Going mobile

You do understand we may park the coach for several months at a time, but our Lil Taxi keeps us mobile all the time!

Awhile back, we got an itch to explore an alternative to Florida for our winter respite.

The South Carolina and Georgia coast lines offer some wonderful areas to visit and explore: Charleston, Savannah, Hilton Head, Brunswick.

So much colorful history, so much remarkable ocean shoreline!

We needed to consider a large number of parks that were available for the coach, and decided to make it light and lively by driving the car and staying in hotels in a couple places along the coast. We didn’t limit ourselves to only looking at parks…this was significant new territory to explore.

Oh what fun!

On Jekyll Island, along Brunswick, Georgia’s shoreline, we ran across Driftwood Beach.

It’s not simply a jumbled pile of logs. This is the ocean, so the driftwood here is entire trees that have been tossed and scrubbed for who-knows-how-many miles and months.

And we showed up as the 55 percent moon was rising!

The novelty sunset photo

I really love to have some fun when there’s a really colorful sunset.

Actually, the real fun begins well after sunset. Like 40 minutes after.

This image gets some extra juice from the fabulous vista provided by the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I made the first image almost exactly one hour before sunset. I banged it off with my cell phone, just to keep a reminder with me as we scouted several Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks for the evening’s sunset festivities.

We actually shot the pictures that you saw in the posts from the past two days at another overlook. We drove past this one again as we were headed home.

When I saw this smokey scene (there’s no smoke, but the scene just smokes!, don’t you think?), I almost slammed on the brakes. That’s pretty disruptive to the other occupants of the car, so I drove on until there was a chance to turn around.

I’m still learning how to use all the abilities of a new camera, and it took me about 15 minutes to make about a dozen images. The night image below was the last one.

Isn’t it interesting to compare these two photos? Who would guess from the daytime shot that there were so many homes and businesses in the scene? (And a broadcast tower almost dead center in the image.) Can’t see them.

But the lights at night make it easy in the second image. And yet, the array of clouds on the horizon in the night scene are easily confused with the line of mountains…we need the daytime shot to set us straight.

But I think there’s no chance anyone will prefer the daytime photo to the night shot….

BTW, I can just barely make out the details of the second image on my phone…you’ve gotta see it on a big computer screen to appreciate all that’s going on!

Look around after sunset

Sometimes the most amazing late afternoon skies completely crash at sunset, because a solid bank of clouds forms down at the horizon. No sun.

Ahhh, but stick around, because the sun could still shine through a bunch of clouds beyond your horizon…which adds color to its light…and shine that wonderful color all over some clouds above your head or over your left shoulder.

Like this image.

It was taken only 10 minutes after sunset and at an angle about 90 degrees from where the sun actually set…which just happened to be where that 24 percent moon was showing so nicely!

Sunset is a cheap shot

Everybody loves to take the picture on vacation with the bright sun and the gorgeous blue sky background.

But everybody loves to shoot the glorious colors at sunset. Nothing else, just the colors. It’s a cheap shot, but we all love it!

I have two suggestions: first, try to get something in the foreground with those glorious sunset colors. Cell phone cameras these days can handle some really dramatic range of light. Try some shots that have some fun stuff close to the camera…you might get an interesting cheap shot!

Two, hang around after the sun has actually disappeared. Often, the color gets even more dramatic…and often the drama is away from where the sun actually sets.

Today’s picture was actually clicked at the instant of sunset. And even though we were up on top of a mountain, the sun was setting on the other side of some other distant mountains…so it actually disappeared from our sight about 10 minutes earlier.

The sky was still going strong, and it provided quite a bit of ambient light in front of us that produced all kinds of colors and textures. For about half an hour before this image was made, we had been watching low fog pouring over and around several mountains and filling a distant valley in the direction of the setting sun.

We remember August 2017

Do you remember where you were on August 21, 2017 about 2pm?

We do!

It was our first summer parked outside Asheville, NC. In June we learned that the path of totality for the August eclipse of the sun would run just a few miles from our coach!

We started scouting a good vantage point to photograph the event. I wanted a light-colored building for the foreground, because it would show more readily in dark surroundings with the sun still showing as a funny bright ring in the background. A church with a steeple would be nice. The building needed to face the right way…the sun would be roughly in the southwest sky.

Google Maps and I were very close companions for several weeks.

We drove to a number of possible sites. One of the most promising was 100 miles away! It was a private K-12 school with a large white and brick administration building with a white bell tower, and it was set on a hill that allowed me to shoot from down below the front, aiming up past the building into the sky to *perfectly* catch the eclipsed sun! I made this photo two weeks ahead of the eclipse at almost exactly the same time as it would occur (how fortunate to have all the clouds blocking the sun this day!).
The next day I read more about the school…and discovered they were closing their property on the day of the eclipse to all outsiders!

This event was a HUGE deal in the path of totality and for miles around. We discovered that several campers were scheduled into our park for the eclipse.

