Golden Bend-Autumn along the Middle Prong Little River

The Middle Prong of the Little River flows through a golden forest and tumbles around a bend in the Tennessee side of Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
The Middle Prong of the Little River flows through a golden forest and tumbles around a bend in the Tennessee side of Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

The last stop on my recent fall trip out east was to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I had visited the park in May a couple of years ago and was anxious to see how the park looked in autumn. I only had a couple of days before I had to start the long drive back home, so I focused on my favorite area from the last trip, the Tremont and Cades Cove area on the Tennessee side of the park.

Tremont Road follows the Middle Prong of the Little River for a little over six miles, offering a multitude of photographic opportunities. It seems like there is something worth stopping and shooting around every bend. It is easy to spend a couple of days photographing along this road and I have!

This bend is found just before the end of the road at the Middle Prong Trailhead. The road turns sharply and comes right up to the edge of the river. The climb down the steep bank is a little sketchy, especially when the rocks are wet! I arrived right at sunrise in order to capture the scene before the sun came streaming through the trees. I was glad I did since it didn’t take long that morning.

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Colorado Gold-Golden Aspen Trees in Gunnison National Park

A panoramic view of golden aspen trees with blue skies and puffy white clouds overhead in the Gunnison National Forest west of Crested Butte, Colorado.
A panoramic view of golden aspen trees with blue skies and puffy white clouds overhead in the Gunnison National Forest west of Crested Butte, Colorado.

One of my favorite photography locations in Colorado is in the Gunnison National Forest west of Crested Butte. I have written about it on this blog many times. This fall I happened to be there when the aspens were at peak color.

This grove of trees catches my eye every time I am there. Set back from the road it beckons to have its picture taken. I have probably taken hundreds of pictures in this location, but this has to be one of my favorites. On this afternoon everything just came together. The trees were completely golden, the light wasn’t too harsh, and the blue skies were punctuated with puffy clouds. What more could I ask for?

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Autumnal Grace-Taughannock Falls in Central New York

Multicolored trees and brush frame Taughannock Falls as it plunges 215 feet over a rocky cliff into a placid pool at Taughannock Falls State Park in central New York.
Multicolored trees and brush frame Taughannock Falls as it plunges 215 feet over a rocky cliff into a placid pool at Taughannock Falls State Park in central New York.

Taughannock Falls is the tallest single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. With a drop of 215 feet, it is 33 feet taller than Niagra Falls! That isn’t very obvious in this picture though, however imagine that someone was standing at the wall of the viewing area in the bottom right. That wall is probably about three feet tall.

The fall colors still had a ways to go until peak when I visited the park in October, but there was still enough to nicely frame the falls from the overlook along the park road. Not much water was flowing in Taughannock Creek, but I think with less flow the falls tend to look a bit more graceful. Of course the best time to photograph the falls would be in a nice light rain, but with clear skies in the forecast, I got up early one morning and was out at the overlook before sunrise. This shot was taken just before the sun broke over the cliffs to the southeast.

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Golden Grandeur-Golden Aspens Beneath Marcellina Mountain

The sheer southwest face of Marcellina Mountain looms over a mountainside covered with golden aspens and rust/orange underbrush along County Road 12 west of Crested Butte, Colorado.
The sheer southwest face of Marcellina Mountain looms over a mountainside covered with golden aspens and rust/orange underbrush along County Road 12 west of Crested Butte, Colorado.

The scenery along County Road 12 west of Crested Butte, Colorado is always exceptional but in the fall, it is out of this world. Miles upon miles of golden aspens are mixed in with many grand views of the West Elk Mountains.

Marcellina Mountain is a prominent peak which is visible from many locations along the road. On the west end, the road circles around the mountain before meeting up with Highway 133, providing closeup views of its sheer sides. This fall, the combination of aspens at their peak golden color and multicolored underbrush made for this classic Colorado image complete with bright blue skies.

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A Step at a Time-Eagle Cliff Falls in New York

McClure Creek plunges over Eagle Cliff Falls and then over a series of rocky shelves in a narrow, rocky canyon sprinkled with autumn leaves in Havana Glen Park outside of Montour Falls, New York.
McClure Creek plunges over Eagle Cliff Falls and then over a series of rocky shelves in a narrow, rocky canyon sprinkled with autumn leaves in Havana Glen Park outside of Montour Falls, New York.

There are many waterfalls to be found in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The geology of the area with an abundance of shale creates some impressive cliffs and canyons for the water to flow though. This fall was the first time I had visited the area.

Many of the waterfalls were right in town. I was surprised to find this waterfall right outside of the village of Montour Falls. It still took some time to actually get to it though. I had made the mistake (once again, you think I would learn!) of saving the GPS coordinates for the falls themselves to my Garmin, rather than the coordinates for the parking area. After driving right over the top of the falls and circling back, I stopped to figure out how to get to it. Fortunately, I had some documentation on my tablet that reminded me that the falls were in the Havana Glen Park & Campground.

The falls are tucked back in a narrow, rocky canyon. A trail follows McClure Creek up a series of metal steps before ending beside the creek in an opening surrounded by sheer rock walls. There you see Eagle Cliff Falls plunging from a notch in the hanging valley above. The highlight of the falls to me though was the way the creek steps over this rocky shelf and flows downstream. The two together make for a nice composition.

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Autumn Harmony-Golden Aspen Grove in Colorado

Rust colored ferns carpet the ground beneath a golden aspen grove outside of Crested Butte, Colorado.
Rust colored ferns carpet the ground beneath a golden aspen grove in the Gunnison National Forest outside of Crested Butte, Colorado.

One of my favorite areas to photograph in Colorado is around Crested Butte, especially in autumn. Driving west on Highway 12 will take you over Kenosha Pass and through miles and miles of aspen trees. In the fall, it is quite the site to see.

