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Since the start of the COVID pandemic, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has seen a dramatic increase in park attendance. With the influx of larger crowds, the logistics of capturing traffic and people free photos has become even more challenging.
The scenic Cades Cove eleven-mile one way loop road section of the park has always drawn throngs of people to view wildlife (especially the black bears), the cabins and churches of the early settlers as well as the beauty of the landscape. Sparks Lane and Hyatt Lane are the only two-way roads within the loop that allow a shortcut through the cove area. In my opinion, these two roads offer the best sunrise photo opportunities the park has to offer.
The Cove Road entrance is gated and locked. The Park Rangers opens the gate in the morning and locks it in the evening. On this day I started out early by arriving at the gate to Cades Cove 1 1/2 hours before the park rangers arrived. I thought I would start by attempting to get a sunrise or early morning photo from Sparks Lane. As I was getting my camera setup in the middle of the road to capture the sun’s rays shining on the trees and grasses, I noticed that there was some fog low to the ground. Having the fog in my composition would add more inspiration to the photo than just having the sunlight hitting the trees.
As I was waiting for the sun to rise high enough over the mountains and trees to capture this landscape, I looked to my right to see that the fog was shielding the trees and bushes out in the field giving them a diffused look. Also, the mountains and sky had a pastel yellow, orange, and blue color to it that looked amazing. With all the stunning colors unfolding before me, I glimpsed the moon setting in the west just as the sun was rising higher in the eastern sky. This was one of the best sunrise/early morning photos that I have been fortunate enough to capture recently.
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor