the William Britten Gallery to see my complete display of Smoky Mountains photos. I’m located along the historic Arts and Crafts Trail on Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg, TN.

The Deer Whisperer

The Deer Whisperer

Old buck in Cades Cove
Old buck in Cades Cove © William Britten use with permission only

Some of the best Smoky Mountains photos of deer and bear that I have seen are those of photographer Brian Shults. I’d been wanting to meet up with Brian to get some tips on wildlife photography, which is a specialty requiring a whole different strategy than what I’m used to. But even though we both spend a fair amount of time in Cades Cove, we couldn’t seem to find a time for a joint photo shoot.

Last Saturday I decided to head over to Cades Cove before sunrise and walk around in the central meadow to see what I could find. Saturday morning is one of the days the loop road is closed to cars, so I had to park at the entrance and walk in. With bicycles zipping by me in the gloom of early dawn,  the riding horses and a few deer appeared off in the misty fields. It was a moment to celebrate just being alive.

Soon enough I head down Sparks Lane, and then from there over the fence and into the big wide meadow. There are deer around, but as I approach close enough to get a good pose, mostly I get the white tails as they skitter away. Walking on, I can see another photographer in the distance.  He’s crouched in the grass, surrounded by bucks that seem to be posing for him like hired models. I’m thinking that this must be Brian.

Brian -- the Deer Whisperer
Brian -- the Deer Whisperer

Brian has been among these deer for years, and he knows them well enough to recognize each one and tell you something about their history. Obviously, they know and trust him as well. And then a funny thing happened … it was like the deer said “Oh, you’re with Brian … you must be ok.” And they posed for me, letting me get within 10 feet of them. Nice!

Eventually they jumped the fence, headed for their spot in the woods to bed down for the day. Of course Brian knew where that would be, and we followed the bucks over there for another photo session.

Thanks for a fun morning, Brian!

Cades cove deer bedded down for the day
Cades cove deer bedded down for the day © William Britten use with permission only

As always, the welcome mat is out for you to visit me at the William Britten Gallery on Glades Road in Gatlinburg.  Hopefully my complete display of Smoky Mountains photos will offer a special memory for you to take home.

Mysterious Mountain Memories

Mysterious Mountain Memories

Smoky Mountains Midnight Dawn
Smoky Mountains Midnight Dawn © William Britten use with permission only

In the middle of a hot summer, I can get restless, and feeling a bit confined within the boundaries of “normal” images. I start to think “outside the camera.”  For example, a few weeks ago I wrote a post about camera movement during long exposures to create photographic Impressionism.

Today’s Smoky Mountains photos have a bit of the surreal, a dash of a midnight memory or dream with a dollop of daylight’s bright colors. It’s like filling in the blanks of your memory along the border between the dream and the wakeful daytime. Of course the Light and the Dark are the two realms we know, and to mix them together can stir up feelings.

What do the images suggest to you or make you feel?

Sunlight chases the night
Sunlight chases the night © William Britten use with permission only

The photos on this page were taken in the area of the Smoky Mountains known as the Roaring Fork. This is a beautiful area, and somewhat mysterious under any conditions, especially with those green boulders strewn down the stream bed. These pictures are more experiments with long exposures. It’s early in the morning along the dark creeks, and the day is not nearly as bright as the photos make it seem.  The exposure times are in the area of 30 seconds, which adds another dash of the surreal with the extreme flow of the whitewater.

When your dreams finally clear, please consider a stop at the William Britten Gallery along the historic Arts and Crafts Trail on Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg.  My complete display of Smoky Mountains Photos might tempt you with a special memory to take home with you.

Roaring Fork Memories
Roaring Fork Memories © William Britten use with permission only
The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep

The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep

Dark Woods in the Smoky Mountains
Dark Woods in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only

Celebrating a fine Friday morning with a few thoughts gleaned from poet Wendell Berry:

I come into the peace of wild things … for a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. We pray, not for new earth or heaven, but to be quiet in heart, and in eye, clear. What we need is here.

