Remembering Olga Diaz - 2 Years Later

Rene Touzet and Olga Diaz
She left us two years ago today to be among the angels. If you listen hard enough, you can hear her laugh and sing and playing the piano for us all along with the other Cuban artists that have left us.

Here is a photo of the great Cuban composer and bandleader, Rene Touet, and my mother, Olga Diaz, from what I believe is the late 1960's or early 1970's.

It does not matter how much time passes,  you still miss them once they are gone.

Noche Buena in Miami - 2010

Miami Skyline - December 2010

Our city is lit up in beautiful Christmas colors today. Have a wonderful Noche Buena and a Merry Christmas. Cheers!

Dancing with the Cranes


Great Blues Building their Nests for 2011

Great Blue Herons - Venice Rookery
It's that time of year again; time for the great blue herons to start building their nests for the upcoming winter and spring of 2011.  I observed seven active nests at the Venice Rookery last week for what should be a great season for birding and avian photography.  Hope to see everyone out in the field.


A Thanksgiving Day Proclamation by the President

Abraham Lincoln in HDR
Lincoln Memorial - Washington, D.C.
By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Happy Birthday Olga

Olga Diaz - circa 1962
Today, November 18, 2010,  my mom, Olga Diaz, would have been 74.  It's almost been two years since she left us.  Well at least there's photos of her and recordings of her and her music to keep her memory alive.  The above image is a photo of her from the 1960's which I found and had restored which was taken by my dad on his old medium format camera.  Below, is a you tube video where you can hear her describing a piece by Cuban Composer, Rene Touzet, which she also plays towards the latter part of the video.  So with this, we can all remember her on her birthday ...


An Autumn Sunset Across the Shenandoah Valley

Shenandoah National Park - Skyland, Virginia
“I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks”
-- Daniel Boone

Equal Justice Under Law

The Supreme Court of the United States
On my recent trip to the US Capital, I was fortunate enough to be there at the same time they were having oral argument at the US Supreme Court. Being a member of the Supreme Court Bar, I was able to get in and see some of the arguments in person.  There was a lot of hustle and bustle there early in the morning. Folks lining up in the public lines stretching down to the sidewalk to get a chance at a seat in the Court, attorneys getting ready for oral argument; I even saw Justice Breyer dash in through the main entrance to get to the elevators.  The Court Clerk and assistants there were making sure that the lawyers had their scripts ready when they moved to have new lawyers admitted to the Bar. and that everything ran smoothly there that day.  There were random lawyers from across the country that were there simply to hear argument on cases they were interested in who were discussing esoteric jurisdictional questions that were going to be argued there that day. Once seated in the packed courtroom on a case involving civil procedure, the minute the Court was in session, silence fell over the Court as the nine Justices walked in and took their places.  Everyone there, Judge, lawyer, guests, the employees, tourists, all showed the respect this Honorable Court deserved. The Chief Justice opened the session by admitting new attorneys and called the first case, and the arguments began. The argument that morning was right up my alley as I enjoy Civil Procedure. I've read argument transcripts before, but it was more interesting seeing it live with the Justices prodding the lawyers and each other. After the allotted hour,  I headed back out towards the US Capital and Mall,  hoping that one day, I may get the chance to stand before that Court as an advocate rather than as a spectator. 

In contrast to that busy morning at the Supreme Court,   I stopped by the Courthouse in the middle of the night to take the photograph pictured above,  all was quiet.  There were no lawyers, tourists, judges at that time. Just that majestic old building which is Constitutionally empowered to uphold the law of the land; the Constitution.

An Autumn Day in Shenandoah National Park

Autumn Afternoon - Shenandoah National Park

While the folks were partying and getting woozy at the Jon Stewart Rally last Saturday,  I got away from the City and headed to the Mountains in Shenandoah National Park in northern Virginia. With visions like these, you can have your cities and rallies. I''d plain just hang out in the mountains and stare at the Autumn skies. 

I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do.” -- John Muir

Please visit my site at www.michaelpancierphotography.com

The Mountains Call Me Once Again ...

Autumn in Shenandoah National Park - Sperryville, Virginia
So I must go ....

Spoonbill Reflections

Spoonbill Reflections
Roseate Spoonbills - Ding Darling National Wildlife Preserve

I am honored that my spoonbill image which I took earlier this year at Ding Darling NWR was one of the winning entries selected in the 2010 Ding Darling NWR Photo Contest.  It will hang along with the other winning entries at the Education Center at the park.  The spoonbill was my nemesis bird for so many years, but it is no more. Let's hope the upcoming year will be just as productive in avian photography for me especially here in Florida.

