Trip to the Great Smoky Mountains

In April I traveled to the Southern Appalachians of Tennessee and North Carolina. I spent a week working to capture the first green haze of emerging leaves as spring progressed from lower to higher elevations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I started and ended the trip in the bucolic gateway community of Townsend, TN (see iPhone photo above).

I was fortunate to arrive at the right time. The lower slopes were just beginning to go past, but the higher ridges were still in the leafless browns and grays of winter.

Having grown up around eastern hardwood forests, I had an image in my mind of the “pointillist” effect created by thousand of emerging leaves on the cusp of spring when the patterns of darker trunks and branches are still visible and give strong structure to the picture. All through the Smokies subtly contrasting shades of green, running from an electric lime hue to a warm bronze cast, were punctuated by the white of blooming dogwoods and magenta-pink of redbuds.

I exhibited a 40″ x 50″ print of one of these, MAPLE AND REDBUDS, EARLY SPRING, at Art Santa Fe in July. At that size, the detail and texture of the new leaves have quite an impact. Several people commented independently that it looked as if each individual leaf had been painted in by hand. Sadly, the effect is diminished in a 72 dpi jpeg on the computer screen.

In any case, I have photographed in the Appalachians and New England in the fall when the brilliant foliage draws visitors by the thousands, and the results are indeed spectacular. But I think there is also a strong case to be made for the quieter, but no less satisfying, imagery of early spring.