Observing Trees

I drove to Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains National Parka few days ago to see how the fall colors were coming on. The gap is one of the few accessible locations in the Smokies during the current shut-down of non-essential federal operations, including National Parks. For a few months I've been monitoring a plot of 20 trees at Newfound Gap as a "citizen scientist" for a phenology project. October is a critical month for tree phenology and I felt terrible missing the opportunity to do observations because the park is closed. Who knew I could miss a handful of yellow birch, yellow buckeye, and sugar maples so much? Once access to Newfound Gap was restored, I couldn't wait to go see my trees!

The leaves in the Smokies were at about 75% of peak above 4,500 ft, last Wednesday, including a favorite sugar maple (Acer saccharum) near the sidewalk at Newfound Gap. In years past, this tree had vibrant yellow-orange foliage, but not this year. This year it was yellow-brown -- not so pretty. Even still, I photographed the tree from many angles hoping for a memorable image. I can't say I achieved that objective, but I found this one shot intriguing. The sunburst seemed a bit much in the original image, so I played around with black & white conversion and digital filters to see what happened. I find the results rather interesting. I'm not sure that I have a preference of one over the other, but it's been a fun learning adventure. Which image do you prefer?

"Sun through Sugar Maple I"
Afternoon sun shines through the colorful leaves of a Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) at Newfound Gap, Great Smoky Mountains National Park 
© 2013 Kristina Plaas, All Rights Reserved
"Sun through Sugar Maple II"
Afternoon sun shines through the colorful leaves of a Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) at Newfound Gap, Great Smoky Mountains National Park 
© 2013 Kristina Plaas, All Rights Reserved
"Sun through Sugar Maple III"
Afternoon sun shines through the colorful leaves of a Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) at Newfound Gap, Great Smoky Mountains National Park 
© 2013 Kristina Plaas, All Rights Reserved

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