A Day on the Miami River

I've lived my entire life in Miami and have crossed the Miami River more times than I can imagine. However, it was only a few weeks ago at the invitation of fellow photographer Jim Winters of Nikon Miami that I had the opportunity to do what I've been dying to do for many years,  float upstream on the Miami River.  We started at Bayside Marketplace marina and entered the river at its mouth in Downtown Miami between Brickell Key and Bayfront Park and floated all the way to the fork where it divides between Miami Springs/Hialeah and the lakes by Miami International Airport.  I definately want to do this again one day and continue all the way into Hialeah next time.  In any event, I've compiled a nine minute montage of images and video from the Miami River from that morning boat ride as well with some images I've taken at sunrise and sunset from the Second Avenue Bridge and the South Miami Bridges.  The river has some really interesting drawbridges and overpasses which cannot be appreciated unless you see them from the river.  So without further adieu,  let it roll on the Miami River.

My Newest Photo Processing Tool - Nik HDR Efx Pro

Sunrise on the Miami River from South Miami Avenue Bridge
Miami River & Metrorail Overpass
Just downloaded the newest Nik Photoshop Plug in to add to my collection, Nik HDR Efx Pro. From what I've seen so far, this program makes a nice addition to the Nik collection which I use extensively in my photo processing: Nik Color Efx Pro, Nik Viveza II, and Nik Silver Efx Pro. I've been using HDR in my work for several years now, relying exclusively on Photomatix Pro.   

My early observations are that this is a great addition to your photo processing tools; especially for landscape photographers. It has the same features and control panel as Color Effects Pro and Viveza II, using the upoint technology which makes editing and tweaking your images a breeze.  I also found that its HDR engine is much faster than Photomatix Pro especially when  working in 64bit on my Mac Pro.

Like the newest version of Photomatix Pro,  Nik HDR Efx Pro, has the ability to save your own presets and comes with a lot of presets to work with.  I have noticed that while the preloaded presets are good as a starting point, I found myself having to do a lot of tweaking to the settings to get the look I was looking for.  I did find that I had to really work the settings to avoid the haloing that one tends to get in HDR work. I hate it personally, but the Nik software's structure settings on the control points or on the whole image make getting rid of the haloing pretty easy.  I also found that the Nik program tends to make cleaner HDR's as well when compared to Photomatix pro.

The two images posted here were both done with the Nik software.  The top image is a 3 image HDR which I exported into Nik HDR Efx Pro out of Lightroom using the cityscape setting as a base and then making adjustments in the control panel.  The second image is not a true HDR,  but a single image faux HDR again exported from the raw file out of Lightroom using the artistic base setting and some tweaking.  On both images, I did add a pass of vibrance/warmth in Nik Color Efx Pro to kick it up a notch, so to say, and a pass of noise reduction.

As I said, it will take me a while to get the feel for this program. I'm quite adept at working with Photomatix Pro and will still use it depending on the look I'm going for. But now that my Nik collection is complete and now able to work in 64 bit on my Mac,  I may find myself finally moving permanently to PS CS 5 from CS4 which I still have been using since most of my Nik plug ins were still only working in 32 bit until the most recent updates. See you out in the field, infidels.

Miami's 10/10/10 Sunrise

South Miami Avenue Bridge
Today is 10/10/10.  What a better way to celebrate this once in a lifetime occurrence than to get up at crack of dawn to see and photograph the sunrise in downtown Miami along the Miami River.  Here's the view from the South Miami Avenue Bridge.

"There's beauty in the silver singing river, There's beauty in the sunrise in the sky, But none of these and nothing else can match the beauty, That I remember in my true love's eyes."  -- Bob Dylan

A Day on the River

12th Avenue Bridge - Miami, Florida
Coming soon, my photo essay from my day riding up the Miami River from the mouth of the river up to the airport.  Something I've wanted to do for years but never done even though I've lived in Miami all my life.  Here's a taste of what I saw. This is the 12th Avenue Bridge which crosses the Miami River. Most folks drive over it every day while getting to and from the Justice Building.  It's a different view from below, however.  The Miami River has an interesting history and much ignored by folks, except of course for those who live and work on the river. 

"In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time." — Leonardo da Vinci

First Day of October 2010

Shohola Falls Pennsylvania
"This existence of ours is as transient as Autumn clouds. To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking at the movements of a dance. A lifetime is a flash of lightning in the sky. Rushing by, like a torrent down a steep mountain. "
-- Buddha

Sunset Before the Storm

Miami River and I-95 Overpass
"Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.” 

