QT Luong • Photographing Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Spanning two states – North Carolina and Tennessee – this vast range can provide remarkable photo opportunities. QT Luong tells us how to navigate such mountainous and natural majesty

Great Smoky Mountains National Park sits atop the most rugged southern stretch of the Appalachian, the main mountain range on America’s eastern side. The Great Smoky Mountains were named for the haze that often veils the rolling ridges, permeating the range. The southern Appalachian Mountains are one of the wettest places in the continental United States, and the forest is an additional source of moisture. The resulting park’s namesake smoke, combined with the easy accessibility of mountaintops, makes for inspiring views.

However, it is down in the valleys that one finds the unrivalled plant diversity, which makes the park such a great place to photograph in the springtime. The eastern region of the US is characterized by its hardwood forests, and the park preserves the finest of them. A grand champion of biodiversity, Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts the greatest selection of vegetation of any region in the temperate climate zone. There are more than 3,500 plant species, 1,500 flowering plants and almost as many trees (130 species) as in all of Europe. The park is home to one of the largest ...

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About Author


QT Luong is known for being the first to photograph all America’s 59 National Parks – in large format. Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan featured him in The National Parks: America's Best Idea. His photographs are extensively published and have been the subject of four large-format books including Treasured Lands (winner of 6 national book awards), several magazine and newspaper profiles, solo gallery and museum exhibits across the U.S.

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