I spent an amazing five days photographing in the mountains of Tennessee last month. While I have visited and photographed in the Smoky Mountains several times in the past few years, this was my first late summer visit. What I discovered was incredible sunrises after 7 AM, peaceful streams, different wildflowers than I’ve seen in the past, and no crowds. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in the National Park System, so finding a time of year when it isn’t very crowded was wonderful!
Mistflower © 2011 Patty Hankins
Since the park was so quiet, I was able to sit by a stream for an hour – just reading a book and relaxing. Another day, I spent a couple of hours in just one corner of a field at Cades Cove – photographing wildflowers and watching the deer across the road.
In addition to my time in the National Park, I spent a day exploring the Cherokee National Forest with a friend. We drove for hours on the forest roads, stopping to photograph when something caught our eye. It was one of the best days I’ve had photographing in a very long time.
What I realized on this trip is how important it is to just slow down and enjoy where I found myself. Usually when I’m on a photo trip I’m in a hurry because I don’t want to miss anything – wondering what if an unknown wildflower is just around the bend. I had a wonderful time – I may have missed seeing a few things because of the slower pace of this trip. But that’s OK – because I thoroughly enjoyed seeing what was around me.
Next time you head out into nature – whether it’s somewhere familiar – or somewhere new – how about trying what I discovered this trip. Slowing down and completely experiencing where you are and what you are seeing can be incredible.