  - Mark Twain

You Cannot Have Freedom Without Wilderness

The Priest & The Nuns - Moab, Utah
"We can have wilderness without freedom; we can have wilderness without human life at all, but we cannot have freedom without wilderness, we cannot have freedom without leagues of open space beyond the cities, where boys and girls, men and women, can live at least part of their lives under no control but their own desires and abilities, free from any and all direct administration by their fellow men." -- Edward Abbey

Island in the Sky

Grand View Overlook - Canyonlands National Park, Utah
This is a panoramic view from Canyonlands National Park. I don't think any photograph can adequately capture the vastness of this area of the park.  So I leave you this image to end your week.

See you out in the field.

9/11 - A Time to Remember

View of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge

A Summer Afternoon in Everglades National Park

Dreaming of the Glades
Pine Glades Lake

I usually frequent Everglades National Park between November and May as this is the best time to photograph birds. Also, the heat isn't as bad and there aren't many mosquitoes.  Come summer, there are very few birds in the park to photograph (unless you have a boat to go in Florida Bay or 10,000 Islands into the back country) and the bugs are relentless, so I tend to stay away.  But if Everglades landscapes are what you are looking for, especially those afternoon images with thunderstorm clouds,  summer is the best time.  I went out to the Glades over Labor Day weekend with the intent on getting some evening star shots.  I saw some work from a California photographer who did amazing time lapse images by combining multiple sky shots of the Milky Way.  Here in South Florida,  the only place where the sky is dark enough for dark sky photography is in Everglades National Park, more specifically, Mahogany Hammock.  So that was the intent. Well, the weather was typical Labor Day weekend weather; thunderstorms and rain.  So by the time I got out there,  myself and two fellow photographers pretty much concluded that the night photography was a lost cause given the cloud cover, but some sunset/dusk shots were probably going to be pretty good given the clouds.

So we all met up at Pine Glades Lake which is a favorite location for shooting sunsets in the Everglades. As expected, the clouds were amazing.  The water levels there were very high covering all the rocks we like to use for foreground anchors, but the water was so still, the reflections were amazing.  The bugs?  Well, they were out there. I always wear long sleeves and long pants when I'm out in the glades (and a hat of course), but I still sprayed myself with bug spray. It doesn't phase the horseflies though.  They are immune to the stuff.  But despite the bugs,  it was a great afternoon to see a sunset in the Everglades especially with the thunderheads in the distance.  No lightning, but hopefully I'll capture that next time.  Hopefully when the next new moon comes, I'll try the sky shots again.

The above image is a 3 image HDR which I converted to B&W using Nik Silver Efx Pro.

See you out in the field.

See more of my images from Everglades National Park on my website at

Pike County Waterfalls

Here's my latest video of some of the beautiful waterfalls I photographed in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania in the Delaware River Gap National Recreation Area a few weeks ago.

© 2010 Michael Pancier Photography

Please visit my website at www.michaelpancierphotography.com

Labor Day Weekend - 2010

Have a Safe and Fun Filled Labor Day Weekend as You Say Goodbye to the Summer of 2010.

Beach Happy
Model: Kelly Szabo

For photo sessions/bookings, and/or purchasing fine art prints, please visit my website at www.michaelpancierphotography.com

No Neon Rainbows - Just Beach

Ocean Drive - South Miami Beach
The neon rainbow on Ocean Drive, on South Miami Beach. It's fun to photograph. But it's like any other prepackaged city: artificial colors and flavor.  An artificial high. I so much prefer the image below, of the Maine coast in Acadia National Park: all natural, no artificial colors or flavor, full of life. I can only imagine how amazing "Ocean Drive" would be if they had simply left it alone. No hotels. No lights. No cars. No Clubs. No Neon. No throngs of people. Just ocean. Just Sand Dunes. No artificial sounds or sights or people. Pristine Beach.  Just Beach.
Acadia National Park - Maine
They paved paradise, And put up a parking lot.
With a pink hotel, a boutique, And a swinging hot spot
Don't it always seem to go, That you don't know what you've got,  Till it's gone
They paved paradise, And put up a parking lot.
-- Joni Mitchell

