Photo by Bill White
Up Next: EXPO and Smokies Trip
In September, GNPA members will have some great opportunities to learn new techniques and visit statewide photo hotspots as part of Virtual Expo 2021. This year’s event will feature a terrific lineup of keynote speakers and special seminars covering a wide range of nature photography topics. The 21 in-person guided photo trips will be held across Georgia from Sept. 10-17. The virtual programs, with two keynote speakers and 12 webinars, will be offered over Zoom Sept. 18 and 19.
The cost is only $95, and members who register (at GNPA.org) will be able to review all of the program recordings whenever they wish, at their convenience. But hurry; registration ends at 11 p.m. on Sept. 3.
Those seminars and field trips will offer opportunities to learn new photo skills that can be put to use during GNPA’s annual Fall Smokies Trip. This year’s event will be November 4-7, and is a trip you should not miss if you have never visited Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You’ll have opportunities to photograph landscapes, macro subjects, sunrises, sunsets and animals such as bears, coyote and turkeys. More information is available on the GNPA website.
Meanwhile, make sure you sign up for the statewide GNPA Meetup Group. Each chapter has its own Meetup Group, but the state group allows you to keep abreast of all our programs and upcoming events.
The annual North Georgia Shootout will be Saturday Oct. 30, 2021, in Dallas, GA. Each participating club, including GNPA, puts together a team to compete for fun and prizes. Check out their website (northgeorgiacameraclubcouncil.org) for more information.
Remember that GNPA is always looking for a few good men and women to assist with programs, field trips and other events. If you are interested in getting involved, let me know.
See you in the field.
Top of Amicalola Falls shot from below.
Don’t Miss Amicalola Falls
By Tom Wilson
As a photographer, one of my favorite waterfalls is Amicalola Falls in North Georgia. Technically a cascade, Amicalola Falls tumbles a dramatic 729 feet, making it the highest in Georgia and the third highest east of the Mississippi River.
Located within Amicalola Falls State Park, an 829-acre gem between Ellijay and Dahlonega, this cascade offers remarkable accessibility. There is trail access to the base of the falls, the top of the falls and to the mid-point of the falls, with a level path that is ADA-accessible (see the park website for a trail map). All of the accesses have parking areas. These multiple access points make it possible to photograph the falls from different perspectives, and all of the access points are connected so you can utilize one or all of them.
Waterfall detail shot in winter from bridge midway up the falls. Photo by Tom Wilson
This ease of access also has a downside, however, which is the fact that the park attracts lots of visitors. I would recommend getting there early in the morning, or during weekdays, for the best photographic opportunities. Many of your photos can be made from the boardwalks and the stairs that climb up the falls, but bear in mind that lots of foot traffic can mean lots of vibration on those boardwalks, which can result in blurry photographs.
Because the cascade is inside a state park, there are plenty of amenities available, including a visitor center, restrooms, camping, lodging and even a restaurant at the lodge. The visitor center is open from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., and there is a $5 fee to park in any of the lots all day. You can instead use your Georgia State Parks Pass if you have one.
View from the lower platform in early fall.
Waterfalls can be difficult subjects to photograph due to their high-contrast environments. One solution for this problem is to plan your trip for cloudy days. Another option is to visit the falls early in the morning, before the sun is shining directly on the water (as mentioned, this also helps you avoid the foot traffic you’ll experience at busier times of the day). The park is open during daylight hours so you should be able to enter even before the visitor center opens. I have photographed the falls in all kinds of light, and each trip has yielded good, if different, images.
Be sure to visit the Georgia State Park website before you go. Check the weather and do some research about water levels in North Georgia; when levels are really high, the water can be brown and unattractive for photographs. Take all of your hiking essentials with you, including water, sunscreen, rain gear, seasonally appropriate clothing, first aid kit, etc.
Near-peak fall colors at Amicalola Falls.
