Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN | Oct 2021

Wildlife, water, and mountain landscapes in beautiful fall color

Great Smoky Mountains, Oct 20-23, 2021

Just the Facts

  • Date:  October 20-23, 2021
  • Leaders: Tom Haxby and Hank Erdmann
  • Cost:  $495 NANPA member; $695 non-members.
  • Location:  Gatlinburg, TN
  • Last date to register: August 20, 2021
  • Maximum number attendees:  30
Big Creek Fall Stream. Even fallen leaves can add color to a stream in the Smokies, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee © Tom Haxby

Event Overview

Experience Great Smoky Mountains National Park, also known as “the Smokies,” with Tom Haxby, Hank Erdmann, and Richard Day, three nature photography guides who know it well. The Smokies are known for their brilliant fall colors—purples, reds, oranges and yellows of more than 100 species of native trees—as well as spectacular mountain and water views.

We’ll start early each morning to take advantage of early light and wildlife activity, and end our days at peaks to capture sunsets over the mountains. In between sunrise and sunset, we’ll seek out intimate stream scenes. Fall is a popular tourist season in the Smokies, but Tom, Hank, and Richard will help you avoid the most crowded areas and times in the park.

If you’re looking for breathtaking landscape images and opportunities to photograph bears, turkey, deer, elk, coyote, and fox, plus native deciduous trees, wildflowers, and more, this regional event is for you. Fall is idyllic in the Southern Appalachians, cool nights and warm days are ideal for outdoor photo adventures.

What to Expect

Nature photographers at all levels of experience are welcome. Tom, Hank, and Richard will assist you in finding the best photographic opportunities. Assistance will be available in the field for those who wish to improve their photography skills.

Conditions in the field will vary. Walking distances will be minimal, and we will work carefully around streams with uneven footing.

We will concentrate on getting the best possible images while adhering to responsible wildlife guidelines set forth by the National Park Service. We will be extra careful not to disturb our subjects and practice ethical wildlife viewing.

Smokies Wildlife. Bears are active in the fall and can be found throughout the park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee © Tom Haxby

2021 Great Smoky Mountains National Park Regional Event Cancellation and No Refund Policy: NANPA will not offer any refunds for registrations for this event regardless of when the cancellation is made or the reason for the cancellation. NANPA reserves the right to cancel any event or activity due to insufficient registration or any unforeseen circumstances. NANPA will offer refunds if NANPA has to cancel the event. It also has the right to substitute presenters if those originally scheduled cannot attend. Registrants may purchase event insurance as part of the registration process through NANPA’s partner, Allianz. More information on this option will be shown during the checkout process for the event registration.

NOTE: If you do not purchase event insurance at the time that you pay for your registration, you will NOT be able to go back and purchase it with Allianz later.

If you choose to purchase travel insurance separately, you can do so with your own insurance carrier, or NANPA members can receive a special travel insurance rate through USI Affinity/Travel Insurance Services.


Tom Haxby

Award-winning photographer Tom Haxby served as Artist-in-Residence in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the fall of 2016 and as a NANPA High School Scholarship Program instructor in the Smokies for two seasons. He has led numerous workshops and programs on wildlife and landscape photography throughout northern Michigan and has published photos and stories in regional and national magazines. Tom retired after nearly 26 years as a natural resource manager, which still influences his photography today. He currently resides near Traverse City, Michigan, and frequently visits the Great Smoky Mountains.

Tom Haxby, photo by Terry Clark

Hank Erdmann

Hank Erdmann is a professional natural history photographer and photographic educator who resides in Will County, Illinois.  He has photographed throughout North America, making the Midwest his primary geographic area of interest.  A love of history, especially the maritime history of the Great Lakes, kindles a special interest in the ports, shorelines, islands and natural areas of Lakes Michigan and Superior. Hank has taught workshops and led photography tours since 1983 in places such as Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  He helped start the photography program at The Morton Arboretum near Chicago. Hank currently teaches workshops at the Clearing Folk School in Door County, Wisconsin and other organizations in the Chicago area.

Hank Erdmann

Richard Day

A professional nature photographer, Richard Day has been publishing photos and teaching photo workshops since 1984. He specializes in birds, mammals, insects, and landscape images. His work has been published in Audubon, Birds & Blooms, National Wildlife, National Geographic and hundreds of other nature-related publications, calendars, and books worldwide. Richard leads photo tours throughout North America, teaches butterfly and dragonfly workshops, and was a guide for Frontiers North Adventures leading tours to photograph polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba, for 14 years.  He has presented at NANPA Summits, Road Shows, and has been a NANPA Regional Events leader—to the Smokies in 2010 and 2012 and to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in 2019.

Richard is also an Adjunct Research Associate in Zoology with the Illinois State Museum and an Associate Research Scientist at the Illinois Natural History Survey. He has conducted Odonata and Lepidoptera research since 2005 for the states of Illinois and Missouri, including research work on the Hines emerald dragonfly, a Federally Endangered species.   

Richard owns Daybreak Imagery, a stock photography and writing business, near Alma, Illinois. You can learn more about Richard at

Richard Day
Sun burst through the tree with a mountain peak in the distance in Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee © Tom Haxby

Potential Locations for Great Smoky Mountains Regional Event    

Leaders are very familiar with all sites and will have scouted the areas prior to the event. We will photograph in the areas that offer the best photography opportunities at the time of the event. We will visit some of the iconic locations that are most popular in the Great Smoky Mountains. Additionally, we will be visiting some less visited places that offer opportunities many photographers may miss.

Foothills Parkway: One of the best sunrise locations near the park, long vistas often with morning fog creating “islands” in the clouds.

Middle Prong: River scenes and details abound with small cascades and waterfalls

Cades Cove: Valley nestled in mountains, possible wildlife; bears, deer, fox, coyote, turkey, horses. Historic churches and restored settlement buildings. Scenics.

Morton Overlook & Clingmans Dome: Mountain views for sunsets.

Possible Alternative Sites: Roaring Fork Motor Trail – Historic buildings, stream scenes

Preliminary Itinerary

Attendees should bring snacks and waterproof footwear for Cades mornings or streams.

Wednesday, Oct 20
Evening Meet-and-Greet.
Confirm itinerary and locations, Q&A

Thursday, Oct. 21

Group A
Morning Shoot: Cades Cove
Evening Shoot: Morton Overlook

Group B
Morning Shoot: Sunrise “new section” of Foothills Parkway
Evening Shoot: Clingmans Dome

Friday, Oct. 22

Group A
Morning Shoot: Sunrise “new section” of Foothills Parkway
Evening Shoot: Clingmans Dome

Group B
Morning Shoot: Cades Cove
Evening Shoot: Morton Overlook

Saturday, Oct. 23
Morning Shoot: Middle Prong


Tremont Lodge & Resort
7726 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway
Townsend, TN 37882
Phone:  865-448-3200

Rates: $116/night plus tax Wednesday and Thursday; $124/night plus tax Friday and Saturday

Reservations: Guests must call the hotel directly to obtain these rates and mention that they are with the North American Nature Photography Association Group Block. Group # 1430.

Cut-Off Date for hotel rate is September 20, 2021

Authorized permittee of the National Park Service