My Newest Love - The Smokies & The Blue Ridge Mountains

Big Witch Overlook - Swain County, NC
It has been over a month since I returned from my trek to the Smokies and the Blue Ridge Mountains. My only regret is that a week is simply not enough time to really enjoy and explore Appalachia.  After four days in the Smokies,  I decided to explore the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Southernmost Point in Cherokee, NC up north to Mabry Mill, Virginia, approx. 283 miles.  I figured the best location for base camp would be Blowing Rock, North Carolina, which was a good midpoint for the locations I wanted to see and photograph.
Waterrock Knob Overlook 
Linville Ridge -  Banner Elk, NC

Heading north on the BRP from Cherokee,  is one of the most beautiful drives you'll ever experience. You're essentially driving through some of the highest peaks in North Carolina with amazing views everywhere you look.   The first set of views are of the Smokies and as you head further north,  you start seeing the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  You have to drive slow on this road, not just for safety, but to truly enjoy the scenery. Because it was the middle of summer, the scenes and lighting really lent themselves to B&W and infrared photography as well especially during those non-golden hours. There are so many overlooks along the highway, it is hard to decide sometimes, if you're gonna stop to take pics or simply enjoy the views, or if you're gonna skip the stop to head to the main stops on your agenda.  Of course, my plan was to try to see as many waterfalls as I could along the way.
Graveyard Fields - NC

Of course when seeing waterfalls, you're also talking about hiking some steep trails. I love it. It's quite an exhilarating feeling after hiking the trails to get to the cool refreshing waterfalls.  Two of the falls along the route were Graveyard Falls, seen above, and the real big daddy on the Parkway, Linville Falls.
Upper Linville Falls - Linville, NC
 Linville Falls is a multi-tiered waterfall, The Upper falls, seen above, are about a mile or so from the visitor center.  It's a fantastic hike, mostly in shade. Lots of birds under the tree canopies too.  Painted Buntings, pileated woodpeckers, bluebirds, and birds I had no clue what they were. Of course, when I got to the Upper Falls, it was not prime waterfall photography conditions. It was a bright, sun shiny day. Even with a polarizer and my camera on ISO 50, and lens at f/22, still getting shutter speeds way to fast to get blurred water effect.  So, out comes my 8x neutral density filter. Pop that on, even in bright sunny weather, and I got my 4 second exposures.  The lower falls is quite large.  To get the view from above, you have to hike about another half mile or so.  A 70-200 comes in handy here.

Lower Linville Falls

Grandfather Mountain is kind of a tourist trap, but it was worth it. (Make sure you ask for your AAA discount).  The drive up that steep road with those hairpin turns was scary, but at least the road was paved. Much better than those steep muddy mountain dirt roads I drove back in Cataloochee. Some nice views and gardens, and animals up there, but too many people. One of the things I enjoy the most about being out there in the mountains, is being away from people; especially those who don't appreciate nature.  Nothing worse than having the sounds of a mountain stream drowned out by the sound of loud motorcycle pipes. But I digress.  And, while I am digressing, I can tell you about my hellish trip to Blowing Rock.  After I had shot about as much as I could along the southern end of the BRP,  I decided to head on the interstate to make up some time and make it to Blowing Rock so I could eat some find North Carolina BBQ at the Woodlands, BBQ; which to my good fortune, was across the street from my hotel.  I made great time up there, but where I was only 15 miles from the hotel, I ran into a detour.  Seems that they closed the southern route into Blowing Rock as a result of a new road construction project being paid for by Stimulus Funds.  Gee, I think fixing the roads is great, but this detour forced me to drive over 2 hours and come in through Boone on the North, and even worse, I was forced to eat BK food. Oh, the humanity.  I got into Blowing Rock at 11pm instead of 8:30. Of course, the damn GPS didn't help since it kept wanting me to make a friggin U-turn toward the closed road. But I'm done digressing.

Cascade Waterfall - MP 271.9
The Cascade waterfalls were quite a site. Really huge falls, unfortunately, you cannot hike to the bottom; no safe trails.  You have to hike to the middle of the falls.  Unfortunately again, I had really harsh lighting, but got some usable shots using the ND filter once again. As you continue north along the BRP,  the scenery changes a bit and you start driving through lots of farmlands and get to see a lot of rustic looking historic cabins as well.
West Jefferson, NC
As you head further north along the BRP,  you can't help but stop and smell the wildflowers and photograph the mountains. They call to me as they called to John Muir. Even in harsh light, I got some cool shots by simply going in black and white, as I did in the selected images below.