The photographic equipment I take with me is my camera body/bodies, sturdy tripod, remote release, lenses with hoods (from very wide angle to telephoto), polarizer, neutral density filter, a small towel for drying the camera due to spray from the falls, and a microfiber cloth for the lens.
View from the top of Amicalola Falls.
My favorite aspect of this waterfall is the variety of images that you can make. I have included some of them with this article. For instance, you can get images from the top of the falls that show the surrounding countryside. Because of the boardwalk, you can position yourself close to the main cascades for some really imposing shots of the falls or finer details. Further down the trail you can access shots that include more of the creek tumbling on down the mountain after it has gone over the main falls. The photos I have included range in seasons from early fall before the leaves have started to turn, to the peak of the fall color and into winter. No matter when you choose to go, you’ll find some great opportunities for photography!
Tom Wilson is a nature photographer working primarily in Georgia and the Southeast. He is Vice President of GNPA, is past chair of the Conservation Committee and is current chair of the Communications Committee.
Art Stiles, Griffin Chapter
In our newsletters, we feature short profiles of GNPA members from across the state. In this issue, it’s Art Stiles, of the Griffin Chapter.
How long have you been a GNPA member?
What is your current occupation (or if retired, your former one)?
28 years in the Regular Army Combat Arms, 17 years teaching third- and fifth-grade students.
How and when did you get into photography? I really got into photography when my daughters were little (early 1980s); however, I never really knew what I was doing. That didn’t happen until around 2006 when my wife bought a Nikon D40 DSLR. (I could afford to experiment then!)
What are your favorite subjects to photograph?
I love wildlife, flowers, and macro. I love landscapes too, but I’m not very good at that.
Name one of your favorite places to shoot.
Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
What would be your photographic “dream trip”?
My dream trip would be a “no time limit” trip where I would fly to Patagonia and take perhaps a full year to travel from there up the Andes spine, with side trips to local areas of interest, all the way to the mouth of the Amazon.
Which camera body and lenses do you use most often?
I currently use a Nikon D850, with the Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f-2.8 II ED and the Nikon AF-S Micro 105mm f-2.8 G ED lenses.
What are your go-to websites for photography information?
For inspiration, Outdoor Photographer https://www.outdoorphotographer.com/tips-techniques/ for Nikon Cameras Fstoppers https://fstoppers.com/originals/seventeen-new-tricks-nikon-d850-and-how-theyll-help-your-photography-193751) and for photography skills & techniques Digital Camera World https://www.digitalcameraworld.com/tutorials/147-photography-techniques-tips-and-tricks-for-taking-pictures-of-anything
Can you name any photographers who have inspired you? Jim Henderson was the first, as well as my first photography teacher. Since then, there have been many, like Horace Hamilton of GNPA.
What is your favorite part of belonging to GNPA? The best part of belonging to GNPA is the willingness of every member I’ve met to freely share techniques, expertise and locations.
Something interesting about you that most people do not know:
Before going into the Army, I worked on a cattle ranch in Colorado and rode bulls in the rodeo circuits.
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in northern Louisiana and grew up in Texas and Louisiana.
Tell us a little about the photos you’ve provided:
My wife took this shot of me as I was showing the horse the photo I had taken of him.
I had intended to shoot the John Moulton barn this morning; however, as I was getting my gear out of my truck in the dark, two busloads of tourists pulled up and swarmed the place. I left and went down to the T.A. Moulton barn and waited for the sunrise. I am grateful to those tourists. If not for them, I would have never gotten this shot.
I had been to Yellowstone many times, but never in the winter. In February 2020, my wife and I went there with Chris Dekle. This red fox, more than any other animal, captured my heart with his relentless effort to find food and survive.
Big Bull in the River. Photo by Horace Hamilton
Photographing Elk in the Smokies
By Horace Hamilton
Few big-game animals are as awe-inspiring and majestic as wild elk. And while many photographers head to national parks in the West to find them, we are fortunate to have large herds a short drive from Georgia.
Let’s take a look at this remarkable herd in western North Carolina, as well as tips on the best places, times and strategies for photographing them.