Deep in the Smoky Mountains Woods
Deep in the Smoky Mountains Woods © William Britten use with permission only

I part the out-thrusting branches and come in beneath the blessed and the blessing trees. Though I am silent, there is singing around me. Though I am dark, there is vision around me.

Planting trees early in spring, we make a place for birds to sing in time to come. How do we know? They are singing here now. There is no other guarantee that singing will ever be.

Light at the end of the trail
Light at the end of the trail © William Britten use with permission only
Layers of Life

Layers of Life

New life growing on a dead tree
New life growing on a dead tree © William Britten use with permission only

The photo above and below show how densely packed life in the Smoky Mountains is. No sooner does a big tree fall than the recycling begins. Moss and lichens, then ferns and little pine seedlings.  Death becomes life, and the old is made new again.

In the Smoky Mountains, nothing is “cleaned up” unless it is blocking a trail or road. If it falls or blows down or is burned, there it lays. As in the photo below, things can get very jumbled in the woods, with layers of fallen trees being worked on by the natural process of decay and renewal. In the jumble and chaos is a natural rhythm and plan. Just like in my studio!

Layers of Life photo
Layers of Life photo © William Britten use with permission only

You’ll find many peaceful examples of natural beauty at the William Britten Gallery on the Arts and Crafts Trail along Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg, TN. Please stop in and see if I can send a special Smoky Mountains photo home with you!

Moss finds a Foothold
Moss finds a Foothold © William Britten use with permission only
Miles Away on Monday: Cabin Dreams

Miles Away on Monday: Cabin Dreams

Dreaming of a Smoky Mountains Cabin © William Britten use with permission only

Ah, Smoky Mountains Dreamin’ … you wake up and feel like you’re in a Thomas Kinkade painting. Soft morning light, the cabins around you still shaking off the night, a little fantasy village. The Smoky Mountains off on the horizon, greeting the day in their own proud way, beckoning you.

This is one of the attractions that draws people to the Smokies over and over.  To enter this world, miles away, something that touches a place deep inside their heart. Almost something that can’t be said, can only be felt.

Really, this is what I try for in a photograph … something that can be felt but not spoken.  William  Britten Gallery in the Morning Mist Village on Glades Rd in Gatlinburg.

I also do resort cabin photography for a select number of rental agencies and owners.

Changes in Altitude

Changes in Altitude

Spring Snow in the Smoky Mountains
Spring Snow in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only

Happy Friday!  It’s been a while since we had a Philosophical Friday.  Today’s thoughts are about living in an area like Gatlinburg that features great changes in altitude. Downtown Gatlinburg is about 1500 feet above sea level, yet only about 20 miles away, on the top of Clingman’s Dome, the altitude has climbed to 6,643 feet! That’s over a mile higher!

So, what’s philosophical about that? Well, as in the photo above, it can be a delightful spring day in early May down at 1500 feet, but after a 20 minute drive you could be making a snowman! It’s almost like being able to move around in time, just a little. Or it’s like adding another dimension to life. In most geographical areas the climate is determined by the two factors: the time of year and the latitude. But when you add that third factor, altitude, the possibilities are expanded. For example, the photo below shows the wildflower Spring Beauty crowding the Appalachian Trail near Newfound Gap. The photo was taken this week, in late April. But we enjoyed Spring Beauty on some of the favorite wildflower trails over a month ago!

Spring comes to the Appalachian Trail
Spring comes to the Appalachian Trail © William Britten use with permission only

The Trout Lily below is another example of the changes in altitude. I missed Trout Lily when it bloomed weeks ago, but by hiking the mile-higher Appalachian Trail this week I was able to turn back the clock and get a photo!  And of course the whole thing works in reverse during the fall, when we can rise up into winter before the season would normally start, as shown in my photo of the Smoky Mountains Moonrise.

Thanks for listening to my ramblings, and as always, please stop in at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg to see my complete collection of Smoky Mountains photos.

