Sunday, November 27, 2011


Canon EOS Rebel XS, Promaster 19-35 lens @ 19mm, ISO 200, f/13, 0.5 sec., 3 Image Panorama
  With winter coming on like gangbusters, last Sunday's jaunt into the Cherokee National Forest was a search for color.  I had originally started out with the attitude that I was going to shoot everything in black & white due to the lack of color, but after the sun started coming up, the same rules that apply with fall colors can apply when there are no leaves on the trees as well.  The only difference is using the leaf and pine needle covered mountainside as the reflector.
  When the sun was striking the opposite mountain side with sunlight, the water started reflecting the colors of the leaves and pine needles that covered it and was quite beautiful. I took 3 images in order to fit all of the background cascades in shot with the foreground rocks and stitched together in Photoshop Elements Photomerge Panorama.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


  I have claimed several times how professional photographer Ian Plant has been a huge inspiration and influence on how I see and do photography. Due to this I have a very amazing story to share.
  Back in April, Ian Plant posted "Vernal Impulse" on his blog. The image from this blog post really caught my attention. It was taken from angle behind a cascade and looking downstream. It was the first time that it occurred to me that I had never tried photographing waterfalls and cascades from this type of angle. All spring and summer I forced myself to turn and look the other way when approaching waterfalls and see what looking downstream gave me as far as composition.
  Even though I took this alternate approach, I had not had any image from this type of vantage point that suited my fancy.
  In September, Tim Owens and I were the Tremont area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and stumbled upon a wonderful location with numerous possibilities of compositions. We scoped out the area without cameras in hand and I found a scene that absolutely gave me the layout I wanted inspired by "Vernal Impulse". By the time I retrieved my gear and started to set up my shot, Tim was already further downstream and shooting and would have been in my shot. This was alright, I would go upstream and photograph until he was done and then return for my shot.
  When Tim joined me upstream I started back to set up my shot. When I got there, there were 2 fishermen right in the middle of the river interrupting my shot. Ugghh! I thought I would never get to take my shot.  Well, the ever patient photog that I am, I got in place, set up my shot, and waited for the fishermen to get done.
  About 10 minutes later, one of the fishermen slipped and fell on the rocks. Thank goodness he wasn't injured at all, but it was scary enough for him to want to pull up shop and move upstream. With the fishermen finally out of the way, I pulled the trigger several times and was extremely excited about finally getting my shot.
  After processing my image, I was even more excited. Even though I had 6 or 7 keepers from that location, that shot was my favorite. I finally captured an image that filled the inspiration of Ian Plant's Vernal Impulse. Awesome.
  The story does not end there. In October, I was looking through Ian Plant's archived Great Smoky Mountain blog posts and saw "Vernal Impulse". I clicked on it and opened it up and when the image came up, I was absolutely floored by what I saw. Ian's shot and my shot were from not only the same area in Tremont, but they were on the very same rock about 4-5 feet from each other. In his post he stated he would have set up exactly like I did except the water flow was too heavy to get that composition. Unbelievable! My shot, that was inspired by his, was taken in the exact same spot.
  My shot is posted above. Here is a link to "Vernal Impulse". What an amazing coincidence of inspiration.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Canon EOS Rebel XS, Promaster 19-35 lens @ 35mm, ISO 100, f/16, 0.4 sec.
  Getting off the beaten path is what this country was built on. The Pilgrims proved that by setting sail across the ocean without a clue as to what they were going to find. Lewis & Clark discovered the West Coast by blazing a new trail across the country. We have been to the moon and back because of our attitude towards going into places where no one else has.
  Sunday morning, Tim Owens and I stumbled upon a waterfall that if we weren't the first people to see it, there weren't many before us. This would not have happened had we stayed on the road.
  After photographing along the Tellico River all morning in the Cherokee National Forest, we were driving along River Rd back towards Tellico Plains, TN when we paused by a bridge that a small stream flowed under and into the main branch. We could barely see a couple of small cascades and decided to pull over and take a look.
