From Newfound Gap overlook, short 7 mile drive up lead us to the highest peak of the Smoky Mountains, and the third highest summit east of Mississippi River - the Clingmans Dome - 6,643 feet above the sea level. Half mile hiking trail from the parking lot concludes with a spiral ramp to the observation tower, a panoramic vista of 360 degrees and sight distances ranging to 100 miles on a clear day.
This was the last stop of our day. Mission: the sunset. Clingmans Dome is one of the most popular destinations in the Smokies for amazing sunset shots. So being there I couldn't pass this chance. We got to the parking lot around 5:30 pm, and I think the sunset was at 6:30 pm. So I had about an hour to find a spot, to set up my gear. It was a nice, sunny day, but once we got to the top, temperature must have dropped good 20 degrees, and it was pretty windy. Since this was our first time on the Clingmans Dome, we didn't know what to expect. The views from the parking lot were amazing, but that wasn't it. There was a trail leading to the spiral ramp, and the observation deck with unbelievable panoramic views in every direction.
We made it to the observation tower, and I quickly decided that I want to go back to the parking level for my sunset shot. This place was super windy, and already crowded with tripods. Did I mention how popular this place was for sunset photography?
So, we literally run down to the parking lot level to make it before sun started setting. Walking down the half a mile trail was a lot easier than going up, and I had few moments to snap few photos along the trail. Another surprise was waiting for me, once we hit the parking lot area, and I saw the longest line of tripods along the sidewalk. There must have been at least 80 photographers there, all waiting for this greatest 15 minutes of the day.
[I do like shooting into the sun, love the sun beams, and the lens flare]
Of course it was a clear sky! Where are the clouds when you need them? I mean, like one or two of those really long, stretched out clouds would make it all better, but of course - the one day I am on the top of the world, and in a desperate need of a cloud, there aren't any. It was so cold and windy, I found a tiny gap between the two photographers, set up my tripod and begin to wait, like the rest of the people out there.
[The layered look of the Smoky Mountains sunset, from Clingmans Dome]
[The sky after the sunset, different color temperature]