Little Stony Man Sunset – Shenandoah National Park

Last Friday I decided to take half a day off from work to spend some time hiking and photographing in Shenandoah National Park.  Unfortunately, it had been a year since I had visited Shenandoah given that I spent time last autumn in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Out of all the National Parks or Virginia parks, I’ve spent more time hiking and photographing in Shenandoah, primarily because of my love of Appalachia and the park’s proximity to northern Virginia.  I’ve experienced Shenandoah in all four seasons with spring and autumn being my favorites.  While it may technically be summer, on this trip it felt like late spring given the still blooming mountain laurel and 65 degree temperatures. 

Spending the afternoon breathing in fresh air, taking in the views, hitting the trails and working on my photography was a nice respite from the daily grind.  Being an online marketer, I spend most of my days sitting at a desk working on a computer — not unlike what I’m doing at this very moment. 

For this trip, I took a quick jaunt up Little Stony Man to scout out some potential sunset photography locations and to soak up the view.  Little Stony Man is a short, rocky trail that follows a series of switch backs up to a nice rock outcropping that yields 180 degree views of the park, the Shenandoah valley and the Massanutten Mountains.  To your right, you look north along the park and can see Skyline Drive running top the mountain ridges.  To your left, you look south towards Stony Man peak, which is another rock outcropping offering splendid views.

After continuing on to Big Meadows for some wildflower and deer photography along with a quick bite for dinner, I made my way back to Little Stony Man for sunset.  This is a popular trail that is connected to the Applachian Trail (AT), so quite often you’ll meet through hikers.  I encountered several through hikers on both of my treks up the trail with one pitching camp at the top right before sunset.  I also was met with another couple and their dog ready to watch the sunset, which meant several of my vantage points I had scoped out earlier were no longer going to work.  Plan B took effect.

For this picture, I had to use a split neutral density filter along with a neutral density filter to get the right exposure and to prevent the sky from becoming washed out or the foreground from becoming too dark.  With some minor tweaks in photoshop, the outcome is this shot.  What I like about this shot is the subtle glow of the setting sunlight on the rocks (sun had just set), the interesting cloud patterns and the view of the mountains and valley below. 

Little Stony Man Sunset - Shenandoah National Park

Canon EOS 5D, 28-70mm, split ND and ND filters

Perhaps not the best ever sunset shot from Little Stony Man, but I was happy to capture this along with spending the afternoon in Shenandoah.  And getting a little fresh air and exercise is what one needs now and then, especially if you end up getting a flat tire along a remote mountain road on the way home.

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