Monday, May 28, 2012

Amicalola Falls State Park, Snakes, Moonshine Whisky and Appalachian Trail

This post is about two short hikes in Amicalola Falls State Park and the interesting critters and objects seen along the way. One interesting object spotted in the woods is said to be a remnant of the moonshine business in the north Georgia mountains. Photos of that are at the end of the post. Amicalola Falls State Park is near the southern start of the Appalachian Trail in the state of Georgia, USA.

The AT (as hikers call it) is the 2,184 mile trail mostly through wilderness areas of the Appalachian Mountain System from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine. Springer Mountain and the southern end of the AT is just outside the state park. The Wiki link below goes to a sketch of the Appalachians on a map of the United States and the second link shows the Appalachian Trail as a line along the mountains. At the bottom end of the trail line is Springer Mountain. Go 8.1 miles (13km) south and you will be at Amicalola Falls, the ending point of the two hikes combined in this post.

Appalachian Mountains System
Appalachian Trail, Wiki

Amicalola Falls, top two thirds

Top of waterfall as seen from vantage
point of the previous photograph

While every trail in these mountains has a particular character, much is seen in common where altitudes and general weather conditions are close to the same. Hikers moving northward into the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina would notice the higher altitudes bring different conditions and other forms of plant and animal life. While mostly deciduous trees such as Tulip Poplar fill the area around Amicalola Falls, the higher Smoky Mountains graduate into evergreens and mountain laurel shaded streams. Going to lower altitudes the evergreens are again replaced with hardwood deciduous trees.

This post does not venture north of Amicalola Falls but does provide a lot to see without going deeply into the woods.

 Steps were constructed fairly recently from the falls top to the level shown in first photograph, 426 steps down and slightly over 200 more to the fall base.
Warming up is recommended prior to going up.

The hike into Amicalola Falls at the level shown is more of a short walk than a hike. Approximately 0.3 mile long, the trail gently descends and is paved with recycled rubber from tires.  This very gentle pathway makes the falls accessible to most everyone. Still, the woods surrounding the walkway is the same woods found on the moderate and strenuous trails and will allow you to see many of the same features if you look around at the large and small provisions of nature.  We had seen the falls and did enjoy that. We went up the steps to the top and back down again. On the walk out other visitors stepped quickly passed us as we looked for surprises and found a few.

 Can you identify this egg case?

The most damp part of the trail edge revealed a lot of snails almost hidden in the foliage. A granddaddy long legs walked across
this snail and stopped to "take a drink" from the wet back of the snail's head.  At least, it appeared to take a drink...

Its web under an outcrop at the woods edge, this spider has a tunnel web.  It would sit in the doorway and wait for insects to be caught in the web away from the tunnel.

The Appalachian Approach Trail begins at the park visitor center then to the base of the falls.  At the onset and along this trail we saw the snakes.  Following the trail on and upward past the falls is the trail to Springer Mountain and the official southern end of the Appalachian Trail.  Those hiking the AT would generally begin at the trail access above the waterfall.  We took the trail toward the base. 

The trail passed a developed pond where visitors fished for trout.
Sunning on the pond edge was this stout water snake. Keep in mind, killing snakes or capturing for pets is illegal in most states. Georgia imposes a $1000 fine for killing snakes.

Copperhead! It is amazing how seeing a snake in the wild and only getting a partial view will lead to a mistaken identification.  This was on the trail edge in downed trees and bramble  We could not see its head clearly at the time. The back pattern should have been enough to tell us it was not a copperhead.

Copperhead and timber rattler are the two venomous snakes in northern Georgia. This snake was neither. The pattern on the back is that of a water snake. The darker markings are the opposite of the copperhead: Copperhead  darker markings become narrow along the back and not wide as in this snake. It took seeing this photo to know what we had really seen. The head appeared clearly only for a split second and we did not see it neatly while on the trail.  Still, the practice is not to approach the snake or ever reach for it, even if you think you know what it is. Thinking back, we were fairly close to water at the time.  Who knows, I believe it to be a water snake but may yet be wrong. I do know it is not a copperhead.

All in all, Amicalola State Park in northern Georgia makes for a fun and  pleasing long weekend. This is not a large park with trail after trail after trail. It does offer trails enough for the weekender and is quite pretty and resting to the eyes and spirit.  

 From our accommodations in the park lodge, this is an evening view of foggy clouds coming over the mountains nearby.  

The Secret seen by those who take the time to look into the woods, something most folks did not do and simply missed seeing...

Those familiar with old time history of moonshine know the mountains of North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia were home to a few inventive folks who made white lightning.  This illegal "whisky" was almost pure alcohol.  How did it get to town? Sometimes the transportation was tanker trucks or cars, ordinary vehicles with hidden tanks or storage areas to carry the moonshine.

Most of us have heard of moonshiners in souped up cars running from the law. As I was told by the locals, this truck we spied in the woods was a tanker truck.  To be where it was meant a long drop..a crunching roll down several hundred feet of very steep mountain side.  The photos do not do justice to the steep grade of the mountain.  The road runs on up to above the falls but at this point we were on a trail below the falls.  What happened really? Was anyone in the truck when it tumbled down the mountain? No one knew the full story but all said it was a moonshiner's tanker.

Notice in this closer view how the poplar tree has grown 
around the front of the truck.  That is the hood against the tree
and the smashed remains of the roof bent down and onto the hood.

The end of this post

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cats at Screen Door...Specializing in Pet Photography

My business as a pet photographer is in the early stages. I have been a photographer for a while but as a business effort will now specialize more in pet and animal photography.  Prior to the publication of my photographers website, I will upload a few photos of pets and animals to the Landing Heron blog.  You will notice a wide range of styles in the photographs yet one common thread will run through most all:  The animals will be photographed in their own settings, their homes, their places to play and live with their family.

