A lot of people overlook Shenandoah National Park when it comes to photographing fall foliage and whitetails in the Southern Appalachians. Most make a headway right down (or over) to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and completely miss out on this place. As a wildlife photographer, I often times think first in terms of what the available wildlife is to photograph and the setting in which I can photograph them in. Shenandoah is one of those areas however that I think of landscapes first, and wildlife second.
Now don’t get me wrong. The wildlife is most certainly there. You are likely to find whitetail pretty much anywhere in this park. One place in particular that you need not overlook is Big Meadows. This place takes on an almost Yellowstone in the fall or arctic tundra in August sort of feel. Big Meadows is filled with a low growing blueberry bushes that form a tussock like habitat. These blueberry bushes are either stunted by the growing conditions or more likely, they are kept cut back by the constant browsing of the whitetail deer in this area. Either way, this time of the year the meadow turns a beautiful crimson red and gold. The red of the blueberry bushes in the fall spreads out across Big Meadows like Autumns fingers reaching out to grasp the landscape. And for this reason, photographing whitetail in Shenandoah gives you an opportunity that cannot be found in Cades Cove down in the far more popular Smokys.
In only one of these photographs can you see the blueberry that I am talking about in the foreground. The colors were just beginning to pop out. This trip to Shenandoah was not exactly a planned one and therefore it did not time with the key fall colors and peak of the deer rut. Instead, I was out that way photographing a wedding and just couldn’t justify NOT driving up the mountain to scout things out for the end of the month when I return. One day in this park just does not cut it.