  There were no paths created along the river so we had to "bush whack" our way along the river bank. There were some wonderful little rock formations and shelves along this small water way. Finding access to photograph them was difficult due to the downed trees that were laying everywhere along and across the creek.
  As we moved further up river, the cascades started getting larger and more picturesque. It was fantastic.
  As I was shooting a flat rock that made a beautiful shelf cascade, which I will post shots of in a later post, Tim had hiked up further and came back and got my attention. He said, "Jerry, you gotta see this". I climbed over a few fallen trees behind him and about 75-100 yards up the river, blocked by huge rocks on both sides of the river was a 20-25 foot waterfall that was just spectacular.  We tried every angle we could to move around the huge rocks that blocked access to this waterfall but just couldn't figure a way to get any closer.
  Had we been on the other side of the river, we would have had an easier time and possibly gotten better access to it, but neither of us had our waders and it was too cold to wade through without them and we would have had to walk all the way back to the road and cross to get to the other river bank. We were stuck to photograph our discovery right from where we were at.
  It was quite heartbreaking. We may have been the first people to witness this gorgeous cascade, but couldn't get any closer to get the kind of photographs that this wonderful waterfall deserved.
  So we took what shots we could get of the waterfall and hiked back to the car knowing that we would be back sometime to try and get closer. This morning, I checked out every web site I could find to see if this waterfall had been named and marked but could find anything on it. If we didn't discover it, there were probably less than a handful of people who have been there before us.
  We were very proud of our discovery and even more satisfied that we took the time to venture off the beaten path and were rewarded in doing so. Can't wait to go back and explore this great find some more.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Canon EOS Rebel XS, Tamron 28-80 lens @ 49mm, ISO 100, f/8, 0.8 sec.
  While going back through my archives, I ran across this shot from a family hike to Conosauga Falls in the Cherokee National Forest near Tellico Plains, TN.  I had taken several shots of everyone in and around the falls but my daughter, Jocy, stood still for this shot and it turned out perfect for a sepia treated portrait.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


  I missed posting something on Veteran's Day and while at a friend's house for a birthday party today I reminded myself of the opportunity I had back in September to photograph a reunion dinner of the Lima 3/9 Marine Corp Platoon that served in Vietnam. I really appreciate Ronnie & Brenda Shaffer for inviting me to attend and photograph this event. Even though this was a festive occasion, the MIA display set to one side of the room and the history behind what created this reunion definitely carried part of the mood throughout the evening.
  I don't really know much about this group of guys and didn't ask anyone about their time served. Just from hearing general conversations between them and from talking to Ronnie I found out that several of their platoon was killed in action, several injured in action (including several who were at the dinner), and still 1 man unaccounted for and missing in action.
  It was very rewarding to witness this reunion of brave men. It was even more touching knowing that my son, Shea, is now a Marine and carries on the honor and bravery these men displayed in serving their country. I am so very proud of him and for making the choice to serve his country. Since the reunion, one of Shea's good friends and fellow Marine, Frankie Watson, was killed in action in Afghanistan driving home the sacrifice that every man and woman make that sign up and become part of our Armed Forces. May God bless them all!
  I want to say happy Veteran's Day to my wife's brother Don who served in the Army in Vietnam and is a great man and his family is very proud of. I also would like to say happy Veteran's Day to my brother Brad. He retired from the Navy after 20 years served and we are extremely proud of him and love him very much as well.
  Happy Veteran's Day to all who have and are serving right now. We would not be the country we are without the contribution and sacrifices made by all who have served. Thank you.
Lima 3/9 Platoon


Canon EOS Rebel XS, Promaster 19-35 lens @ 19mm, ISO 200, f/11, 0.5 sec.
  One of our stops along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains was by a small bridge where there were several homesteads along the creek. This little grouping of rocks along the river was right next to the homesteads and was right on the opposite side of the large rocks on the right from the scene in my previous post, SEEING RED.
