A few weeks ago, Gabi and I went on a long road trip up north. It wasn’t a photography trip, but we managed to spend one day in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee (map). This magnificent park was established in 1934 and it is the most-visited national park in the United States. It contains ridge upon ridge of endless forest on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. The name “Smoky” comes from the natural fog caused by the vegetation. The plants exhale volatile organic compounds that form vapor, which creates this beautiful blue fog in almost every morning. We were fortunate to witness and photograph this phenomenon at sunrise on the only morning we spent here.
After dawn, we drove to Cades Cove, one of the most iconic parts of the Smokies. Cades Cove is a broad valley surrounded by mountains and it offers some of the best opportunities for wildlife viewing in the park. There is an 11-mile loop road that circles the cove, making the sightseeing very convenient, however, traffic is very heavy here in summer. Fortunately, we arrived early and at that time there was no big crowd in the park. Cades Cove is a home of large numbers of white-tailed deers (Odocoileus virginianus) and they are easy to photograph from a car.
The Smokies is also a home of roughly 1500 black bears (Ursus americanus). We chose Cades Cove, because we knew that sightings of bears is more possible here than anywhere else in the park. Bears are most active during early morning so we were very hopeful to see some. We were lucky.
It turned out this bear was a mom with three cubs. It wasn’t easy to capture at least one little bear in the big grass, but luckily the mama bear guided her cubs in an area where the vegetation wasn’t that tall and I was finally able to take a photograph of a cute young bear too.
The gear I used in the Smokies: Canon EOS 7D camera, Canon 70-200mm F/4 lens. I mounted my equipment on my Manfrotto tripod for the landscape image and I used my Canon 1.4x extender for the wildlife photographs.
WARNING: bears are wild animals and can be dangerous. Check out this website to learn more about wildlife viewing in the Smokies.