But first, photographers need to understand that elk are the largest animals found in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park area. And while normally peaceful, they can be quite dangerous in certain situations. A cow elk weighs up to 500 pounds, and if she thinks her calf is in danger, she will defend it aggressively. A big bull, meanwhile, can tip the scales at 700 pounds. Amped up on hormones during the rut, he will use his massive antlers to drive intruders (including people) away from his harem of cows. These elk don’t perceive us as predators, so they won’t run from people like a bear or coyote might. In fact, they commonly approach humans so closely that the burden is on us to move out of their way.
Consequently, it’s critical that we maintain a minimum of 50 yards distance from all elk. Do not enter any field where elk are present, and be very alert when walking the trails around the Oconaluftee Visitors Center or other places where elk are common. Remember to watch for elk approaching from behind as well. Even if you are beyond the 50-yard yard limit, if an elk changes its behavior because of you, you are too close! Listen to the rangers and volunteers; their job is to keep you safe.
Photo by Horace Hamilton
Elk in the Smokies
At one time, elk were prolific in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina. But they were eradicated in the 1800s by overhunting and loss of habitat.
In 2001, the National Park Service began a restoration program by introducing 25 elk from the Land Between the Lakes area (on the Tennessee/Kentucky border) into Cataloochee Valley. After the success of this first group, another 27 elk were added in 2003.
This original herd has flourished and now numbers 200-plus animals (estimates vary widely), spread across western North Carolina both inside and outside the National Park.
Calves (usually only one per cow) are born in June, normally in a secluded area away from the main herd. But within days of birth, the cows return to the herd with their calves. Those calves will nurse for six to seven months, but from shortly after birth they also forage for other food, mostly grass. They are able to walk within minutes of birth.
Bulls lose their antlers in late winter. New antlers begin growing back immediately, reaching full size by summer.
Mating season (the rut) occurs in September and October (best observed from mid-September to mid-October). Bulls battle each other for dominion over their harems—groups of cows that can grow to 20 or more. Photographing the rut is so addicting that I have done so with a group of friends every fall for the past eight or nine years!
A dominant bull may lose up to 200 pounds during rut, as he spends his time and energy defending his harem rather than eating. As the dominant bull weakens toward the end of rut, younger bulls may have an opportunity to breed with any as-yet unimpregnated cows, thus increasing the herd’s genetic diversity. Elk have a life span of about 15 years.
Photo by Horace Hamilton
Where Can Elk Be Found?
There are two large herds of elk in the Smokies.
The most easily accessible area to find elk is in and around the town of Cherokee, at the entrance to the park on Highway 441.
Watch for them in the fields along Hwy 441, from the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway and north to the Smokemont Campground. If you don’t see them there, look in the fields in the Job Corps Center, which can be accessed via a bridge over the river, about 100 yards north of the exit from the visitor center parking lot. There is limited public access in this area, so pay attention to the signs.
Finally, elk can be found along Big Cove Road, which is accessible from Hwy 441, between the Blue Ridge Parkway and the town of Cherokee. Watch for directional signs. Elk also frequent the Cherokee Trail, behind the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Patience is required, but this is a wonderful place to photograph them as they cross the stream in the afternoon.
The second great location is in Cataloochee Valley, also in GSMNP.
You can access Cataloochee from Hwy 276 at the intersection with I-40 (Exit 20). Turn on Jonathan Creek Road, which is immediately before the I-40 intersection and only goes west. In 0.3 miles keep right and follow this road into Cataloochee. After about 10 miles, turn left at the stop sign and continue straight from there into the valley. The drive from Hwy 276 into Cataloochee may take up to 45 minutes on a narrow, winding mountain road that turns to gravel before entering the park. There are no visitor amenities in Cataloochee, other than bathrooms. There is no cell service.
Photo by Horace Hamilton
While the Cherokee herd tends to stick pretty close together, the Cataloochee herd can be spread throughout the two-mile-long valley, in smaller groups of 10-15 animals. Beautiful landscape scenes – including elk – can be found in the Cataloochee Valley at sunrise.
