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Fireflies and Airglow in Cades Cove | danandholly.com
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For the last several years, my buddy Ryan Yoder and I have gotten together to go photograph the fireflies in the park at least once in the season, and this year was no different.  A few weeks ago we rallied under clear skies and went to Cades Cove for this year’s effort.  I had gotten the wild idea that I wanted to try a panorama with the Milky Way – something I’d never attempted – and the fun thing about the Great Smoky Mountains is there are very few places where you can actually see the arch of the Milky Way from end to end.  I’d worked out that from one overlook in Cades Cove it should be possible, so we hopped on the bikes and took off just as soon as the gates were closed.

On the way to the spot, Ryan and I were chatting about this pano idea I had, and the more we talked, the less confident I was that I’d be successful at it, largely because we’d determined I was missing a piece of equipment that would allow me to easily do it.  Undeterred, I setup my gear once we arrived and then quickly saw the problem (I’m a very hands on learner haha).  Tracking the sky was out of the question, so I decided to just give it a go without tracking the sky, just to see how it would all work out.  Below in the Alternative Perspective section I’ve shared that image.  I didn’t turn out as I’d hoped, but I moved on to plan B anyway, and captured the image above.

The night we went the lighting bugs weren’t as active as we’d hoped, but they were out enough that you could see them in the resultant image.  What you see above is about 45 minutes worth of bug activity.

You might also notice in both images a very bright green color in the sky.  At first glance this can be mistaken for aurora, but that’s not what this is; it’s actually a different phenomenon known as airglow.  I typically try to eliminate traces of airglow from my images, but on this particular night the sky was just electric with it, and I liked the end result.  In the image above I’ve actually desaturated the airglow somewhat, and it’s still very prominent.  Crazy stuff!

More next week!

–Dan Thompson

Alternate Perspective

ˈȯl-tər-nət pər-ˈspek-tiv
  1. A substitute or different visible scene.
  2. Another view or angle.
Downtown Knoxville in Fall Colors
Downtown Knoxville in Fall Colors