Antique Character

A weathered barn stands on a roadside in rural Wears Valley, Tenn., Saturday, July 20, 2013.

Last week, I was able to spend some much needed vacation time road tripping through the Great Smoky Mountains region of Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virgina. It’s an area of the United States I’ve never visited, and not hearing a whole lot about it, I didn’t expect much. I was pleasantly surprised with landscapes that took my breath away, rivaling ones I’ve enjoyed while visiting the desert southwest. I can’t recall ever seeing three rainbows in just as many days, but “The Smokies” offer these kinds of visuals as common fare, so long as you’re willing to venture away from the tourist-clogged city areas and explore.

If challenging and exciting drives in your car sound like a good time, you’ll appreciate some of the narrow, one lane roads that wind to over 6,000 feet in elevation in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, snaking their way through tunnels and around steep mountain ridges as they go. If you’ve ever wondered what the “2” and “1” gear settings are for on your automatic transmission, these are the roads where you’ll finally put them to good use!

Dotting the beautiful landscapes of sweeping mountain vistas and valleys choked with evergreen trees are countless weathered buildings – from barns to cabins to churches – all filled with character so perfect, you’d swear they were right out of a production design for a Hollywood film set. My antique Crown Graphic 4×5 film camera was the perfect tool with which to capture this antique character.

Hand-developing my 16 black and white negatives following my trip was also a very fun experience. While I remembered the general subjects I’d photographed, I’d forgotten some of the details until I looked at my negatives for the first time as they sat in the fixer. Rediscovering my entire trip a week later was quite enjoyable, and is something you don’t get to do in the hyper-immediate word of digital imaging.

The Roanoke Star atop Mill Mountain in Roanoke, Va., Tuesday, July 23, 2013. Built in 1949, the 88.5′ tall structure is lit with 2,000 feet of neon tubing, which is visible from over 60 miles away at night.

“The Smokies” living up to their namesake following a thunderstorm. No, that’s not actually smoke, but rather, fog.

An abandoned and burnt-out cabin in the woods outside Townsend, Tennessee. I found the structure during my research of the area via satellite images in Google Earth.

A road winds down a mountainside in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park outside Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I waited for a light-colored car to pass through this opening in the trees to give the scene a sense of scale.

The Methodist Church in Cades Cove, Tennessee. Note the foundation of the 1820’s-era building, which is made of small piles of stones.

Just down the road, behind the Primitive Baptist Church, lies the final resting place for many of Cades Cove’s earliest settlers.

Also in Cades Cove, a barn on the Dan Lawson property sits empty, a natural time capsule to the community that once was.

Even in black and white, the sunsets here are spectacular. This one was photographed in the national park near Gatlinburg on a roadside turnoff just shy of 5,000 feet in elevation.

Posted in Large Format Film, Photography, Travel by Guy Rhodes on July 27th, 2013.

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