In addition to these primary locations, elk occasionally can be found in downtown Cherokee, along the Blue Ridge Parkway, in Maggie Valley, Bryson City or most anywhere else in the area. Be on the lookout when driving in these areas, but remember that these are not the most reliable locations for finding elk.
Is There a Best Time of Day?
In early summer, in the fields along Hwy 441, cows and calves are often seen throughout the day. But early morning and late afternoon are always the best times to view the herd.
During the September and October rut, elk are most active at sunrise and shortly thereafter, or in the late afternoon. The rest of the day, they tend to be found grazing in the fields. During mid-day, they are often in the woods and difficult to find.
Photo by Horace Hamilton
The Photography Experience
Finding elk in the Smokies is one of the most exciting photographic experiences that I have enjoyed anywhere. From the loving relationship between a cow and her calf, to the testosterone-fueled battles between big bulls, to the magnificence of a bull crossing a stream in Cherokee, to the incredible beauty of wispy fog in the yellow walnut leaves in Cataloochee, you can find endless possibilities for photography.
Landscape opportunities also abound in the area. Cataloochee Valley is great for foggy landscapes at sunrise. The Blue Ridge Parkway has many beautiful places to view sunrise and sunset, and you’ll discover streams and waterfalls. Black bears are often seen too (although not nearly as often as in Cades Cove).
Photo by Horace Hamilton
In most cases you will want to use a long telephoto lens, 400mm or more, mounted on a tripod. You can also use your widest angle or mid-range lenses to capture landscape images at Cataloochee. Another useful item to bring is a collapsible seat to help you stay near eye level with the elk while waiting for action in the fields. Bug spray, sunscreen and rain gear are also important.
Mid-day temperatures during rut are usually mild, but mornings and evenings can require a jacket or sweater. Precipitation is common, so bring rain gear for you and your equipment. If you plan to go to nearby places like Clingman’s Dome or Blue Ridge Parkway for sunrise or sunset photos, plan on much cooler temperatures and windy conditions. Summertime temperatures are warm; winter is cold with a risk of snow.
Rangers can be found at the visitor center at Cataloochee during all open hours and are very helpful. They can possibly help you locate elk, if you are having difficulty. Volunteers (look for their bright yellow vests) are another great resource, but they are most often found where the elk are present. You will find them to be very knowledgeable about elk. Most have worked as volunteers for several years and know a lot about individual animals and their habits.
I’d encourage everyone to make plans to witness this wonderful treat in North Carolina, just a few hours from Atlanta. This not an experience that requires stealth or hours of sitting in a blind; you can go with friends and make it a social event. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
A past president of GNPA, Horace is also a former board member and the founding coordinator of the Gwinnett Chapter. He’s been photographing nature for more than 40 years, and has served as a jurist for numerous photo exhibits. He has also conducted training classes for GNPA and camera clubs across Georgia. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of his favorite destinations, where he enjoys photographing its animals, landscapes, streams and flowers.
Photo by Bill White
A Busy Second Half of 2021
After a challenging year, things are looking up. Not only are our local chapters beginning to resume in-person meetings, but other events are being planned for the rest of the year. Here is quick update of what’s going on in GNPA:
We now have our own statewide Meetup page, listed as the Georgia Nature Photographers Association (GNPA) Group. This is a great group to join, because it will allow you to stay abreast of all GNPA programs and events. (If you’re not signed up for Meetup, you can join by opening a free account at Meetup.com). Some GNPA programs may be listed in both the local and our state Meetup groups.
GNPA also is hosting a brand-new Instagram feed, administered by member Jenny Burdette. Just search for gnpa_pix on Instagram to see photos from our members and learn more about the site. Be sure to read Jenny’s article, elsewhere in this newsletter, on how (and why) photographers should get started on Instagram.
