Sometimes, with a little planning and a whole lot of luck, thiings work out. One late evening, my friend Bill and I parked the car in the Clingman's Dome parking lot (in Great Smoky Mountains National Park) and hiked the 1.8 miles to Andrew's Bald, hoping to find an open vantage point, far from the milling crowds, where we could concentrate on photography. To explain, there are a number of "balds" in the region, which are (relatively) treeless mountaintops, and there are a number of theories as to how they came to be that way. Andrew's Bald turned out to be less bald than we had hoped, but it did offer a few nice views, such as that shown in this image.

When we arrived, the sky was rather heavily overcast, but there were some breaks in the clouds, enough to keep us hopeful. While Bill was photographing birds and enjoying the views, I searched for the "perfect" spot to plant the tripod, which happened to be accessible only by pushing my back firmly into a bush. To get this wide-angle panorama required shooting from several different angles with a wide-angle lens, then stitching them together.

As the sun approached the horizon, it dropped below the band of clouds and cast a brilliant golden glow across this scene. I made one series of images, then swung the camera back to the initial position, waiting to see if conditions improved. And they did. So I took a second series. A few minutes later, I made a third, but by that time the magic was gone. The second series was the winner.

I did not use HDR techniques for this image. Instead, I figured the exact exposure, set the exposure mode on Manual, and took one shot at each of the different angles, overlapping them about 30%. Then, in post-processing, I stitched the images together.

By the time we enjoyed the waning sunset and packed up our gear, it had become quite dark, so Bill and I enjoyed our trek back to the car by flashlight, under the stars.