  Really loved the "violent" way the water crashed through this cascade. Even though the Roaring Fork is a creek, the name is quite accurate and scenes like this are littered through it.  Wish we could have been in this area before mid-day. The sun was shining bright and created a harsh contrast on the water. I did however have my 4-stop ND filter and it allowed me to have some appropriate shutter speeds. I adjusted some balancing light in Photoshop Elements to help even out the scene.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Canon EOS Rebel XS, Canon 85mm 1.8 USM lens, ISO 400, f/2.8, 1/160 sec.
  One thing was apparently obvious on our hike up to Grotto Falls last weekend. Fall is gone and winter is taking over.  If we had made this hike two weeks earlier, we would have seen the height of fall color in the Smokies. The color, however, had all but gone from the mountains.
  On the way back down from the falls, I pulled out the 85mm 1.8 and decided to capture what little colors there were. I was pulled initially to the ferns and the small yellow maple leaves that seemed to hover around them. The pair in today's post were displayed how close winter is. Even though they were hanging on and still attached, they were burnt red in color and showed signs of decay already.
  The 85mm lens was great for these intimate shots by being crystal clear at f/2.8 and blurring the background.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Canon EOS Rebel XS, Promaster 19-35 lens @ 19mm, ISO 200, f/13, 0.6 sec
  One of the greatest things about Grotto Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains is the step ladder of cascades downstream from the main falls.  Today's post is down one tier from the main area of the falls and was the most picturesque spot we came upon.
  Tim found a couple of rocks over to the left of center facing the falls and I had to work this large, colorful rock that sat straight out in front of the v-shaped falls. The two large rocks that formed the falls were just awesome as well.  I normally would try to move closer and get a low point of view but even with my hip waders on, was afraid it was too deep just under the falls and with it being about 45 degrees out, it would have been extremely cold. So I stuck with the large foreground element.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Canon EOS Rebel XS, Promaster 19-35 lens @ 19mm, ISO 400, f/14, 0.6 sec.
  The first stop for Tim Owens and myself on Sunday morning along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was a 1.7mile hike up to Grotto Falls.  It was a relatively easy hike for someone with two good knees. For someone like me, with Arthritis plaguing my left knee for the previous 2 weeks, it was work. More coming back down the trail than going up, but strenuous on my knee for sure. But for the images and view of the falls, it was worth a little bit of pain.
  Grotto Falls is a very well traveled trail and one of the most visited spots in the Smokies. We got to the trail head around 6:30am and only saw one person on the way up. Coming back down around 10:30, however, we ran into at least 25 hikers going up so getting there early paid off.
  The main falls at "The Grotto" is a fan waterfall that falls approximately 25 feet into a pool and then falls through cascade after cascade in a steep descent down through the gorge.
  When we arrived at the falls, I noticed this huge log laying parallel to the water flow on the first tier cascade below the main waterfall. Right next to the log the cascade zig-zagged  around a huge bolder and barreled down on a group of cobblestone rocks before flowing off to the next cascade. I new that I had to somehow fit all of these elements into my shot with the main waterfall in the background. I became completely obsessed with it.
  It took me close to a half hour before I found a vantage point that fit all of my desired elements in the frame and also allowed me to set all 3 legs of my tripod on a sturdy surface. I was becoming completely frustrated until I finally found it. I then set up and shot 3 angles to form a panorama so I could get everything in the shot I wanted. It's very exciting when you successfully get what you want and exposed like you want as well.
  Unfortunately, by spending all my time working on this arrangement, when I started up to photograph the main waterfall, there were 4 or 5 newcomers up on the path shooting it. Tim had already started his descent down to the next lower cascade as well, so I passed on getting shots of the main waterfall and joined Tim in the steep descent down the river. I know that someday I will return and photograph Grotto Falls again so I didn't mind sacrificing it for the image in today's post.
  More to come from the Roaring Fork so stay tuned.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Canon EOS Rebel XS, Promaster 19-35 lens @ 19mm, ISO 200, f/14, 1.0sec.
  On Sunday, my buddy Tim Owens, his daughter Alesha, and I took a photog drive down the Roaring Fork Motor Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. What a great little drive.
