These three Smoky Mtns photos illustrate something about how the process of photography happens for me. All were taken on a high-elevation trail near Clingmans Dome in the Smokies. Walking along the trail, the scene above caused me to stop. Something about the elements brought on an emotional response, which is what I am usually looking for in order to create a good photograph. The well-worn path leads off into the distance of a foggy morning. The ferns are soft and welcoming – a nice contrast with the mystery of the trail. Then there’s that big old stump on the right, which will be a very nice frame for that side of the image. Finally, there are some spindly pine trees to the left, offering a frame for that side. I set up the tripod and composed the photograph above. It’s nice, but not tight enough. Too many loose distractions, which will dilute the emotional response.
So, I maneuver around, trying to get the elements into an alignment that works. How do I know if it works? Well, you never know for sure, but a good photo will feel like it has snapped into place when you see it through the viewfinder. Sometimes it can be frustrating to find it. The image below is what “snapped” for me on this morning. This image was given the title Peace in Wild Places, and it has become a very good seller in my Gatlinburg Gallery. But there’s more to the story! Keep reading below …
The image below is another interpretation of the foggy trail scene. Obviously it is very different from the one above. It stretches the emotions of the scene to an almost surreal degree. The fog-shrouded trail is very mysterious, the path is very bright, and the stump on the right has become a bit sinister. The whole scene is Hobbit-like. These two images show how a finished photograph is an interpretation, and just as a musical score can be interpreted in different ways, so can a photographic image. Perhaps the most frequent question that I am asked is “was this really the way it looked, or have you enhanced it?” The answer to both parts of that question is yes … it really did look this way, but a good photograph will take it much further than simply recording a time and place.
Please stop and see my complete collection of Smoky Mtns photos at the William Britten Gallery. I’m located along the historical Arts and Crafts Trail on Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg, TN.
Click on any of these pictures to see a larger version.