Impossible Lift of Fog – Flame Azalea Sunset on Roan Mountain

A Little Background

For the last three years, we’ve made the trek to Roan Mountain during the Rhododendron and Flame Azalea peak bloom season, the first couple weeks of June. It is one of the true highlights of the year and a time not-to-be-missed!

Three weeks ago, we made our 4th drive out to Roan Mountain for this 2017 Rhododendrons/Flame Azaleas season. It was the second time this season, where I followed a strong gut feeling that we must press to get there for the Sunset and I had a very specific plan in mind. The first of four visits was also a day that I followed a strong gut feeling that paid-off with a spectacular Sunset from Jane Bald.

This time, however, I was after a specific Sunset shot that I had envisioned, with a Flame Azalea bush. Not just any bush, but one in particular.

Looking Quite Promising

We arrived to Carver’s Gap at 6:45PM. The spot I had in mind is beyond Jane Bald. With my 30 lbs of camera gear on my back and Lana also weighed down with her backpack, we headed-up the first hill. The Sun was bright and nice clouds on the horizon, all looking quite promising!

On the climb up the rocky path up to Jane Bald, we could hear voices. Sparing no time for conversation, we passed through a group of photographers – on Jane Bald – who were attending a workshop of a well-known photographer. Catching a second-wind on top of Jane Bald, we pressed on with a bit more stride in our step, on the mud path. Shortly before 8PM, we reached the Flame Azalea bush I had in mind and I was so pleased and relieved, because of course there was the risk that someone else could already be in the same spot I planned.

After dropping my equipment in place, I took a quick walk up the path, to be aware of others in the area and noted a photographer set-up.

Flame Azalea on Roan Mountain with Fog Rolled In

Fog Rolled In, Roan Mountain

Oh, no! Fog!

Tripod and camera setup, I now began to meter, compose and take test shots to get my bearings. And then…all of a sudden…a huge fog rolled in! It totally surrounded us. And while it was beautiful rolling in, I felt a sense of hopelessness, as it began to sink-in upon me that all of the effort of planning, driving, hiking – plus return trip! – would be wasted.

I took photos of course, as it rolled in, but it was looking quite bleak for my Sunset shot that I wanted so badly!

I was tempted to just give-up, pack and go back to the car. After almost twenty minutes of fog and a Sunset – not in sight whatsoever! – that was getting ready to happen on the horizon, it really looked hopeless!

Wait! Be Patient!

I told myself, “Wait!” I checked the time and told myself, “The Sun is still up! Be patient! Don’t pack-it-in quite yet!”

Glorious Sunset over Flame Azalea with Fog Lifting - Roan Mountain

Glorious Sunset over Flame Azalea with Fog Lifting – Roan Mountain

Then, all of a sudden, the fog turned a bright yellow/orange all around us and I noticed that my camera meter went-up by a stop of light! The fog had this golden aspect to it that was unforgettable!

Sunset Over Flame Azalea

A few minutes later, the fog began to lift and the Sun started to come through! I thought, “Glory to God!” An immediate sense of anticipation washed over me! It was happening! It was going to happen!

Lessons Learned! Wait!

The wait paid-off! And when the Sun set, we met-up with the other photographer that was further up the trail. His brother was down on Jane Bald waiting for him. We later learned (via his brother) that the well-known photographer who was doing a workshop on Jane Bald had directed his group to give-up and hike down when the fog came-in. If only…they had waited!

To keep-up with us in real time, be sure to follow J Farley Photography on Facebook, as well as J Farley Photography on Instagram!

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  1. What’s the difference between the artistic photo and just a photo? They both can express some beautiful moment but… talented photo always has some peculiar atmosphere that brakes for a moment an edge between the reality and the image. Like here… the moment of the sunrise and the landscape and the fog – charming of course, but best of all I like the dynamic of thе composition. The diagonal direction from flowers to the sun involves us within and prolongs the moment of contemplation…

  2. There’s tremendous warmth and vibrancy captured in this photo, and wisdom in the wait that it took to achieve it. A photograph captures the world in a fraction of a second, but it’s the work of a lifetime of working, honing, and waiting. Done right, like this, it’s truly beautiful.

  3. This may be one of the most beautiful and picturesque scenes I have observed in a long time. The fog gives an appearance like a hand reaching over the landscape. Its surreal imagery with a spiritual presence.

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