Canyonlands of the East

A couple Saturdays ago, I set out on an expedition that would amaze me, challenge me, and cause me to be extremely dehydrated. Usually when I go shoot in my home state of Tennessee, I venture to the Smoky Mountains. However, I’ve tried to branch out lately and get into some areas that I’ve never explored before.

I decided to go to the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area and see what it had to offer. I was not disappointed.


Whenever I look at other photographers work, I see the Canyonlands and wish that I was near geological features comparable. Now I know where I can go to see a miniature version of the Canyonlands paired with old growth forests and waterfalls.

Having spent most of my time in the Smoky Mountains, I’m used to the constant photography challenge of shooting around people. After all, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited park in the United States.

During the hours I was hiking in Big South Fork, I saw a total of five people. FIVE PEOPLE! Granted, I did start hiking at 6:30 AM.


East Tennessee is famous for its karst systems (AKA cave systems, sinkholes, and underground drainage systems). There were a lot of cave entrances and features along the trail I hiked that provided great natural designs to add to my landscape shots. In fact you could tell when you were hiking on top of a cave dome because your footsteps sounded hollow. The deep red, purple, and orange colors of the caves paired well with the early morning warm light.


My unexpected exploration allowed me to discover a new shooting location in the eastern region of Tennessee. My hike got even more interesting when I missed a turn I was looking for and hiked a few miles in the wrong direction. That’s a classic move by me though, and I’m not surprised at all. Thanks to my own tunnel vision and a few wrong turns, my hike totaled fifteen miles of rugged terrain. It’s all part of the journey though!


Big South Fork is a huge area, so I will be returning for more exploratory shoots. Keep your eyes peeled for more posts on the Canyonlands of the East!