Heavenly Light

I was back at GSMNP this week for a couple of nights. I had to break camp this morning and figured I’d blown it because I got up a little late and missed first light. As I drove up to Newfound Gap, I could see that the dome was (as usual) cloaked in cloud cover. Still, I went up to Clingmans Dome and walked several trails over the course of the morning, hoping for something to occur. By 8:30-9AM, the cloud cover was lifting and this scene stopped me cold. I was at my favorite elevation (>5000’), smelling the most beautiful smells, hearing the little dark-eyed juncos, and the wind whip through the spruce/fir forest…one of my very happy “places”. As the wind calmed and revealed this scene to me, I burst out laughing at the joy of what I was experiencing. I hope you enjoy this scene as much as I did!

Specific Feedback Requested

This image IS focus stacked: 4 frames over the course of ~2minutes. I left the closest frames defocused in hopes of pulling the viewer more through the scene. Does that work?

Technical Details

Is this a composite: Yes
92mm, 3sec @f/11; 4 frames, polarized,


I love your story as much as your image. Those moments of perfect delight in nature are what keep me out there.

This shot reminds me of a delicious secret. One that when revealed, will bring happiness. One that you are happy to keep and doesn’t eat away at your peace. The way forward is clear and you don’t have to do anything with it.

Ok, that was weird, but that was where my mind went. It’s intriguing and inviting. Glad you got it, shared it and experienced it. The light here is really wonderful - the progression is terrific.

One little nit is the far left - looks like you sliced a dark tree in half…I’m not sure that works best, but maybe play with it. The branches going into nothing might weird though. Hm.

A beautiful scene and a wonderful mysterious mood to it. No nits here, just quite enjoying it!

What a wonderful romantic look at our natural world. It’s like a 19th century poem as an image. I also liked reading about your experience and how it elevated your spirits. So glad you had these special moments. I would say this has a story book look to it but that isn’t it. It’s just a spiritual image.

Thanks @Kris for your comments and recommendations. You’re right about the tree cut in half, but it’s in more shade on my original file and I missed it. I’ll plan to burn more of that edge to make the structures less noticeable. On my work laptop, it’s all very bright - much moreso than on my color corrected monitor at home.

Thanks @Harley_Goldman and @Igor_Doncov for taking the time to review and comment.

Your composition draws me into this enchanted forest Jim. Wonderful light and mood. Your focus stacking works for me.

Beautiful image Jim, and I enjoyed reading your story. Your processing of this “tunnel of light” is just perfect, especially the way you handled the highlights in the greenery. The image has a “Lord of the Rings” you too it, I’m waiting for the Elves to make an appearance at any moment. I’ve only been to the summit of Clingmans Dome a couple times, and never realized this type of scene was available on the trails up there. I guess I’m your typical national park visitor, and didn’t venture far enough from the parking lot :smile:

A real beauty, and I enjoyed your story. I’m a keen hiker (hate this covid time) and I fully understand why this is your favorite elevation.
No nits, as @Igor_Doncov said: a spiritual image. That’s why we spend days hiking. And you are more a photographer than I am, you carried a tripod.

Thanks for the comments @Eva_McDermott and @Ed_McGuirk …and for the Editors Pick! :pray:

@Han_Schutten…that cracked me up! It looks like you at least own an tripod! It’s in your little ?avatar? of yourself.

@Jim_McGovern I do own a tripod, but do not tie it to my backpack when hiking. At least not for an extended walk (several days). Might be my old age :wink:

This is very nice.
A beautiful shot, with a wonderful mood.
Have you consider crop it, say to 5X4, to exclude the bottom part?

Thanks for commenting @joaoquintela … do you think the viewer would be as “drawn in” without the trail entering from the bottom right?