Pucket Cabin- Hillsville, Va
I had originally wanted to drive up to the James River in Virginia, but time would not have it. So, I made Mabry Mill my final northern destination on my trek through the Blue Ridge Mountains.  What really made the drive so special to me was my cranking up my bluegrass collection on the stereo (via my ipod). Nothing compares like listening to Ralph Stanley along the parkway.  Really gives you the full sensory feel of Appalachia.  Just before I made it to Mabry Mill, I stopped at the Blue Ridge Music Center near Galaxa, Virginia.  This place is really cool.  I arrived on open jam day. All the banjo pickers, guitar pickers, fiddlers, dobro and dulcimer players, mandolin players; they would come on in; pull out their instruments and jam to old blue grass and folk songs. I was really taking to this old time banjo picker. When he hang, you could hear the Appalachian Mountains calling. What a treat. I sat myself in a rocking chair with my little girl in my lap and spent a relaxing hour listening to the mountain songs.

Blue Ridge Music Center
Banjo Picker
So I made it to Mabry Mill. This is an amazing photogenic location. I've seen photos there in fall and winter which are exploding with color. I arrive in the middle of summer, even after 6:30 p.m., and the light is harsh and contrasty. Terrible light for color photography.  So I pull out the infrared camera again, and take one of my favorite photos on this trip.

Mabry Mill - Va
The scene looked ethereal. I even got a goose in the shot. Imagine that. This photo made the trip worth it. So after the park closed, I started the drive back south towards Blowing Rock. After a while, the sun starts to set. I wanted to get a sunset shot, but did not know where to go. None of the books I had tell you the prime locations. But as fate would have it,  as I approached Obids, NC,  I see a bunch of folks pulled off the road, in beach chairs, simply staring at the sky waiting for the sunset. I too pull over and stand there in awe of the view. I took my last shots of the day, and the last shots from the Blue Ridge Parkway: The sun faded away, the folks packed up their chairs and drove away along the winding mountain road.

Blue Ridge Sunset - Obids, NC
It was time to head back to Blowing Rock. Time to pack, and get ready for the trip back to Hialeah, via Savannah. Time to Roll. A lasting memory and now a place I must return to in fall and winter. These mountains are truly my newest love.

All Images © 2010 by Michael Pancier Photography
All Rights Reserved

Please visit my website at www.michaelpancierphotography.com


Nik HDR Efex Pro - This is Revolutionary Folks

I'm sold. When can I get it????

Finding Buried Treasure - Mom in Miami circa 1960

Olga Diaz walking along Downtown Miami
It's been nearly a year and a half since my mom passed away and as continue to go through the things that she collected during her lifetime in exile (1958-2008),  I'm still finding buried treasure; namely photos of my mom and dad from their younger days.  First of all, there are very few images of my mom prior to her arrival in the United States.  They were not allowed to bring photos out of Cuba, so there, they remained and probably lost to the ages.  As to the photos of my mom during her 20's as a single woman in Miami and as a newlywed in 1961,  there are also very few pictures that exist.  My dad used a medium format camera back then.  Strangely, some of the pictures, the B&W's are in decent shape.  The color images? Well, a lot of them faded, but some are as vivid as the day they were taken. Must have been the film stock my dad was using back then.  All the negatives were lost long ago, so these prints are all I have.  Even most of the photos of my youth, my early birthday parties, have faded to the point that even restoration cannot bring them back. 

For the last 6 months, I have been putting all these old pictures together, including my first photos on 35mm from the 1970's and beyond, and I have been sending them to Scancafe for scanning and restoration.  I hope to organize the images and have them printed in photo books so my kids will be able to see where they came from and how their grandparents and parents lived in the old days of the 20th century.  It's wild finding these pictures of my mom and my aunt when they were in their early 20's; they looked fantastic.  I just wish there were more photos taken by them, especially of the places they lived and the city as well.  People change and so do their homes and cities.  Miami has changed so much since I was a kid, I only wish I had seriously photographed the city a lot more in the 1970's and 1980's, especially the landmarks that no longer exist. 

The picture posted here is one that has captivated me.   First of all, a large chunk on the lefthand corner had been ripped and gone.  The folks at Scancafe did a great job in restoring this picture for me. I love this picture not only cause it's my mom, but it is simply an amazing image.  First, it shows off old Miami, the old cars, Biscayne Blvd. when it had all the coconut palms. Second it shows my mom, in her early 20's, beautiful, vibrant, ready to take on the world, and of course her amazing smile that has enthralled so many people throughout the years. 

When I finally get to printing that photo book of my mom's life in pictures, I think this one will grace the cover.

