“Sunset in Cades Cove” by Robin Conover | Canon EOS 5D Mark IV EF 24–70 mm, 2.8 L lens at 62 mm ISO 250, fl13 at 1/13 second, Gitzo tripod
Traveling Tennessee’s highways and byways from blacktop to gravel roads — for more decades than I would like to admit — I’ve grown to absolutely love the natural beauty we have right here at home. Whether you’re heading west to the banks of the mighty Mississippi, east to the Great Smoky Mountains or just about any destination in between, you won’t have to travel far to be met with beautiful scenery.
Being a creature of habit, I tend to visit (and when I say “visit,” I mean photograph) the same places multiple times. I love to photograph familiar scenes in different seasons, times of day and weather conditions.
I’m not sure how many times I’ve driven the 11-mile loop at Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains, but it’s probably more than 50 and fewer than 100. No two of those drives have ever been alike. Variables like lighting, cloud cover, time of day and even wildlife sightings make each trip unique and full of photographic opportunities.
On this particular spring day, I had entered the cove in the early afternoon and didn’t see much to photograph with the harsh afternoon light. Finishing the loop at about 5:30, I noticed clouds beginning to build and decided to drive through again to photograph the cove at sunset.
In search of an interesting subject for the foreground, I chose this tree. The bareness of its limbs standing out in contrast to the background of fully leafed-out green trees caught my attention.
Setting up my camera and tripod, I watched as the sun began to set about 7:30. All the elements — from the tree’s silhouette to the warm sunlight coloring the pastel clouds as they drifted across the distant mountains — came together as a perfect combination to end the day.
This road trip was well worth the journey for me. Check out our travel feature that begins on page 8 to start planning your own journey.