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Driving West To The Sunrise

Hump Moutain B&W (FP 778)

So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” – Matthew 20:16

Probably many of you participated in one or more of the popular New Year traditions – watching the crystal ball fall in Time Square, marveling at floral floats in the Tournament of Roses parade, or, if living in the south, pigging-out on black-eyed peas, turnip greens and ham hocks.

It was also the peak for all those Best of the Year List – movies, TV shows, albums, books, Forgettable and Unforgettable Events, Best and Worse Dressed, etc.   For those enamored with lists, there was even several Top 10 Top 10 List. Any wagers when we’ll first see the Top 10 of the Top 10 Top 10 Best of the Year list?

And for photographers that missed the deadline for publication of their 2013 calendars, the holiday season provided a second chance for publishing their Best of 2012 list.  One photoblog actually list 300 Best Photos of the Year list.  For myself,  more exciting and energizing holiday challenges –  celebrating with my children and grandchildren and some last minute shopping  shooting.  An electric train show in New York’s Botanical Garden, photographing bald eagles fishing in the Susquehanna River of Maryland,  a cold and colorful Shrek the Halls Ice show in Washington DC and snow and ice covered trees in Indiana.  All were interesting but they paled in comparison to shooting my last sunrise of the year as it was on the Roan Highlands in North Carolina, one of my favorite locations.

My planned trip to Indiana was delayed by a winter storm that moved through the Southern Appalachians on the last weekend of the year.  According to Mr. Google, the shortest route for a nine-hour drive to Indiana goes through the small Tennessee town of Roan Mountain.  Now the town of Roan Mountain is not Roan Mountain State Park or the real ROAN MOUNTAIN or ROAN HIGHLANDS  but you guessed it … they are not far apart.  Thus at 4:30 am on a cold December 31st  still suffering from the symptons of a winter weekend, I drove west out of Blowing Rock on a long drive with a planned sunrise stop on the ROAN HIGHLANDS.

As I drove up the steep and crooked twelve-mile road from Roan Mountain (village) to ROAN MOUNTAIN, the cloud formations got more intriguing and the temperature kept falling.  Finally, I arrived at Carver’s Gap (5,520′).  However, getting there is when the real fun begins.  It’s 20F with the cold blustery winds, nearly perfect weather to start the hike up Round Bald.     Twenty minutes later and after one fall on the slippery Appalachian Trail, it was: A) cold, B) windy, C) tough walking because of crusted snow, D) magnificent,  E) well-worth the effort, or F) all of the above!   Sorry, but only one correct answer – F!  Please trust me on the first three and verify the final three with these images!

A Winter Sight – This next image is one of my favorites – the glowing pre-dawn backlighting of the clouds on the left, the long-range view of the Black Mountains on the RHS, the waves of clouds and the many snow-covered hills and mountains of the High Country.  Three images (Canon 5DIII with 24-105 mm f/4 @ 28 mm focal length, 1.5 second exposure @ ISO 100 and f/16) were stitched together to create the final panorama.  Actually, I was pleasantly surprised at the sharpness of this image with the longer exposure time in the severe windy conditions.

First Light  – Another favorite shows the first direct rays of the day hitting the Black Mountains and Mt. Mitchell (6,683) and Mt. Craig (6,647), the two highest peaks east of the Mississippi.   These two mountains are approximately thirty miles to the southwest as the crow flies.

Heavenly Waves – The sun has now slowly crept above the horizon and those deeply saturated skies are slowly being transformed into a pale blue color.  However, nature’s magic still prevails.  As I switch my attention from those long-range views of the Black Mountains to the southeastern skies, waves and waves of clouds are backlit.

It’s now about 7:30 am and much to the delight of my fingers and toes, time to hike back down to the trailhead and hit the road for that long journey to the Midwest.  What a way to end 2012!

As I descended down TN Hwy 43, I couldn’t resist one last image.  Ironically, it’s the initial Feature Photo or the first image in this post.  I decided to render it in B&W to represent the stark contrast which we encounter in life – night vs. day, joy vs sadness, the end vs the beginning or 2012 vs. 2013.

And one more thing — these were my last images of 2012 but not necessary my best.  Patience, you will just have to wait for my next blog post.   To paraphrase Matthew, “The last will be first, and the best will be next.”

Happy shooting in 2013 and live and love life to the fullest!

JR

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