So some advice to you all,  get all the photos of you and your family, of your parents and grandparents, and great grand parents, anything you have, and get them scanned and restored. If the pics are in old albums, take them out if you can before the chemicals in the plastics destroy your photos. If you have negatives,  scan them and sleeve the negatives and keep them in special photo boxes to preserve them.

You can then organize the scans using programs such as lightroom and you can then create photo books.  The pictures will be there in a book for everyone to enjoy; the quality will be superior, and you'll have the scans backed up in multiple formats in your archives just in case something happens to the photo book. 

Now back to your regular programming.  

Visions of the Great Smoky Mountains

I finally produced a video of my stills and video of the sights and sounds of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as seen by me this summer.  I've captured lots of streams, rivers, and waterfalls as well as a panoply of wildlife and mountain visions. The mountains are calling so I must go ....

Enjoy ...


My Newest Love - The Great Smoky Mountains - Part 3

Sunrise from Clingmans Dome
I have been to the mountain top and I stood at the highest point in Tennessee at 6,643 feet of elevation. It was the middle of July and the temperature was in the 50's.  Something told me I wasn't in Florida anymore; Hialeah, Florida - Elevation 7 feet.  I was driving into Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Gatlinburg at six something in the morning. Can't even find a place to get coffee in Gatlinburg at that time. (Never heard of a place with no Dunkin Donuts in sight).  I wanted to shoot sunrise from Clingmans Dome.  I was only 15 miles away, but driving along US-441 through the mountainous switchbacks and hairpin turns in the park, I was looking at a 30 minute drive.  I made it to Clingmans Dome road. Talk about a steep and narrow winding road.  I was running late.  The light was amazing.  I debated whether to stop and shoot, or make it to the top of the State of Tennessee. I opted to stop and got the above shot of the morning sun over the layers and textures called the Smoky Mountains.  It was quite a sight to behold.  I made it to the top of the mountain only to find thick fog; visibility....zero.  I'm glad I stopped.  When you have an opportunity in front of you,  I've learned it's a mistake to pass it by in the hope that a better opportunity can be found on the top of the mountain.  
Eastern Phoebe
As I mentioned in my earlier post,  if you want to enjoy nature and the Smokies, you need to get up early.  The park was mine at 7:00am.  I had birds all around me like the Eastern Phoebe.  The rivers and streams were mine.  No tourists. I was one with the forest and the river.  They are alive.  The mountains are alive and I hear their call as John Muir did.  I have no worries in the mountains, except to keep my senses aware of the occasional bear. The only sound around me though was the sound of the streams and waterfalls.  What is it about waterfalls that attract me to them? I will hike for miles just to see one. The Smokies has a lot of them; as does the states of North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
Laurel Falls
Black Bear at Laurel Falls
The hike to Laurel Falls is a great hike. It is mostly under a tree canopy so you're out of the sun. It's about a 1.3 mile hike each way. And the latter part of the hike can be interesting. First, it's quite narrow. You have the side of the mountain on one end, and a cliff on the other.  While on my hike to the falls,  I noticed that the hikers on the trail had come to a stop in front of me. Reason? Bear.  A baby bear was on the trail, and smartly, none of us wanted to try to pass him as mama bear would surely be close by. So we waited, until the baby bear decided to leave the trail and we could continue on to the falls.  When we got near the falls,  we came to another stop as mama bear was right at the falls. The light was so poor I couldn't get a decent shot. But I got to see a wild bear and that definately made my day.  After the bear took off, I managed to get my waterfall shots.  Laurel Falls is one of the more beautiful falls in the park, even more so when the flow is stronger than what it was in mid July. I really wanted to jump under the falls, but it was not allowed. I'm sure it felt good.  Unlike the top of Clingmans Dome,  it was a tad warmer and more humid at Laurel Falls and I was drenched, and not in a good refreshing way.

On the North Carolina Side of the park are several waterfalls which are worth visiting.  In Bryson City, you have a series of falls along the Indian Creek Trail. The Juney Whank Falls and Tom Branch Falls.

While in this part of the park, I learned once again, that lack of preparation causes you to waste time.  I was so excited to get on the hiking trail, that I neglected to pick up a trail map. I had a map on my iPhone, but it was less than adequate.  I found the first waterfall (Juney Whank - see above),  but the other falls, I couldn't find them. I ended up taking the long way to them and lost some valuable light. Nevertheless, I did fine Tom Branch Falls, and was quite pleased to have just enough light to capture it.  The River here is very popular for tubing, especially in summer. Now I know this for my next trip.

