Things were becoming a bit.......stale.
From the day I arrived here in Western North Carolina, I've had very little trouble finding lovely scenes to capture. Living only six miles from the Soco Gap entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway gives me quick access to some of the most breathtaking scenery in the Southeast. And on most days, I've had no trouble capturing that beauty:
The trouble was ("and he's complaining??", you say) my work had become repetitive - variations on a theme, basically. Either I would shoot mountain vistas (and there's no shortage here) or the occasional waterfall, all the while thinking about the financial side of it all:
"Will this sell as a print?"
"Would this make a nice stock image?" (I license my images through stock image agencies like Dreamstime and Shutterstock for extra income)
"I wonder if I should submit this one to so-and-so magazine?"
Of course, those are legitimate considerations for an aspiring full-time landscape photographer. (I still have the dreaded "day job" to help keep the bills paid and to finance my little trips). The problem comes when the pursuit of commerce gets in the way of art, and at the core of my being I am artist, for better or worse. It's how God made me, and I make no apologies for it. When the creative side suffers, eventually everything else suffers in turn. I didn't want to get to a point where all I did was reiterate myself - I needed to shake things up.
I'd been feeling the pull to get away from home for a couple of days to recharge, and a two day opening yesterday and today provided that opportunity for me. I had toyed with the idea of traveling down to Chimney Rock, located about an hour away, but I felt I'd end up with the same types of images I was trying to avoid, so I chose Gatlinburg instead, located only an hour or so from home. Gatlinburg seems like an odd choice on its face, as I've been to the popular resort dozens of times since my childhood. But going there gave me an idea; and when I arrived yesterday afternoon, I came up with a game plan, with some strict ground rules to keep things fresh:
1) I had to stay within the city limits of Gatlinburg. No Morton's Overlook, no Clingman's Dome, no Cades Cove. Any image I took had to be within Gatlinburg.
2) I couldn't travel by car. I was limited to "urban hiking." Fortunately, the skies were overcast, so I wouldn't be tempted to get in my car to find a sunset spot.
3) No tripod, no filters. I wanted to go back to the way I used to shoot images, when I was more a writer than a photographer. I needed to push myself to find beauty and capture it without the luxury of all the equipment in my bag.
4) To add a degree of difficulty, I had to use my ancient Nikon D70s camera instead of my "Number One" camera, my Nikon D7000 - the D70s is a ten year old camera whose technology is quite limited compared to today's cameras, yet is still capable of taking great images.
With those rules in place, I set out with my camera bag and my array of lenses through Gatlinburg, and here's a sampling of what I came up with:
When I walked up to the location of the former Christus Gardens, I took a bit of a pause. The gardens go by another name today, yet many of the landmarks still remain. And when I see crosses or figures of Christ, a tremendous peace comes over me, and I engaged in an impromptu Sunday worship session as I snapped away:
As I continued my journey through town, I spotted a blue heron on the Little Pigeon River. In order to capture it, I needed a slower shutter speed or I needed to boost my camera's ISO speed, which with such an old camera would make the image very grainy, so I decided to hold my camera against a post on the bridge I was standing on to keep the camera perfectly still while I took the long exposure, and captured the movement of the water to great effect:
I also spotted a neat little frog pond adjacent to the main road, and a nice water lily:
And to cap my little urban photography experiment, I found a little history in a new building: a replica of an old water tower, emblazoned with Gatlinburg's original name, White Oak Flats:
While none of these images are particularly earth-shattering or even rank among my best, they provided a nice departure from the norm and challenged me to think outside the box I'd found myself in lately. It gave me a fresh perspective that I will take with me in future shoots. Most of all, it was just plain fun. And speaking of boxes, all that walking needed to be rewarded with something tasty for dinner, and Mellow Mushroom hit the spot:
Good food never gets monotonous.......