Photo of Ben Erlandson

Shooting the Storm – Winter Photography

I love shooting winter mountain landscapes after a relatively heavy snowfall here in North Carolina.  As the winter storm started on Friday night, I was happy to go to sleep knowing there’d be ample snow for a day of hiking and photography.

Sleeping in Saturday morning, my first excursion was a quick walk down to the small lake at the bottom of the hill.  As anticipated, the lake was mostly frozen, and there was a brief reprieve in the continued snowfall and somewhat stiff breeze.  I spent some time with my 7D on the tripod in the stillness, and then managed to snap a few decent phone shots as well.

As I headed for the dock, the snow picked up again…

It was getting colder by the minute, and the snow was not letting up, so I shot a quick video of myself on the dock, announcing my anticipation of the post-snowfall photography to come.

Soon, my dad and I had packed up the truck to head over to the Blue Ridge Parkway, knowing the section just south of us would be closed.  For about half of the drive, we were following others’ tracks, and then we approached a rather deep snow drift and had to make fresh tracks.  Luckily, we were able to stay above most of the snow, and within a short time we were up to the barricade at Mahogany Rock Road without any trouble.

Even better, we were the only ones there…

The Parkway is closed… #winter #snow #mountains #landscape #photography #photographer @blueridgenps @natgeo

A photo posted by Ben Erlandson (@beerland) on

Dad strapped on his cross country skis, and I grabbed my 7D and tripod out of the cab.  The snow had stopped, the clouds were breaking up, and the sun was shining warm on our faces, despite the temperatures in the teens with even colder wind chills.

We made first tracks up the Blue Ridge Parkway, heading toward Air Bellows Gap.  My intention was to get to the overlook just north of there where you can get one of the best views of Stone Mountain.  My hope was to get one or two decent shots with Stone Mountain covered in and surrounded by snow and ice, assuming the sunlight would cooperate.

With so many excellent views from the Parkway, it’s easy to get distracted, especially on those rare occasions when one can walk down the middle of the road without worry.  I snapped several photos with my phone along the way, especially when I could get shots impossible with my 7D, mainly because I put my phone in small spaces where my camera won’t fit, like behind an icicle.

Soon enough, we were at the intended destination, and as we should have expected, there were high drifts and bare icy spots on the road, based on the steady gusts of wind that come through the gap.  My dad took a break from the skiing and did a little phone photography himself, including this surprise shot of me he shared with me later.

Photo of Ben Erlandson
Ben Erlandson photographing Stone Mountain in the blustering snow on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.

As you can see, while waiting for the gusts to subside so my camera would stabilize, I took the opportunity to snap a few more shots with my phone.  Thanks to a little production work in Snapseed, I was able to create what I think is one of the best photographs I’ve ever taken with a smartphone.

I have been using Snapseed for quite some time, and I find it to be the best option for Android photography processing, especially the filmic aspects, and what I think are some of the industry leading black and white filters.  I’d be interested to hear other photographers’ opinions on the tool.

In the end, it was a good day in the snow.  After getting back to the house, I had some lunch and went back out to do some more photography with my 7D in the woods and meadows within walking distance of the house — including a few more shots down at the lake.

It will take me a few days to process through all the images, but stay tuned to Erlandson Photography at my website (or on Facebook or Twitter) in order to find out when they’re ready to view.

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