Rafting on the Pigeon River
Tom Branch Falls
Mingo Falls
While I don't mind hiking in the mountains. I sure hate driving in them.  Many of the mountain roads out there are dirt roads; they are narrow. There are no railings. You have a cliff on one end and the side of the mountain on the other. And...you have folks driving on those roads talking on their cell phones and speeding which makes driving on these mountain roads an adventure in trying not to crap your pants.  Of course, my kids were in the back of the vehicle playing with the Nintendo DS games as if nothing, while I was honking on every turn. Cataloochee is not an area I want to visit again unless someone better experienced in driving mountain roads is driving.  On that road,  you have to finish it to the end as there is no way to turn back. Took me hours. I got no decent images. But all was not lost. On my way back into the park, I stopped by the Cherokee Nation to see Mingo Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the area. And after getting my shots of Mingo Falls,  I finally got to see and photograph some Elk. Those are large critters.  The bucks that were out by the side of the road were drawing a huge crowd. But the annoying thing that I encountered were these numnuts out there who ignored all the posted signs about harassing the wildlife.  One "redneck" went out and got in front of the large Buck (within charging distance) and started making mating calls to it and then was yelling out loud in front of all the kids out there "This buck's gonna want to have sex with you, so be careful."  Geesh. I bet the Elk looked at that moh-ron, and said to himself in Elk language,  "what an butthead!"  If the Buck didn't think it, I sure did. Normally, I photograph a lot of these "idiots" and post their images on the net.  The one above I photographed while he and his family were getting within 5 feet of a bunch of deer in Cades Cove to take photos with their point & shoot cameras. Of course, to get to the deer they had to pass the sign by the chicken wire fences which warned the folks to stay away from the wildlife and not to harass them.  It's like the folks that ignore the loose rocks signs on the Grand Canyon to pose for pictures and wonder why they fall. What can you do?  Well,  let it be known, if I catch you in a National Park harassing wildlife, and you're in range of my lens, you're gonna be photographed and posted on the net. Of course, the other thing I notice that was odd, was that there are so many folks out in the park that insist on wearing flip flops on hiking trails. What are these guys thinking?
Buck Sticking His Tongue At Redneck
One thing for sure, despite the obnoxious rednecks,  the mountain roads,  they were but grains of sand in the whole scheme of things.  The sunrise, waterfalls, bears and elk, were enough to make my day.  As I headed out of the park that evening, I sent my thanks to the mountains.  I shall return I told them. The mountains said, "y'all come on back now, ya hear!"
"Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean."
-- John Muir

Take Me to the River

"Green River Overlook"
Canyonlands National Park - Moab, Utah

"Night and day the river flows. If time is the mind of space, the River is the soul of the desert. Brave boatmen come, they go, they die, the voyage flows on forever. We are all canyoneers. We are all passengers on this little mossy ship, this delicate dory sailing round the sun that humans call the earth. Joy, shipmates, joy."
Edward Abbey, The Hidden Canyon -- A River Journey

Please visit my website at www.michaelpancierphotography.com


My Newest Love - The Great Smoky Mountains - Part 2

Driving through Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the first time, I stopped at New Found Gap to catch the final rays of sunlight and the park’s metamorphosis at dusk.  New Found Gap is at one of the higher points of elevation in the park at an elevation of 5,046 feet.  The drive is a challenge for those who are flatlanders like me. Starting from Cherokee, North Carolina, you climb approximately 3,000 feet, ascending through cove hardwood, pine-oak, and northern hardwood forest to attain the evergreen spruce-fir forest at Newfound Gap. This fragrant evergreen woodland is similar to the boreal forests of New England and eastern Canada; not the South.  Here, the border between the states of North Carolina and Tennessee runs right threw the gap.  A view from the overlook is anchored by summer wildflowers (sunflowers), which lead you to the rolling hills and the serpentine road that runs through it.  The Appalachian Trail runs through there as well, which I ended up hiking for a half mile a few days later.