Early in October I spent a couple of days in Crested Butte before heading south to Ridgway. Many of the aspen trees close to town had started to lose their leaves, but the large aspen grove out west was just about at peak color. A real bonus this year was the ferns that blanket the ground beneath the aspens in many areas were a nice golden brown. In the right light, they almost seemed to glow.

This scene caught my eye many times as I drove along the road. I stopped to shoot it a couple of times, but it never seemed to have just the right light that I was looking for, until this day. There was a light drizzle falling when I arrived. The bright overcast sky illuminated the aspen grove, highlighting the white tree trunks and the golden ferns. The entire grove seemed to glow. It was just what I wanted.

This panoramic image was made by combining six separate exposures in Lightroom. The final result can be printed very large with lots of detail.

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Autumn Daybreak-Golden Valley Below Snow-Covered Mountains

A glorious fall scene with early morning sunlight shining on the golden fields of the Double RL Ranch with the snow-covered Mount Sneffels looming in the distance outside of Ridgway, in southwestern Colorado.
A glorious fall scene with early morning sunlight shining on the golden fields of the Double RL Ranch with the snow-covered Mount Sneffels looming in the distance outside of Ridgway, in southwestern Colorado.

I thought I would mix things up a bit and get back to a shot from this fall here in Colorado. I was able to spend more time shooting fall colors this year since I wasn’t doing any art festivals. It was nice! The area around Ridgway in southwestern Colorado is always a popular spot and the leaves around there turn a little bit later, usually early October.

I was surprised when I first arrived at the area to find that many of the aspens hadn’t started to turn yet. The colors this fall were a little bit different than previous years and obviously, it was no different there. I met up with a non-photographer friend and spent a day showing him around. One of the first stops on the way out of Ridgway was at this beautiful scene right along the highway.

This is Ralph Lauren’s Double RL Ranch. I have been there many times, but it isn’t very often that there are hay bales in the scene. The light streaming through the valley made for a peaceful setting and the hillsides were covered in colorful brush. Add to that the snow-covered mountains with Mount Sneffels in the center, and you have one pretty picture!

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Golden View-Sunrise at Split Rock Lighthouse

The sun begins to break through a bank of clouds and casts a golden glow on Split Rock Lighthouse perched along the rocky coast of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota.
The sun begins to break through a bank of clouds and casts a golden glow on Split Rock Lighthouse perched along the rocky coast of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota.

My trip out east started with a vacation with my son along the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. The timing was perfect with fall colors about at their peak. I had plenty of locations picked out for us to visit and tops on the list was Split Rock Lighthouse.

We stopped at the lighthouse a couple of times both at sunrise and sunset. This morning started out with considerable clouds over the lake (something I am sure is normal, but what do I know?!). As the sun rose, it started to shine through the clouds and right about sunrise, it broke through enough to spread golden light over the bay. It was a beautiful scene. The water was fairly calm, but with a couple of seconds exposure for the foreground, it smoothed things out and added to the serene feeling.

This final image is a blend of two images, one for the sky and one for the water and coast. As the sun broke through, the range of light from dark to light were impossible to capture with just one shot.

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Gorge Tranquility-Rainbow Falls in Watkins Glen, New York

Glen Creek cascades down Rainbow Falls and spills into a calm pool surrounded by fallen autumn leaves in a narrow gorge in Watkins Glen State Park outside of Watkins Glen, New York.
Glen Creek cascades down Rainbow Falls and spills into a calm pool surrounded by fallen autumn leaves in a narrow gorge in Watkins Glen State Park outside of Watkins Glen, New York.

I just returned from a month-long trip out east after fall color season ended here in Colorado. I was interested in visiting some new areas and was hopeful that I might time it right to have some good color as well.

Four days of the trip were spent around the Finger Lakes region of New York. You know that I love waterfalls, so tops on my list of places to visit in the area was Watkins Glen State Park. I had seen many pictures of Rainbow Falls in the park and wanted to see it for myself. I was not disappointed.

Located right outside of the village of Watkins Glen, the state park gets a lot of traffic. There is a stone walkway that travels a mile and a half beside Glen Creek as it flows through a narrow gorge that is the popular attraction. There are several hand-cut tunnels and over 800 stone steps along the way.

I arrived late in the afternoon to hopefully miss out on any direct sunlight in the gorge and have a better chance of seeing fewer people. The first part held true, but the second, not so much! When I arrived at Rainbow Falls, there were plenty of people in the gorge. Looking at the picture, you can see that the trail passes behind the water coming down the left wall and then climbs a series of stairs before crossing the stone bridge above the falls. I set up beside one other photographer and waited to take shots in between people passing along the trail. I tried shooting from a few other angles, but this turned out to be my favorite.

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Summer No More-Virginia Peak in Early Autumn

Summer gives way to autumn and Virginia Peak is dusted with snow and the valley below is filled with golden aspens and underbrush in the San Isabel National Forest outside of the old mining town of Winfield.
Summer gives way to autumn and Virginia Peak is dusted with snow and the valley below is filled with golden aspens and underbrush in the San Isabel National Forest outside of the old mining town of Winfield, Colorado.

Autumn has arrived. Day by day, more and more aspen trees turn from green to gold with a few orange and red sprinkled in here and there. I have spent hours the last week driving around my local area to witness the progress.

Yesterday I headed back up the painfully bumpy road through Clear Creek Canyon to the old mining town of Winfield. As you gain elevation you immediately start to notice the change from green to gold. Many still have a way to go to reach peak, but I did find this scene shortly before town. It was striking in the late morning light with puffy clouds rushing over. I climbed up a rocky hillside to find just the spot to frame up the autumn beauty.

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