Meanwhile, our group’s Facebook page has recently switched from a public page to a private one. This move, prompted by changes in Facebook’s rules, will allow us much better control of our page and help reduce spam. Our members aren’t likely to notice any changes, but let us know if you encounter any issues.
More good news for 2021: After having to cancel our 2020 Expo due to Covid, a new virtual Expo is being scheduled for September. This year’s event will feature in-person field trips across the state, as well as virtual speakers and webinars. Be on the lookout for more details coming soon.
Later this year, the GNPA will be hosting its fall trip to the Smokies on November 4-7. This event is a great opportunity to explore a wide range of locations around Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. One of the biggest benefits of visiting the Smokies as part of this event is the chance to discover new shooting locations with knowledgeable trip leaders, who can show you exactly where to go and provide advice on getting the best photos. Plus, this trip is a good way to make connections with other photographers.
Our new Programs Committee has been putting together monthly programs with interesting speakers that supplement your local chapter meetings. Keep sending your suggestions for speakers to Lee Friedman. His email address is listed on the officer’s page at gnpa.org (as are those of all our officers) if you want to get in touch.
Of course, without volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to provide the programs, chapter meetings, field trips and other events that GNPA offers its members every month. If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, please let me know.
See you in the field.
Let’s Get Social! How to Get Started on Instagram
By Jenny Burdette
As a nature photographer, you’ve probably spent time enjoying the work of others on social media, and perhaps posting your own images there. But if you haven’t really embraced Instagram yet, perhaps it’s time you did. In many ways, Instagram is much more photographer-friendly than Facebook, because Instagram is all about images.
Here are some tips to get started on Instagram, including how to set up your account, post photos, and learn some basic rules of the IG road.
Step 1: Set up an Account and Profile
First, you must install the app on your phone or tablet. Remember that Instagram is designed for use from a mobile device. You can view posts and manage your account from a computer, but postings must be managed through a phone or tablet.
GNPA’s Instagram page
Go to the App Store or Google Play and download the Instagram app to your phone or tablet.
Once you have the app on your phone, open it and follow the instructions to set up your account. You will be asked to choose an account name and a user name. These names can be the same, but your user name must be unique from other users. Your profile page will show your account name and your user name, but your posts and comments show only your user name. So other people on IG are much more likely to know your user name than your real name.
Your user name should be relatively simple and easy to spell. You want people to remember your user name, associate it with you, and easily enter it using the keypad on their phone.
Instagram allows a 150-character bio on your profile page. You can add this when setting up the account or come back and add it later. You can also include a URL link. Instagram creates a public account as a default, but you have the option to change the setting to private. If your purpose is to share your photography, a public account makes sense.
You will see that Instagram also offers the options of business or creator accounts, which you may want to investigate, especially if you plan to use Instagram to market your work. Users may switch between personal, business or creator account types at any time.
Be sure to add a profile picture. This photo must be uploaded from your phone or tablet. It will display in a very small circle, so keep it simple, whether it’s a headshot or a favorite photo. You can change this photo at any time by editing your profile.
At this point, your account is set up and ready to go! Search for people you know on IG and “follow” them. You can also follow a hashtag, which will notify you when photos using that specific hashtag are posted. Look for @gnpa_pix to follow GNPA’s page, where you can “like” and comment on the photos there.
Step 2: Create Your First Post
Remember, posting must be done from your phone or tablet.
Instagram now allows photos in square, horizontal or vertical formats; however, a 2×3 vertical will still have a slight crop on the longer sides. Instagram was originally designed to post images taken with your phone, so any images processed on your computer will benefit from resizing.
Post from Anna Destefano
Instagram will take whatever size image you upload and reduce it to fit their specs, but this process often results in an image that seems significantly less sharp. If you are exporting images from your computer, you don’t want to use full resolution versions.
I export from Lightroom with my images sized to 1800 pixels on the longest side and 100ppi. You can probably go as low as 1200 pixels and 72ppi, but 1800 seems to work well for me. Use the sRGB color profile, select high-quality JPEG, and sharpen for on-screen display. If you use a photo-sharing app, it will take care of resizing for you. If you are uploading images taken with your phone, there is no need to resize.