Trout Lily on the Appalachian Trail
Trout Lily on the Appalachian Trail © William Britten use with permission only

 

 

 

 

Golden Sycamore Roots

Golden Sycamore Roots

Sycamore Root Detail © William Britten use with permission only
Sycamore Root Detail © William Britten use with permission only

I was walking along the road to the Ramsey Cascade trail in the Greenbrier section of the Smoky Mountains last week. Just out for a stroll, with my little GF1 attached to a monopod like it was a walking stick. Another photographer came out of the woods onto the road, and we exchanged a greeting. He said there were some interesting sycamore roots over by the creek in a wonderful golden morning light. Said he could get lost for hours just exploring a small section of the Ramseys Prong.

So I took the bait, and headed into the brush, and sure enough there were some fine sycamore roots proudly displaying in the morning light. Sycamores like wet feet, so they are often found right along the stream banks. But they pay a price for that when every high water brings a bunch of junk flowing over the roots and bashing into them. But all that bashing makes the roots quite lovely in a gnarly way.

Sycamore Root Detail © William Britten use with permission only
Sycamore Root Detail © William Britten use with permission only

Spending some time with these sycamore roots was a fine meander, and eventually I made my way back to the road and on up the the Ramsey Cascades trail.

Sycamore Root Detail © William Britten use with permission only
Sycamore Root Detail © William Britten use with permission only

As usual, if you’re in Gatlinburg please stop in for a visit at the William Britten Gallery on Glades Rd. to see the whole display of Smoky Mountain photos.

Sycamore Root Detail © William Britten use with permission only
Sycamore Root Detail © William Britten use with permission only
The World Within the World

The World Within the World

Where is the World Within?
Where is the World Within?

Friday philosophy time combined with a photo tip … a two-fer-one!

For me, so much of photography is about seeing the world within the world. Most photographs don’t jump out of the jumble in front of our eyes and say “here I am, take me!” Some do, but mostly not. Instead, I think of them as the answer to the question: if one piece of this scene before me was the entire world, what would it feel like? What would it have to say? What would be the essence?

One of my images that always seems to spark a response is Smoky Mountain Monet. This picture is hardly more than a puddle in the middle of the forest. I almost didn’t bother to stop, but the reflection in the water caught my eye. Despite its humble appearance, within that small world is all of autumn, with its colored leaves and smells and feelings and memories.

When you think about it, life is like that. So many deeply meaningful moments pass by within the context of ordinary life. And our actions that may significantly touch a loved one, or friend, or stranger, happen in the midst of hundreds of ordinary actions in an ordinary day.

So, back to the photo above. A winter panorama of downtown Gatlinburg. The Presbyterian church and the Fire Station down at the bottom left. The motels and the parking lot we always use during art fairs. The Park Vista Hotel in the distance, with the Smoky Mountains beyond.  Does this scene have a world within?

The World Within © William Britten use with permission only
The World Within © William Britten use with permission only

Yes!  Grab the telephoto, reach up into the mountains, and you’re miles away from civilization in a majestic winter wilderness. Ominous dark clouds threatening another snowstorm. A scene that would elicit emotions from most viewers.

As always, the water is hot for coffee or tea out at the William Britten Gallery on Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg, TN. Stop in to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography.

Armies in the Fire

Armies in the Fire

Thoughtful Fireplace
Thoughtful Fireplace

Philosophical Friday here. A quiet mid-winter day. Here’s a poem from Robert Louis Stevenson, who must have been staring thoughtfully, or otherwise, into a fire when he wrote these lines.

Armies in the Fire
from Child’s Garden of Verses

The lamps now glitter down the street;
Faintly sound the falling feet;
And the blue even slowly falls
About the garden trees and walls.

Now in the falling of the gloom
The red fire paints the empty room:
And warmly on the roof it looks,
And flickers on the back of books.

