Which pull-off on the Foothills Parkway is the best for photographing sunrises? It’s a question myself and my fellow photographers debate on fairly often. It seems we “discover” new pull-offs on a regular basis (to be clear, everyone knows they are there… we just happened to notice that they’ve got good angles to the rising sun… sometimes) and throw them into the mix. Lots of photographers like the first pull-off because it affords them lots of options throughout the year. My friend Steve really likes the second pull-off. I tend to prefer one on the far side of the Foothills Parkway, almost to Chilhowee lake. The fun part about all this is that we get to try different things AND there is really no right or wrong answer… sort of.

The reason I like the one on the far end of the Parkway (pictured above) is I just love all the stacked layers you get shooting out there. The road before this particular pull-off rounds a corner, giving you a nice shot right up Happy Valley. What I failed to consider, on this morning in particular, is how far North the sun moves throughout the year. When my friends and I showed up (which, mind you, this adds an additional 20 minutes or so to the commute) to watch the sunrise… we realized quickly the the sun was blocked by the mountain on the left. Wrong time of year for this spot! BUT, no worries. On this particular morning the side glow was fantastic, and we always have a good time, whether we come away with a good picture or not. That said, Steve had his handy-dandy compass, which we were able to use to see what degree we were looking (we are wanting to be there when the sun comes up to the right of the furthest mountain in the shot above), and then combine that with The Photographer’s Ephemeris app, which can tell you when the sun comes up in a particular direction… and voila! We now know that we need to come back to this spot sometime in October…. heh… not in the Spring or Summer.

The good thing is that with any luck, you’ll get to enjoy another photo from this exact same spot, later in the year!

–Dan Thompson

Foothills Parkway

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