Moving an Image from Computer to Mobile Device
There are several ways to move images from computer to phone, and if you already have a preferred method, just keep using it. The following methods are the ones I’m most familiar with.
- Simply “airdrop” the image if you are using Mac devices
- Use the USB ports and cable to connect computer and phone
- Lightroom users can use Lightroom Mobile on their phones to get photos from the computer
- Use Dropbox. Add the app to your phone and use Dropbox.com (set up a free account) from the computer to upload images. Then use the phone app to share from Dropbox and save the image to your phone.
Note: Dropbox also offers an option to export directly to Instagram. But this option opens the photo in square format only. Saving the photo to your phone and then uploading to Instagram allows you to choose the aspect ratio.
Post Your Photo and Caption
Once the photo is saved to your phone, go to your Instagram profile page, tap the “+” icon and choose “Post.” If you see a “use Instagram camera” message, ignore it and just click on “Post.”
Photos from your phone will pop up and allow you to select the image(s) you wish to post.
Photos initially display in a square format; you can adjust the ratio if necessary by using the touchscreen or the arrows at the bottom left corner of the image.
Click “Next” (arrow icon on Android) in the upper right corner to open a selection of filters. These filters may be helpful for phone pics, but most likely will not enhance an already edited image, so simply click Next (arrow) again.
Now you have the option to add a caption.
Captions and Hashtags
An image is required for an IG post, but you can post without a caption. However, a caption is a great way to engage viewers. A caption can be as simple as naming your subject (“Chipping Sparrow”), or it can be a lengthy blog-type post.
Post from Clay Fisher @cfphotoimages
Post from Jenny Burdette @jennyburdettephotography
Hashtags are a part of the caption and help others find your photos. One way to choose appropriate hashtags is to think of searching for your own image. What would you enter? You can also look at the hashtags others have used for similar images.
Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, although many Instagram experts advise limiting hashtags to 10-15.
Certain hashtags also serve as permission for your photo to be “featured” by an Instagram group or hub. Add #gnpa_pix to let GNPA know that it’s okay to post your pic on our Instagram page, with full photo credit to you and a link to your page.
After entering your caption/hashtags, click OK in the upper right corner. You can always edit your post to add additional hashtags later.
You now will have several options. You can tag various people, add a location, etc. Choose the options you prefer, tap “Share” (check mark on Android) in the upper right of the screen, and you’ve shared your first post!
Step 3: Rules of the Instagram Road
Instagram is a social platform and is designed for interaction and engagement with other users. So be engaged, by liking and commenting on others’ posts and responding to users who comment on your photos.
To ensure that accounts belong to real people, not spammers, Instagram places limits on liking, commenting and following. In general, limit activity to 100-200 “likes,” 60 comments, or 60 follows in an hour. Violating this unwritten rule can result in an IG timeout, where you are blocked from any activity for a period of time (days to weeks).
If you see something on Instagram that is inappropriate, report it immediately. Tap the three dots in the upper right corner of the objectionable post (opposite the username in the upper left corner) and choose “Report.”
Step 4: Get Social
Start posting your images and following others. Check out and follow the @gnpa_pix page and tag your photos #gnpa_pix so that our page can find and feature your images. And stay tuned for future posts with more tips and tricks for sharing your photography on the ‘Gram!
Jenny Burdette is a retired English teacher, photographer, writer, wanderer and grandmother. Her images are featured in the Visitors Centers at many of Georgia’s State Parks and have appeared on the covers and pages of several conservation-themed publications. Jenny is a member of GNPA’s Conservation Committee, a member at large on GNPA’s Executive Board, a moderator for GNPA’s Facebook page, and Administrator for GNPA’s new Instagram page, @gnpa_pix. Follow Jenny on Facebook and, of course, on Instagram (@jennyburdettephotography). www.jennyburdettephotography.com