Great Smoky Mountains National Park, located on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, is one of the most popular national parks in the United States. Founded in 1934 and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, the park is known for its mountains, waterfalls and forests. The Great Smoky Mountains are part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which in turn are part of the larger Appalachian Mountain chain.
My initial plan was to spend my first sunrise in the park at its highest peak, Clingman’s Dome. When I arrived an hour before dawn, however, the summit was completely fogged in and the wind gusts sweeping through the parking area were rocking my vehicle. With temperatures below freezing and the dense fog turning to snow, the conditions did not promise a worthwhile shoot. I changed direction and headed back down the mountain to Newfound Gap, where partially clouded skies promised, and then delivered a gorgeous sunrise. While the fog in the peaks lingered all day, the slightly lower elevations showcased the beauty of late fall in the mountains.
This shot was taken just after the sun crested. The sky was giving up its deep blues and vibrant pinks and oranges, but the rising sun was hitting the canopy of the forest below, showcasing the vibrant oranges of late fall. Most of the leaves at the higher elevations were gone, but splashes of yellow remained. Sunrises like this are always a great way to start a day of exploration somewhere new.
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor