I can’t believe the Tremont photography workshop is over already. We wrapped up yesterday afternoon with numerous hugs, good-byes, and see-you-in-the-springs. Of the 36 attendees at the workshop, more than twenty had attended previous editions of the workshop. We like to call these people repeat offenders. It is really interesting to have friends who I only see once every six months, or maybe only once a year. Although we don’t spend many days together, those that we share are intense. We meet well before sunrise, then fumble with cameras and tripods with headlamps in the dark, eagerly awaiting the light. Then we spend the rest of the day together chasing light and hoping for a Pulitzer to reveal itself to our lenses. No doubt about it, our time together is meaningful, mindful living at its absolute best and everyone is exhausted when it is over. This year was even more exhausting, umm, I mean meaningful, because for the first time we went into Cades Cove in the dark to photograph the Milky Way. Our adventure went really well and brought many lessons with it along the way, the most important of which is to follow your passion and never give up, even in the face of daunting challenges.
One of the first challenges you’ll hear about photographing the Milky Way in the Smokies is that the conditions are not optimal due to excessive light pollution. I’ve said that many times. I’ve been wrong. The next challenge is that you can’t expect twenty photographers of all ages stay up late, walk two miles, then get up early the next day. That is incorrect also. The next challenge is that you can’t have twenty photographers of various skill sets walk into the Cove in the dark, set up cameras, avoid twisted ankles and knocked-over tripods, and successfully capture nighttime images of the Milky Way. That was my biggest fear. Again, unfounded! Finally, there is the challenge of the weather. With clouds directly overhead only seven miles from Cades Cove, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that we would be shut out by clouds. Why even try? Why not just give up beforehand and call it a night? Had I been on my own, that is probably exactly what I would have done. Big mistake! Somewhere between Tremont and Cades Cove, the clouds parted to reveal the Milky Way in all its glory as we walked into the Cove on Saturday night.
For me, this is a lesson in the collective power of a passionate group of like-minded people. We made it in and out of the Cove with no injuries, no broken cameras, and many, many great images. OK, so we lost some sleep, but I think by now everyone has caught up. To top it off while we were in the Cove, a screaming fireball of an Orionid meteor streaked across the sky. It was so bright that it lit the foreground all around us and even cast shadows. I believe it was our reward for not giving up!
My lesson: with a little passion, anything is possible. Thanks to all the participants who reminded me of that!!
Please enjoy my image from that night!