Armies march by tower and spire
Of cities blazing, in the fire;–
Till as I gaze with staring eyes,
The armies fall, the lustre dies.

Then once again the glow returns;
Again the phantom city burns;
And down the red-hot valley, lo!
The phantom armies marching go!

Blinking embers, tell me true
Where are those armies marching to,
And what the burning city is
That crumbles in your furnaces!

This Old Hat … and Boots

This Old Hat … and Boots

Famous Blue Hat
Famous Blue Hat

It’s Friday, and also my Birthday!  So as I thought about the years slipping by, I thought about these two items … the blue hat and the winter boots.

The blue knit wool hat pictured above was knitted by my older sister somewhere around 1980. Thanks, Anne!  I’ve had it all this time, worn it while living in four different states over a 30 year period. I wore it in fact this week during some photo shoots in the snow. My children, both in their 30s now, wore the hat at various times when they were growing up (see below).

Justin and Sarah wear the blue hat
Justin and Sarah wear the blue hat
Still the blue hat in 2011!
Still the blue hat in 2011!

That’s a pretty amazing hat story.  What about the boots?

The boots go back even further!  The boots pictured below were given to me by my older brother (thanks, Dave!) sometime in the mid-1960s.  Here we are 45 years later and I’m still tromping around in the snow with these boots!

The Forever Boots
The Forever Boots

Stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. These pictures just might last as long as my hat and boots!

Festival of Trees

Festival of Trees

The World Within the Ornament © William Britten use with permission only
The World Within the Ornament © William Britten use with permission only

Happy Friday everyone!  I recently took a break from our craft fair and stopped in at the Gatlinburg Festival of Trees, at the Mills Center just after Thanksgiving. In the picture above you might be able to see my reflection in the ornament, with the trees all around me. Very M.C. Escher, isn’t it?

In my photography I seem to be drawn to worlds within the world, the miniature landscapes that might go unnoticed. As I roamed around the Festival Of Trees, the sponsors of the event became curious, and asked me several times what I was doing. They encouraged everyone to photograph the trees, but I was down on my knees, zeroed in on something that  caught my eye, never took a single photo of an entire tree!  It intrigues me to think about what a small segment will look like if it is presented as the entire world.

Christmas Ornament © William Britten use with permission only
Christmas Ornament © William Britten use with permission only

It’s December in Gatlinburg, and the Smoky Mountains are looking somewhat cold and barren. So we turn our attention to the sparkle and lights of the Christmas season. More on that in the days to come ….

It’s a wonderful time to visit the Smokies. If you can get away, please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery out on Glades Rd. along the Arts and Crafts Trail.

Christmas Ornament © William Britten use with permission onlyChristmas Ornament © William Britten use with permission only
Christmas Ornament © William Britten use with permission only
Along the Roaring Fork: New Flume for the Mill

Along the Roaring Fork: New Flume for the Mill

New Flume for Reagan's Mill © William Britten use with permission only
New Flume for Reagan's Mill © William Britten use with permission only

In addition to a newly paved loop road for the Roaring Fork in 2010, the Reagan Mill got a brand new flume to carry the water to where the mill once was.  So, although it is pretty and adds to the charm along the Roaring Fork, it is really just a “flume to nowhere” because it only carries the water along for a while before dumping it back in the creek.

What then is the purpose of this seemingly pointless flume? Well, here at breakfast on this beautiful Friday morning I asked Sarah that question. Her reply was that the flume serves as a reminder for the simple, sustainable, harmless technologies that can provide energy for at least this small corner of the world.

New Flume for Reagan's Mill © William Britten use with permission only
New Flume for Reagan's Mill © William Britten use with permission only

As always, when you visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, please consider visiting me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Echoes of Autumn

Echoes of Autumn

Echoes of Autumn © William Britten use with permission only
Echoes of Autumn © William Britten use with permission only

It’s Friday in Gatlinburg once again, and you know what that means. (enter the word “Friday” in the search box to the right if you’re new around here)

I love this time of year. I think of it as “echoes of autumn.” The trees are nearly bare, but still there are a few leaves hanging on to add just an accent of color to the scene. In its own way it is as charming and attractive as the main leaf season.

