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


Words of Wisdom

"When a man must be afraid to drink freely from his country's rivers and streams that country is no longer fit to live in. Time then to move on, to find another country or -- in the name of Jefferson -- to make another country." 
         - Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Happy Birthday Pop

The old man would have been 86 today. Here's a photo of him from the 1950's as a young man.

It's been 16 years already since you left this cesspool we call civilization.  Your grandchildren are well and healthy. I wish you would have met them and that they would have met you to laugh at your jokes.

I show them your pictures. I've restored and scanned all of them.  Say hi to Mom for me.



Please Vote to Help The Smokies

Being that I just came back from this amazing place,  I come to learn that the Coca Cola Company has a contest called America's Favorite Park.  The park with the most votes gets a $ 100,000 grant from Coca Cola.  It appears many folks don't know about this contest since a state park in Minnesota seems to be out polling all of the other national parks including the Smokies, which given the fact that the Smoky Mountain NP is the most visited park in the United States (and has no entrance fees),  one would think the Smokies would be up there. The contest runs out on 8/31 and you can vote as many times as you want.  Please get out the vote and pass the word to vote for the Smokies, which truly is America's Park and is clearly America's Favorite Park by the numbers alone.

The website for the contest is: http://www.livepositively.com/#/americasparks/vote

My Newest Love - The Great Smoky Mountains - Part 1

 "After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on–have found that none of these satisfy, or permanently wear–what remains? Nature remains. " –WALT WHITMAN

To some folks there is only one love. To others, there are many.  For me,  I've always had a driving passion for the wilderness.  Living here in South Florida, it is easy to understand how my first love has been and continues to be Everglades National Park.  As a photographer,  my passion for the park grew stronger after seeing the work of Clyde Butcher (B&W Landscapes) and Art Morris (avian), and I've been headed out there now most frequently.  My passion took on a different course one day when I saw a post on a photographer site back in the days before Flickr of images from Arches National Park and the Wave in Coyote Buttes South in Utah and Arizona, respectively.  I made a note to myself that I had to see these sites with my own eyes.  I made it to the Southwest US for the first time in Spring 2007 and immediately fell in love with the Landscape, having seen and photographed the Nevada Desert, Zion, Bryce, and Page, Az. I vowed to return, which I did.  In 2008 and 2009,  I managed to visit Death Valley National Park,  Red Rock Canyon Nat. Mon. in Nevada, Sedona, Flagstaff, and the crown jewel,  Grand Canyon National Park.  The Grand Canyon was so amazing, I visited it twice in 2009.  But what truly was an amazing experience for me was finally seeing the Wave in February 2008 and Arches & Canyonlands National Park in February 2009. To this day, those have been some of the most amazing landscapes I have ever seen and of course I've vowed to return.  

Now in the Fall of 2009,  while on a family trip, I discovered a treasure much closer to home; totally different from the southwest. Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.  Seeing the lush mountains and forests and waterfalls in Autumn stroke a new chord in me.  But,  this new love for the mountains of Appalachia did not come to full fruition until I decided to stay in the car and spend 10 days in the Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains.  You cannot compare it to the landscapes of the Southwest, because it is not the Southwest. It is a different state of mind, but beautiful nonetheless. As you head west down the interstate in North Carolina and you start to see the landscape change, with the mountain range in front of you, you realize you're not in the flat boring east coast anymore. 

Arriving in Cherokee, NC and entering the park via US-441 is like a trip through Eden.  Lush rich forests, rivers, streams all intertwined between the mountain road. And when you find a place to stop, and you head down to the river or an overlook of the landscape,  you see wilderness and the beauty of lines and curves formed by the mountainous landscape outlined by summer wildflowers.

Going down to the side of the rushing river and stream and hearing nothing but the sound of the rushing waters and it was pure love for me.  I truly hate civilization.  Our modern day civilization is nothing but a cacophony of noise, violence, pollution, hatred. Being in the National Parks and especially in the Smokies is an oasis away from man's cesspool.  You breathe clean air and most of all, you get away from the sound of man.  I cannot tell you how much I appreciate quiet. Just hearing the sounds of the earth and of nature.  While photographing these streams under the canopy of the lush green forests, I could see eastern bluebirds all around me. Not something we tend to see in South Florida.  In fact, there was no shortage of songbirds all around me in the hills of Tennessee and North Carolina. I have found my new place to get away from the world. It wasn't the desert. But it truly is another corner of Heaven.
All images © 2010 by Michael Pancier Photography


Please visit my website at www.michaelpancierphotography.com

A Philosophy to Live By

 Great Smoky Mountain National Park
© 2010 Michael Pancier Photography
Do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am. A reluctant enthusiast and part-time crusader. A half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the West. It is even more important to enjoy it while you can, while it’s still there. So get out there, hunt, fish, mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the Griz, climb a mountain, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and elusive air. Sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness of the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves. Keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive. And I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound people with their hearts in safe deposit boxes and their eyes hypnotized by their desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards. –EDWARD ABBEY

Are You Ready for Some Dolphin's Football?

Spent the day yesterday at the 2010 Miami Dolphin Training Camp.  I can't believe another year has gone by already so fast.  This time I took my camera and a telephoto zoom (took a 75-300 in that they did not allow lenses larger than 8" in to the practice).  I almost was not allowed to use it until I showed the guy there that the reason it looked larger was the lens hood. So he told me to take pics without the lens hood so the coaches would not get upset.  I obliged.  In any event,  I got some really cool pictures this time and is probably one of the few times I can get this close to NFL players without a press pass.

I put together this video slideshow of some of my favorite shots I got there yesterday afternoon in the 95+ degree heat in Davie, Florida.

If you'd like to see the pics in more detail you can see them here at my Miami Dolphins Flickr set.

So are you ready for some football? 

When you're done, please visit my website or my new Facebook Fan Page to see my latest stuff.