Elk Rut and Blue Ridge Parkway with Tom Croce

Join us in the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains for three days of photographing elk in the Cataloochee Valley and landscapes and fall color along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The weather is always a determining factor in the exact schedule, but tentatively we will plan on spending one or two evenings along the Blue Ridge Parkway photographing the iconic blue layered mountains of the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, Mornings will be spent in the Cataloochee Valley photographing the elk. I have been visiting the Valley for over 10 years to photograph elk during the rut when they are most active.

Autumn in Romania with Daniel J. And Tanya Cox

Romania—it’s a land of intricately painted monasteries and the home of Dracula. It’s Belle Époque buildings and the Arc de Triumph in Bucharest. It’s pastoral countryside, Balkan cuisine, and the Carpathian Mountains. The brilliant fall foliage is the perfect backdrop for a wealth of castles, fortified churches, and centuries-old houses. Go back in time to the little villages in the countryside where horse and buggies are still a way of life.

Join us as we explore the many facets of Romania on this autumn excursion. We’ll follow Dracula’s trail and explore Romania’s history, culture, and scenic beauty.

Finding Fall Foliage

Fall foliage at Glade Creek Grist Mill, Babcock State Park, WV.
Glade Creek Grist Mill, Babcock State Park, WV.

Story & photo by Frank Gallagher

Welcome to October and to (we hope) the brilliant colors of fall foliage. If you’re like many photographers, this is a favorite time of year. The vibrant hues of the leaves make for beautiful landscapes, intimate scenes, still lives and macros. If you live in Vermont or Jackson Hole, maybe you can just look out the window to predict color but, for the rest of us who have to travel to find it, how can we plan our photo outings to capture peak color?

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The Excellent Unknown by Sean Bagshaw

On the Verge, Colorado, 2014. © Sean Bagshaw

On the Verge, Colorado, 2014. © Sean Bagshaw

Images and Text by Sean Bagshaw

As outdoor photographers, we work in conditions beyond our control. Fortunately the unpredictable, whimsical and surprising elements of weather and landscape are also what can make it so engaging and fulfilling. Attempting to photograph the landscape in its defining moments has lead me to some formative life experiences, experiences that have taught me to look closely, wait patiently, see deeply and appreciate fully.

Consider an autumn photography trip I took several years ago. Excited by the promise of fall color and dramatic skies, I crossed Oregon, bound for Montana and Idaho. 1,200 miles later I arrived at Glacier National Park on the edge of an approaching storm. Hunkered in my van, I was buffeted by high winds and rain for four days, during which I was able to take photos for perhaps an hour or two. I never did see any of the famous peaks or glaciers on that visit.

Undeterred, I headed south in hopes of better weather. In the Sawtooth Range of Idaho, low cloud cover and snow kept the mountains hidden for all but a few minutes of the next four days. Windblown rain spotted my lens and blurred the aspen leaves in my low light exposures. During the long stretches of time alone in my van, I read, scouted locations, and studied the landscape and weather. I got up before dawn in order to be ready if the sun broke through. It didn’t.

Somewhere Autumn, Colorado, 2014. © Sean Bagshaw

Somewhere Autumn, Colorado, 2014. © Sean Bagshaw

The mountains were still shrouded when my time came to an end. As I drove back across the high desert of eastern Oregon, the skies opened for a brief moment, but by morning the clouds were back and it was snowing.

Despite the lack of photographs I had to show for my effort, I returned feeling invigorated and inspired. I was not ready to be indoors quite yet. The day after arriving home, I decided, on a whim, to make a quick visit to the upper Rogue River (just an hour’s drive away). After days of being immersed in gray, I was caught off guard when one of the most brilliant sunrises I’ve experienced illuminated the sky. For the rest of the day I hiked and I photographed bright fall foliage along the river in perfect soft light. On that single day I took more images than the previous nine combined, including one of my all time favorites. Those ten days will be with me forever: the cold, the gray, the quiet, the slow, the subtle, and finally the brilliant and unexpected.

Contrast that experience with the autumn photography trip I took to Colorado recently with my friend, Zack Schnepf.

The fates of weather aligned very differently for us. In two weeks we saw everything from cloudless, 80-degree days to thunderstorms, snow and 20-degree mornings. With some careful planning and a lot of luck we managed to consistently be in the right place at the right time. With such a string of ideal conditions we were working at a hurried pace and shooting continuously. We were even happy to see low clouds, drizzle and flat light one afternoon so we could justify a few hours off to take a shower and get to bed early. The photographs we took tell the story of the trip better than anything I can write.

The Rogue River is a river located in the southwestern part of Oregon, flowing from the Cascade Range to the Pacific Ocean.  The Rogue Gorge is a narrow channel formed by volcanic basalt rock that the river flows through. © Sean Bagshaw

The Rogue River is a river located in the southwestern part of Oregon, flowing from the Cascade Range to the Pacific Ocean. The Rogue Gorge is a narrow channel formed by volcanic basalt rock that the river flows through. © Sean Bagshaw

These two autumn photography experiences will always provide welcome memories. One was solitary, slow paced, introspective and moody, building to a grand finale. The other was very social and frenetic, with little time to reflect as the light and landscape of each new scene somehow eclipsed the one before. Most photography trips fall somewhere between these two extremes. Given the choice I would no doubt opt for perfect conditions every time. But, fortunately, we don’t get to choose the conditions. When the photography is less than optimal we have an opportunity to slow down, put the camera away for a while and just watch and listen. Even though we don’t know when or how, if we are patient and present, nature will eventually show us something wonderful. This excellent unknown is why I will always go outside and take photographs.

Sean Bagshaw is an outdoor photographer and photography educator based in Ashland, Oregon. He spends as much time as he can in the field on a quest for magical light. He can be found sleeping in his truck or on the ground, stumbling around in the dark, eating bad food and avoiding showers. He is one of six members of the Northwest based PhotoCascadia team. You can see more of his photography and find out about workshops and video tutorials at www.OutdoorExposurePhoto.com and www.PhotoCascadia.com.


Momentary Glimpse of the Sawtooth Range. © Sean Bagshaw

Momentary Glimpse of the Sawtooth Range. © Sean Bagshaw

True Grit, Colorado, 2014. © Sean Bagshaw

True Grit, Colorado, 2014. © Sean Bagshaw