There is a move away from the formal posed image in many types of personal photography. Whether a couple in love, a graduating senior, your family or your animals, there is a preference for natural and outdoor photos. The photos we take are intended to show your  pet as you recognize and know it.   Whether curled on your lap or running to you in yard or field, I want your pet to be as you know it everyday. After all, these are the memories and mental images we have of the animals in our lives. (Formal photos may be arranged as the client desires.)

The apparent starkness of the photo below speaks strongly to the family where these cats reside. Yes, we have beauty shots of these kitties and we have them as seen here...wanting to go outside knowing they must wait for another day.  Standing in a sun beam, they breath the air following a rain that left the screen littered with debris. They soak in a taste of the woods behind their home.
I plan to have my website up fairly soon.  There you may see much more of  my work, purchase images or schedule a time for me to visit, meet your animals and plan a session of photography in familiar settings.  Of course, photos may include you with your pets and photos of family members in natural settings. One secret to great pet and family photos is to walk around, sit down and talk with the photographer about what you have in mind. By taking this time with the photographer, you see if  there is a good match of your ideas and his/her styles and techniques. Pets are not expected to pose, quite the opposite is generally true!  We take the time, work with you and your animals to get the photos you will call "keepers" now and treasures later.

This is a photo of Molly, the same cat at the right in the previous photograph.  I did both shots in monotone for easier comparison.  The two photos show examples of different moods and moments. 
You may see Molly elsewhere in this blog. I am writing her story, tiny piece by tiny piece.

The kitties shown live in my house.  When the website is up and running, you will see a variety of pets and animals, including horses and perhaps a llama or two.  While cats and dogs are the family pets most seen, other animals are certainly included in what we do with photography.

Capturing the essence of personality with a still photograph is very difficult and often calls for a little good fortune. For example, this Great Pyrenees mix is a quite large dog but its personality instills calm and brings forth smiles.  

As part of  H.A.B.I.T. , the Human Animal Bond in Tennessee organization out of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine,  this dog visits residents in a nursing and personal care facility. The face you see is the face seen by the residents.  Of course, they run their hands on the thick fur and spend time with this "friend".  A kind volunteer allowed us to take the photo.  That face does catch some of the personality and the intent was achieved.


Thomas Haynes is a photographer working out of Clinton, Tennessee, a city just north of Knoxville. His photography is often of a fine arts direction but as in this post, his love of nature takes him again to the Clinch River Raptor Center, a rehabilitation and educational not-for-profit organization.. Visit Thomas and see more of his photography at  Facebook

 Contact Thomas to discuss photography you want done. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Tulip Poplar Flower, Art in Nature Photos and Mini Tutorial

High above me tulip poplar trees reach for the sun and hide a beauty not seen until it the wind comes. Then a  flower  may break loose and tumble to the ground.  From the trees where I stood, the flower may fall from 50 to 70 feet. Often the tulip poplar flower will break into parts and leave incomplete flowers as shown.  These two sections were in different areas of the woods.  Did you know these straight, tall trees have flowers?  Scarcely will the flowers be noticed by a passerby.

I found art in nature with these flower sections and a pebble  nearby.  My interpretations came from making arrangements of the flowers and the pebble then taking the photographs.  This as with other forms of art will find favor with some viewers. Others may wonder why I think this is art and believe I wasted my time.  

A very good thing about art:  Art comes in all varieties and so does human taste and preferences in such.

I believe the images became more appealing as the arrangement was altered.  The one below has better balance to the eye than the one above.

The final image is next.  Read further to see how the photography was done.  More than that, enjoy this simple view of natural things forming a unique still life composition.


For anyone interested, I will tell exactly what I did to take these photographs. I looked for a backdrop and the flower was placed  first on a wood railing near where I was standing. That did not show the flower well enough. I decided a white background was wanted  and for that got a piece of white foam core board. The flower sections and pebble were arranged.  The sunlight was quite spotty and I had to be certain the light was on the subject and at an angle to best show the tiny treasures from nature.  

Exposure needed to show the poplar flower clearly and give a white background.  To do this, I used spot metering. What is that?  Some cameras have a setting to allow a portion of the view to be used to set the exposure. Normally the camera will average the light for the entire field of view, however, for these photos averaged exposure would put too much white in the mix and the camera would lower the exposure to accomodate the bright white. The white would be less than white and the flower would be too dark. To get what was wanted,  I set the camera to figure the exposure using a small portion or "spot" of the view and that portion was the flower and pebble.  Exposure  determined this way would allow the proper exposure and the white would be even whiter.   If your camera does not have spot metering, the exposure should be set manually.  Using manual exposure, find a shutter speed where you can hold the camera steady enough to get a clear photo and set the aperture (lens opening) to get a decent exposure of the flower.  Using a digital camers allows a peek at the viewing screen to see if the exposure is close to what you want. Adjust as needed. Keep in mind that shutter speed and aperture work together: If one is adjusted, so must the other to keep the same exposure. To alter the exposure to darker or brighter, use either aperture or shutter speed alone.

The lens used was a 105mm macro lens, standing back far enough to get all in focus. I used manual focus.  Close shots with a macro lens would make part of the image in focus and part fuzzy.  A higher number aperture will help expand the depth of field  ( range of focus) but will require adjusting the shutter speed to keep the exposure you want. That in a nutshell is how the photos were shot.  E-mail me if you have questions. For now, I am content to look at the photos and see the little details in the flower parts. Isn't nature grand!