This series was taken from a place in the Smoky Mountains named New Found Gap. These are a bit out of order by the time taken, but for a reason I hopefully explain. I was cruising the roads with my wife and family when I came across this spot. We were mapped to another area, but from the land layout and photo sense, I told her “wherever we go from here, we’ll be back here from sunset.” So we ventured on and up to Clingman’s Dome, the arguable top of the Smokies. While probably more photo-wise at the time, I still made the call to load up and return to New Found Gap. As I drive down the mountain, there is noticeable increase in traffic going up than going down—enough to definitely provoke second guessing.
We returned to the scene of the crime. I setup the gear and tripod, and was noticeably the lone photographer in the area. As I fussed with the tripod, the outlook began to fall loose (see the 2nd image). A soup of clouds stemming from a front began to sweep across the valley. But my luck had been good far, so I’m thinking maybe the tide will turn. After fifteen minutes, the temperature had dropped enough for the kids to migrate back to the vehicle and watch Despicable Me. Not long after, down stepped another photographer who setup to my right. I made an offhand comment about it being a mild evening, and he laughed, “Nah. The sun is going to burst right above that ridge line.” Ten more minutes passed and it still didn’t look promising. There was a nice orange glow on the horizon, so I zoomed in to grab it in case it was as good as it would get (3rd image). By that time there were 5-6 other photographers staked out. Like wolves following a scent. Some of them looked like they just woke up about 15 minutes prior, drove to this spot, and walked down the drive. Five minutes later, the clouds seemed to thin uncannily, and the sun caught fire. A machine gun fire of shutters. My kids were back out the car with their faces in the sun. Wait for it, and there it was.