Last spring when I started working on star trails photos in Cades Cove, the first cabin I shot was the John Oliver cabin. It’s the closest cabin to the entrance, and being in Cades Cove at night was something new (and a little scary / creepy)… so that was a plus. The first time I went I convinced myself that the picture would be best from the other side of the cabin, and I spent four or five different nights trying to make it work. For multiple reasons it was hard to get a composition that got enough sky in it to be interesting for star trails and I was forced to do portrait orientation; something I’m not generally a fan of for scenic shots like this. With the camera more or less on the ground, I tried it over and over… and finally gave up. I moved on to the little Methodist Church and instantly got results I was pleased with, and so it was, I just rode by John Oliver’s place every other night on the way to somewhere else… thinking to myself, surely there is a shot there.
Well, a couple months ago I convinced my nephew Andrew to tag along, and not wanting to kill him on our first night out I decided to just stop at the Oliver cabin. I sat the shot up much the same way I had on many other nights and let the camera go to work. I had just attended my first Night Photography class at the University of Tennessee and the instructor mentioned that one night we would try out making ghosts in our pictures. Basically what you do is setup a long exposure shot, and have someone stand in the shot for only part of the exposure… the end result is that you can see the person… but you can see THROUGH them as well. Kind of neat. I wanted to make the night entertaining for my nephew (Holly had long sense gotten bored of coming with me, and she wouldn’t let me go alone… so I needed an accomplice), so when I had gotten enough pictures to do the star trails I started taking pictures of us in the shot as ghosts (you can see one of them here). We kept coming up with different things to try and it occurred to me that it might be super creepy to do a ghost type shot of someone standing in the window of the cabin. We moved around to the other side of the cabin and I did a couple test shots… that’s when it hit me. I had been shooting the cabin from the wrong side the entire time! It was too late to start another stair trail shot that night… but I had the composition figured out. Three weeks ago the conditions finally worked out and so I returned and captured this image. THIS was what I had been after.