As I drifted further into the evening, I drove down to an overlook adjacent to Morton’s Overlook.  The fog started to roll in above me at New Found Gap and Clingmans Dome, as well as in the valley below.  It was chilly up there; a strange sensation in Mid July.  It was an amazing view.  And though there were the share of tourists; naturalists, photographers, and regular folks just passing through, by and by, the folks soaked it up.  There’s an amazing peace to be found in the Smokies. It did not suck, that’s for sure.  Exiting the last 15 miles out of the park towards Gatlinburg was nerve racking, especially in the pitch darkness.  But as I finally left the sanctuary of the park, I then entered a no man’s land; Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

It was nine o’clock on a Saturday night and all I could see was wall-to-wall people everywhere; bright lights; tourist traps and noise; and a traffic jam that took ½ hour to travel 3 blocks.  It was amazing how a mere 15 miles could separate Heaven from the third circle of Dante’s Inferno.  All I could say to myself was, “someone get me out of this place.”  I wanted to escape civilization; not become a prisoner of it again.

I finally made it to my hotel; a regular dive that looked nothing like it did on the Internet when I booked it. (Next time, I’m staying in Cherokee or anywhere outside of Gatlinburg). Why folks love that place, I have no clue. It reminds me of Highway 192 in Kissimmee, Florida when that was the only place to stay when you visited Walt Disney World.  Throngs of people in flip flops and biker outfits wandering about town in search of pancakes. Lord help me! But alas, I knew that the next day, I’d be up before dawn. All these folks would be sleeping until 9am and I would be enjoying the Smokies to myself (along with the other nature lovers and photographers).

It was Sunday morning and my plan was to possibly catch a nice sunrise and then to photograph the rivers and streams along Little River Road.  While I’ve always had the Atlantic Ocean and at time the Gulf of Mexico in my backyard, I’ve always had a fascination for rivers and streams.  We’ve got some nice ones in Florida, but nothing like what you experience in the Smokies and Blue Ridge Mountains, especially the waterfalls. (There are salso ome amazing waterfalls and streams up in the Delaware River Gap NRA in Pennsylvania that I’ve photographed, but that’s for another blog entry).  I found an overlook with some amazing clouds and I took some sunrise shots with my Canon G10. My perfect companion when you don't feel like setting up all your other gear. A great way to start my adventure in the Smokies.

I think it was Mark Train perhaps that gave me my first fascination with rivers.  I wanted to be Huck Finn on that raft.  Being on a river for me means freedom.  Like Huck Finn, being on a river is the way out of all that is evil with the world. I’ve always dreamed of rafting the great rivers of the United States like the Mississippi or the Colorado. But that’s a future adventure.  The streams in the Smokies, at least on Little River Road, won’t get you too far in a raft, they aren’t too deep, but the stream is strong.  (I saw some great white water rafting opportunities there on the other side of the park, but that will be for another day as well).  I love the sound of the rushing water.  Out there, while I either waded in the cold river waters or set up my tripod along the banks in search of a composition, I just savored the sanctuary it brought me.  The sound of rushing waters is so calming.  The lush greens all around me. Simply spectacular.  The waters are clean as is the air.  They’ve not been soiled to the point that you fear for your life sticking your feet in the river or drinking its waters. Even getting rained on was great and refreshing there. I didn't mind it.

As I mentioned in my prior post which quoted Edward Abbey,  if we can’t drink from our own rivers,  then it’s time for us to leave this place or even better, get rid of those people and things that contaminate and poison our rivers. Better they leave than us, no?

Besides the great images one can get on this road of blurred waters along the lush and rocky cascades, there are two waterfalls on this route, the Sinks and Meigs Falls (image above).  You could easily pass them if you don’t have a map. This place is a treasure.  It has everything a human being could want. Mountains, forests, rivers, waterfalls, wildlife, lack of civilization; it's my kind of place.

Along this route, the river runs fast at the Sinks (image below).  They have signs posted all around not to swim there as folks have been caught in the currents and drowned there. I guess people ignore the warnings. It was raining when I got there. Had it to myself for photography purposes.  It truly is one of the great pleasures for a photographer; to have  a national park all to yourself.  Now what did tick me off is that some moron decided to post a warning sign right in the falls itself thus ruining any attempt to photograph the waterfall. Sign cloned out thanks to Photoshop. But please Mr. Park Ranger, Sir,  keep the landscape pristine and don't post signs right next to the friggin falls. Thank you.
"The Sinks" 

It's advisable if you are going to spend your day in the Smokies to pack a cooler and bring your on grub and drinks. There are no Coke Machines in the Smokies. I like it that way.  Nothing better than to have lunch along the side of a rushing stream, under the canopy of lush green trees, away from the audible and visible pollution created by human kind.
Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod,
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?
Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.
On the margin of the river,
Washing up its silver spray,
We will talk and worship ever,
All the happy golden day.
--- Robert Lowry
All Images © 2010  Michael Pancier Photography


Please visit my website at www.michaelpancierphotography.com