Last week I had an opportunity to explore part of the country that I never explored before…the Southeast.
Here is a highlight video which includes some aerial clips from my drone:
I had a short flight from Detroit to Atlanta. The flight was only $160 roundtrip which was amazing! The Atlanta airport is huge. I needed to take a train to get my luggage and then another train to get my rental car.
It was pouring rain so instead of trying to rush up to Amicolola State Park, instead I did my grocery shopping and had dinner.
That night I camped in the van and it was ccccccold. When I went to bed, I layered up and was sweating but by 5:00 am I was frigid. It was 30 degrees and the wind was whipping and roaring and it was shaking the van so I definitely did not sleep well.
I got up an hour before sunrise and found the top of Amicolola Falls. It was very pretty with hints of fall color starting to show up. A very light snow was falling. There wasn’t a whole lot to see from the top. The best place to start is the west ridge falls access trial. There is a small parking lot and an easy path to the lower side of the falls which then has another 175 steps down to the lowest viewing platform.
I then drove half an hour to the Monteluce winery but it was too late in the season. Most of the vines were dead but it was a really cool building.
The next stop was the Woody gap overlook which is where the Appalachian trail connects. It was insanely windy up there. The wind was whipping everywhere to the point where it was really uncomfortable to be outside for more than a minute.
I then went to Anna ruby falls which was pretty and easy to access. There was a decent amount of fall color. Due to the easy access, there were a lot of people so using a tripod for the waterfall while standing on the boardwalk was tough because people walking on there would cause camera shake. It was a very pretty scene with the multi-tiered falls and the color in the leaves was really nice!
As I drove to Toccoa, I hit a traffic jam which was weird being out in the middle of nowhere. Turns out there is a random Bavarian style German town called Helen which is a big tourist destination apparently. It was really overcrowded so I didn’t stop.
I continued on to Toccoa Falls which was a pretty wedding site with a simple waterfall as a backdrop.
I proceeded to Tallulah gorge which was a canyon with a few waterfalls. It was LOTS of steps and an ok waterfall but I had too many layers on and was super hot and sweaty so I didn’t explore all the falls. I went down a few hundred stairs which led to a swinging bridge across the canyon. It was another few hundred more steps down to the next falls but I opted to not do that. I didn’t even end up getting my camera out so this is just a quick iphone shot of L’eau d’Or Falls
From there I went to Black Rock Mountain state park. The view from the visitor center at 3800 ft was the best viewpoint. It was too early in the day so once I scoped that out, I drove back down to Clayton, rented a room, had dinner and then headed back up for sunset. The sky was pretty but it was a cloudy horizon so the undersides of the clouds never lit up from the sunset.
I stayed the night at the Days Inn in Clayton.
This morning I was up at 5:00am with two hours of night mountain driving so that I could catch the sunrise on the Blue Ridge parkway. Totally worth it by the way!! The East Fork Overlook was a perfect location to watch the morning light change over the mountain ridges. Parts of the parkway had trees that were covered in ice which was gorgeous. It was extremely cold and windy up there. Unfortunately at one point the road was shut down for ice so I had to drive 1.5 hour around to get to Asheville.
Next was a tour of the Biltmore mansion. Those Vanderbilt’s sure knew how to live it up!! I spent some time checking out the exterior grounds and also walked around the inside.
I then drove over an hour to Chimney Rock State Park for some hiking but unfortunately the park was closed for some reason.
About 3 hours drive from there was Corangee National Park Swamp. I did the 2.4 mike boardwalk loop but was somewhat disappointed that all I saw was lots of squirrels and a deer. Not what I expected from a swamp. Most of it was dry except the lake in the far corner. I had some photo ideas over there but decided to stay away from the low angle water shots because I didn’t know if there were gators in there. Better to be safe!
Then, it was a drive through the cotton fields and onwards towards Charleston.
It ended up being almost 10 hours of driving today.
This morning I woke up at 6:00am and drove down to The Folly beach pier on folly island to watch the sunrise. A good sunrise typically needs clouds for the sunlight to reflect off of. There were no clouds in the sky but there was still a warm red glow in the horizon which was amazing.