Rainy Road © William Britten use with permission only
Rainy Road © William Britten use with permission only

In part, the beauty of the “Echoes” season comes from all the leaves that are now on the ground.  Add the element of water and you have the makings of a very attractive scene. Which leads me to ponder the nature of beauty in nature. It’s true that the leaves at their October peak are spectacularly beautiful. But the day pictured here has some more subtle features that add together to make beauty also. Many visitors to my Gallery on a day like this would comment, saying something like “it’s a rainy day and the leaves are gone … I guess we really picked a bad time to come.” In reply, I point to many pictures on the gallery walls that celebrate just such a day!

Rain or shine, please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Zen again

Zen again

Acadia Zen Stack  © William Britten use with permission only
Acadia National Park Zen Stack © William Britten use with permission only

Several months ago I wrote a little thing about creating zen rock stacks near my home in the Smoky Mountains. There seems to be an almost universal relationship between man and rocks that is reflected in the creation of these zen stacks.

Recently I traveled all the way up to the coast of Maine, to Acadia National Park. Walking out onto the rocky shoreline, what do I find but a bunch of zen stacks. These are beautiful granite stones shaped by glaciers and ocean waves. They’re irresistible!  See how different the red granite above is from the Smoky Mountain river rocks pictured at the bottom of this page.

Acadia Zen Stack  © William Britten use with permission only
Acadia National Park Zen Stacks © William Britten use with permission only

Go on out and stack some stones, wherever you are. And please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Smoky Mountain Zen Stack  © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountain Zen Stack © William Britten use with permission only
Haystacks

Haystacks

Smoky Mountain Haystack
Smoky Mountain Haystack

Philosophical Friday here again.  Always something to think about. For example, once upon a time  the problem was finding a needle in a haystack.  Now you can’t find the haystack. When was the last time you saw one?  Do you know what a haystack is?

These haystack pictures were taken at the Mountain Farm Museum near the Cherokee entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. So, haystacks are now found in museums.

Back in the 1970s I owned 100 acres in West Virginia, and the local farmers still put up the hay in stacks. I even made some, gathering up the cut hay and piling it up around the pole, then finally combing the outside with a rake so the stack would shed rain. It was labor-intensive, but worked well in preserving the hay for winter feeding. You’d see haystacks all over place in the fields. But, I never once found a needle in one of the haystacks.

Smoky Mountain Haystack
Smoky Mountain Haystack

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

This Old Truck

This Old Truck

Good as Old © William Britten use with permission only

Philosophical Friday here again, and Friday the 13th no less. These pictures of the marvelous old pickup truck resting in glorious decay illustrate the idea that beauty and ugliness do not lie at opposite ends of a spectrum. Rather, there seems to be a circular relationship, where if you start out at beautiful and head over towards ugly, you will eventually find yourself back at beautiful. It’s like Wow! That’s so bad it’s good!

We ran into this idea before, over at the Palmer House in Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains.

When you’re done pondering these heavy concepts please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Beauty of Decay © William Britten use with permission only

This old Truck © William Britten use with permission only

Newfound Gap Loop

Newfound Gap Loop

Newfound Gap Loop © William Britten use with permission only
Newfound Gap Loop © William Britten use with permission only

Philosophical Friday again. This time it’s the classic situation that sometimes to go forward you’ve got to go backwards. The road up to Newfound Gap offers just such a case in point. The road climbs until it reaches a place on the mountain that is too steep for a road grade. What to do?  Loop around in the ultimate hairpin turn to gain enough rise to continue on.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Newfound Gap Loop © William Britten use with permission only
Newfound Gap Loop © William Britten use with permission only

Signup for our occasional newsletter

Enter your details below and we'll keep you updated via email.

Content Protected Using Blog Protector By: PcDrome.