  The Motor Trail starts just outside of Gatlinburg and winds 6 miles through the Smokies and then returns back to Gatlinburg. It follows the Roaring Fork and has several gorgeous cascades with green, moss covered rocks, old homesteads, and several hiking trails that spur off to other parts of the park. If we had driven along the motor trail a couple of weeks ago it would have been just bursting with fall color. Unfortunately, most of the fall color has fallen off of the trees and onto the ground. There were still some yellows, oranges, and reds though and that made for a beautiful day.
  The first part of our adventure started with a 1.7mile hike to Grotto Falls. This took up the biggest part of the morning and I will have some shots from there in future posts.
  After returning from Grotto Falls, we just stopped along the Motor Trail photographing the Roaring Fork. With the morning spent at "the Grotto", the sunlight made it difficult to catch some of the larger cascades along the creek, but we did find a few spots where the shade allowed us photo ops.
   The spot in today's post was just along the road side next to a bridge and the red leaves that were covering the ground were incredible. I took the liberty of placing some of these leaves on this log to tie the log in with the rest of the red leaves laying around this small cascade. My 4-Stop ND filter made it possible for me get some longer shutter speeds in the middle of the day, thank goodness. One of the best purchases I have ever made.
  More shots coming from our trip down the Roaring Fork and once again I will visit this area of the Smokies several more times in the future.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Canon EOS Rebel XS, Canon 85mm 1.8 USM lens, ISO 1600, f/2.5, 1/200 sec.
  Sports photography was my first love of photography 25 years ago when I bought my first camera. Back then I really didn't understand the way a camera really worked and I just shot on "Auto" all the time. I also wasn't very in tune with good composition in an image either.
  One of the main reasons for me buying my first DSLR last year was to record my son's basketball and my daughter's cheerleading. Even though I managed getting some good shots last year, I was shooting with Canon's 50mm 1.8II lens. This lens did a fantastic job considering it was built more for portraits and not really considered a sports lens.
  Two weeks ago Christmas came early in the Denham household. I bought Canon's 85mm 1.8 USM lens with the sole intention of it improving my sports photography as well as using it as a portrait lens. My initial impression of the lens is very impressive. It was much heavier than any of my other lenses but the ultrasonic motor is fast and super quiet. The bokeh at wide open apertures is amazing as well.
Canon EOS Rebel XS, Canon 85mm 1.8 USM lens, ISO 1600, f/2.5, 1/200 sec.
  Thursday was the first test for my new weapon. My son's high school basketball team was playing their Red/White game. This is a scrimmage where the team is divided up and they play against each other. The perfect opportunity for trial and error with my new lens.
  At first it was very hit and miss but then I got out my Bower ETTL Flash and used it to bounce the light off of the ceiling and everything started to click. The sync with the camera & lens only allowed me to shoot at 1/200 sec. shutter speed but the flash stopped the action and the images started looking really good.
Canon EOS Rebel XS, Canon 85mm 1.8 USM lens, ISO 1600, f/2.5, 1/200 sec.
  Something else I wasn't able to do during last year's basketball season was get quality shots out near half court from under the basket. The only drawback to this is that the 85mm vs. 50mm is quite tight underneath the goal and shots of a player's entire body from there were impossible. Will have to figure out how to solve that.
  Tonight I was asked to shoot Sequoyah High School's first home football playoff game for the local newspaper.  I was more than happy to do so but was skeptical about the length of the 85mm lens reaching and creating quality images on the football field. I was pleasantly surprised when at least on plays close to my side of the field were very sharp depending on my steady hand. When I moved behind the end zone for goal line plays the images were more impressive. I was using my flash with these as well and it made a huge difference.
Canon EOS Rebel XS, Canon 85mm 1.8 USM lens, ISO 1600, f/2.5, 1/200 sec.
   I will give a much better evaluation of my new lens as the basketball season progresses along. It will get a great test tomorrow as Casey's basketball team plays 5 games at a play day. I am very excited about what this lens can do for my sports photography as well as cheerleading and portrait work.