I drove an hour to Mt Pleasant and did a Tour of the Boone plantation. They have a long oak tree tunnel drive which was pretty but the morning light was too harsh from the side so I waited around a few hours for the sun to come up. The tour of the plantation house was interesting and it was neat to learn about the history of the slaves and the land. From a photographic perspective, the oak trees covered in spanish moss were just amazing!
Next, I drove over to Angel Oak Tree which is a gigantic 400 year old oak tree. It was really beautiful to see but I was yelled at by a guard for taking a picture with a tripod because she said that my tripod could hurt the tree. Ok.
Moving on, I drove to the Botany Bay Plantation on Edisto Island to hike out to the beach to photograph the old trees in the water. I was super disappointed to find out that it was closed. There is not much happening on that island at this time of year so most things were closed. It took a few hours with some help from Cheridy to find a place to stay for the night. Once the sun was lower in the sky, I went back to photograph the tree tunnel that leads to the plantation and then got some nice photos at sunset on the way back to where I was staying for the night.
This morning I was out the door around 6:00am and had to drive, park, and hike in the pitch dark which was super creepy. It was very still so you could hear every creature rustling in the woods in the dark which wasn’t fun being out here alone.
I got out to beach while the tide was still high. There were downed trees everywhere from the hurricane which made navigating difficult because there was no path. I had to wait for the water to recede and then run around a downed tree and then wait for more water to recede and run around the next downed tree. I have no idea where the tree was that I was going to photograph. And it was dark so it was very difficult to navigate. The recent hurricanes clearly did havoc as there was no clear path to walk on.
I got some beautiful photos with motion blur in the water. I eventually found the tree that I wanted to photograph but apparently it had also gotten knocked over by the hurricane. Bummer.
While doing really long exposures, I had two cameras with me so while one was on a tripod, the other was propped up in a tree which mostly worked out pretty good!
Next I drove to Statesboro to visit with my friend Lori Grice and her husband Dewayne. I got a tour of their studio, and then we went to lunch at Vandy‘s barbecue which is a very famous barbecue place in Statesboro.
After lunch, I drove to Savannah and went for a walk and enjoyed the beautiful 70° and sunshine. I just brought my phone with me and took some photos of some of the old houses and buildings.
I proceeded to the Wormsloe plantation just outside of Savannah to see the 1.5 mile long tunnel of oak trees. It was amazing!
I then drove through Savanna during rush hour to get back up to Hilton head Island to visit my friend David Gerwals. He is an amazing photographer among many other things that he does. We spent the evening talking about business. I stayed the night at his beautiful house right near the ocean.
This morning I photographed the sunrise on the beach at Hilton head, and then I started heading south.
I passed through a small fishing village called Damian and photographed a few of the shrimp boats on the river.
Next I headed to Jekyll Island. I explored some areas that I wanted to photograph later but right now it was clear skies and sunny which is not good weather for photography so I went and rented a hotel and relaxed for a few hours.
Later in the day I went back and spent a few hours exploring the driftwood on the beach and photographing the dead trees as the tide and light changed. It was mesmerizing and the time just flew by. By the time the sun was down, the mosquitos started to come out in full force so it was time to go!
Today, I woke up at 5:00am and headed back out to Jekyll beach long before sunrise to photograph the stars with the gnarly trees. It was incredibly peaceful. No wind. No bugs. No people. Just me and nature. Initially when I arrived, the nearly full moon was still out which lit the trees and the night sky. I was there long enough to watch the moon set and then watch the sunrise. It was a fantastic morning!
The tide changes dramatically in an hour time span. Driftwood that you can walk out to would be 40 ft out in the water in just a short time.
I then drove about 4.5 hours to Providence Canyon State Park which reminded me a lot of Bruce Canyon in Utah or maybe better yet, the smaller Red Canyon that is just outside of Bryce. Providence is a small canyon that is out of the way but it was still pretty.
Another 1.5 hour drive to the Callaway Gardens to kill some time. It is a big campus that has a lot of areas to check out. I only had an hour before they closed so I did a loop around everywhere and then stopped in at the butterfly garden and the discovery center. It looks like they also have a beach, zip lines, climbing walls, golf, and lots of other neat things to do.
Next it was back to the Atlanta airport to start packing gear before heading home.