After more scouting, I found a church only 50 miles away that would work. I even talked to their pastor to confirm I could shoot in their front yard while the church staff sat outside to watch the eclipse.

The eclipse was eerie! It really did get fairly dark. Although the moon totally blocked the sun, the sun’s light was still so bright it showed as a small ring around the moon, and it cast slight shadows around us.

In the first image below, if I processed it so that the sun’s ring showed up the same way we saw it…the rest of the image would be mostly black. Like the second image below.

The second image I took with a 300mm lens that only showed the dark sky near the moon blocking the sun. I shot it after the moon had just barely begun to move away from the sun enough to allow the slightest view of the sun’s globe. The tiny points of red around the ring of light, the bulge of bright light on the right, and the distinctive shafts of light are all peculiar artifacts of a solar eclipse.

By the way, the small point of light to the right of the church steeple was…I think…Jupiter. The early afternoon sky was soooo dark that we could see that bright planet!

It was a day to remember!

Close, but no cigar

In yesterday’s post, I told you about stumbling upon a view of Asheville’s largest water reservoir from the Parkway.

Today’s photo is my consolation pic from a day spent trying to find a view of that reservoir!

We decided to spend a day driving around the lowlands, which can be just as hard as driving in the mountains, because no roads are straight or flat. You need Google maps to get from here to there, because there are no thruways!

We often found ourselves driving 15 miles per hour on twisty roads without center lines. I saw more creeks that day than I had seen in a year.

We could see a large lake on our car nav screen, and we could see flashes of water through the trees, but never was there an opening, and never was there a sign directing us to a park or boat ramp.

We eventually put 2 and 2 together after we saw a fair number of “Asheville Watershed” signs that prohibited parking alongside roads that were beside the lake.

When we finally got a decent cell signal, we pulled up a map that showed Burnett Reservoir. Ahhhhh.

But we passed a lovely, tiny, lake across the road from the reservoir where a creek fed into the reservoir. I backed up and took a snap.

I’ll take good luck any day!

We drove up to Craggy Gardens, a lovely area along the Parkway that hosts large sections of rhododendron.

Turned out we were about a week late…most buds had opened and dropped by the time we got there.

I found one view with a few buds left, and I liked the clouds. Click.

Ha, it turned out that I sneaked a shot of Burnett Reservoir, Asheville’s largest source of water!

It’s not convenient to get a photo of that lake, because it is off-limits to visitors, and so no overlooks are built around it and no trees are trimmed to provide a view.

I’ll admit it’s not much of a picture of the lake, but still….

All a matter of scale

You do know that quite a bit of the Blue Ridge Parkway is lined with…nearly covered by…trees, right?

And it twists and turns, goes up and down, as it follows the mountain ridges.

So, sometimes we come around a corner and are met with quite a different scene than when we last had a view of the vista.

On the day of this photo, the sky had been fairly nondescript, with sort of a generalized skiff of thin clouds up kind of high…not interfering with the view, but not adding much either.

But we came around a corner and saw this great new towering cumulus cloud. I stopped to shoot!

During the course of about 10 frames, the cloud moved sideways quite a bit, but it also grew taller quite a bit! This was my final frame at that overlook.

In this frame we are looking in a fairly narrow field of view because of the close trees on either side. But our depth of view is terrific…probably 75 miles.

Look at how many changes occur across that field of view: lovely sunshine here at the camera, the huge cloud growing to our left and already dumping rain back under its leading edge, the fairly solid overcast beyond the cumulus straight out and to the right, and so many hills and ridges that we lose them in the blue haze before they quit.

As close as that cumulus cloud looks, it never affected our travel that day…and we later drove directly across its location in this photo, but it had moved on.

My takeaway from all this: we are such tiny parts of this great big world, and as much as we might see, we understand and experience much less of it.

Bad weather is good!

The first several summers we spent in these mountains (the elevation where we’re parked is 2250 feet), I was bored after a couple weeks.

The view from the Parkway was always lovely and green, and there were usually some nice clouds for texture in a photo.

But it was just an endless series of hills and ridges covered with what looked from a distance like green moss. Lovely. Let’s go.

Last year, we headed out for a scenic drive, and were dismayed to see that very dark clouds were rapidly blowing in from one side. It looked like the section of Parkway where we were headed would be enveloped by rain by the time we got there.

We talked about turning around, but decided to press on just to experience the ride through the tunnel of green during a monsoon. Besides, the road up into the mountain ran right beside a creek, and it might have some good action to watch!

It was actually rather uneventful. The fury of rain was modest and brief.

Except, on the other side of the storm, there was a different look to the hillsides, and the view from the Parkway was more dramatic than we’d seen before.

I regret to tell you that I spent my time that day admiring the view rather than capturing it with my camera!

But this image illustrates my point at least a little. The stripes from the heavens are shafts of light, not showers of rain. But give the scene 20 minutes, and we could find rain almost anywhere in our view!