Up Close & Personal with Birds of Prey…

Not too long ago, I received a phone call from Bill Lea with some exciting information.  He had just had the opportunity to work with the folks from Upstate Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center, which is a non-profit, volunteer run bird sanctuary just off the Foothills Parkway.  Here is the exciting part that he wanted to share with everyone…

“Are you like me, always wanting to photograph a hawk or owl, but can never find one?  They just seem to blend into the forest canopy.  Of course, I do sometimes forget to look up into the treetops when I ‘m walking through the woods (maybe because I’m too busy looking for bears).  Anyway, I recently met Natalie – a licensed bird rehabilitator and owner of Upstate Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center.  I have also had the good fortune to photograph some of her educational birds and it was GREAT!  These are birds that cannot be released back into the wild and thus, are used for educational purposes.  They are comfortable around people and they enjoy the opportunity to get out of their pens for a little enrichment (a term used in reference to captive animals who need some variety in their lives – some days I’m behind the computer so long that I feel I could use some “enrichment”).
This year we are going to offer the opportunity for you to photograph some of these amazing birds – like Eddy – the red phase screech owl, Wilson – the gray phase screech owl, and A.J. – the handsome kestrel (sometimes called sparrow hawk) for a fifty dollar donation to the Upstate Birds of Prey.   There are other birds we will photograph including a barred owl, a red-tailed hawk, and an amazing barn owl (sorry – I forgot their names).  We can have up to 25 people in a session.  We will start by shooting a sunrise along the Foothills Parkway and then will travel to the nearby Upstate Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center.  We will break up into groups of five to a bird and after a while switch off to another bird so we all have an opportunity to photograph at least five different species, up close and personal.  The good news is that all of your $50 fee goes directly to benefit the birds.  Natalie and her staff are all volunteers – caring for and helping these birds out of the love of their hearts for the birds.  Plus, your $50 fee is tax-deductible.  Of course, you will not only be helping these birds and getting a tax write-off in the process – you will have an outstanding opportunity to capture some very nice images of these beautiful hard-to-find birds of prey.  Oh, and you can bet I will be right there shooting with you!”
So, yes, we are going to add this amazing opportunity to the Summit this year!  This will be an optional “field session” since we will be pairing it with a sunrise shoot at Foothills Parkway.  Unlike the other field sessions though, we are asking for a $50 contribution to the Upstate Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center since they have been so kind to offer to have enough volunteers on hand to allow us to experience and photograph these birds in very small groups.  The sign ups for these sessions are not yet available, but you will receive an email as soon as they are if you are registered for the Summit!  We will handle sign ups for these sessions like we do for the Pre-Conference sessions, they will just take place at the same time as the Field Sessions instead of the day before the Summit starts.  If you sign up to go to the Upstate Birds of Prey, please keep that in mind when it comes time to register for field sessions so that you don’t double book yourself!  Field Session sign ups will not happen until the end of September.  We are so excited about this opportunity to not only photograph these beautiful creatures, but to be able to help the rehabilitation center at the same time!

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The Smokies in November…

For those of you that may not know, Bill Lea actually lives in the Townsend area and so he is very familiar with the Smokies in all seasons.  We have had a couple of conversations about why we are excited to be having the Summit in the first part of November this year instead of the end of October and I just wanted to share with you here a written and visual interpretation of  Bill’s experience of  the Smokies in November…

“For those of you who have not been to Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the first week of November to photograph fall, you are in for a surprise.  It is one of my favorite times to photograph scenery in the Smokies.  Some years, the colors can be simply amazing in early November at the lower elevations.  Combine that with the fact that we always seem to have a better than average chance for fog and maybe even some hoar frost – it can be fabulous.  Of course, the best part of all is that the Park is nearly void of people.  It is like everybody leaves the Smokies on the last day of October, which is fine with me.  I can get around the Park easily in my efforts to chase the fog, light, and colors I so dearly love!  Please come join us at Great Smoky Mountains Summit this November 1st- 5th and see for yourselves how wonderful it is in the Smokies at this time of year (but please don’t tell everyone you know – I love having the park kind of to myself in early November.)  All of the images shown here were taken during the first half of November over the past seven years or so.”

_AAM5369_AAP0094_AAQ2412_AAQ2418Fall colors of a cove hardwood forest - Great Smoky Mountains National Park_AAQ2488Fall colors below Bull Head Mountain - Great Smoky Mountains National ParkAutumn view of Laurel Creek Falls - Great Smoky Mountains National Park_AAY1858

Registration for the 2017 Summit opens this week…Wednesday, March 1st!

We are so excited that we get to open registration for the 3rd Annual Great Smoky Mountains Photography Summit this week!  Wednesday, March 1st starting at 9am Eastern Standard Time, you will be able to register for the 2017 Summit which will take place November 1st-5th in Townsend, Tennessee.  We will also open registration for our three Pre-Conference classes on March 1st as well!  So much talent lined up for this year, I can hardly believe how fortunate we are to have all of these folks together in one place at the same time!  Here is the line-up of instructors for the 2017 Summit…

2017-promo-poster

For more info on each of the instructors, please check out our Summit Leaders page here on the site.  If you are on our mailing list, look for a registration email coming to your inbox soon!

The Great Smoky Mountains Photography Summit…Volume III!

2017 is well on it’s way as it is hard to believe we are already over halfway through January!  We hope that wherever you are, you have had the opportunity to get out and spend some time behind your camera capturing your view of the world and enjoying the experience of it all.

Fall will be here before we know it, which will bring with it the 2017 Great Smoky Mountains Photography Summit!  The 3rd Annual Photography Summit will be held in Townsend, Tennessee once again at Tremont Lodge & Resort from November 1st-November 5th.

We have an AMAZING team of instructors shaping up for you so far this year!  We are still working on finalizing the list with schedules and such, but so far, I can announce that the following will be part of the 2017 Summit Team:

Bill Fortney, Tony Sweet, RC Concepcion, Ken Jenkins, Brett Wells, Mandy Lea, and Chris Nicholson

More names being added to that list soon!  Registration for the 2017 Summit will open on March 1st.  Stay tuned for more updates….