Hazel Mountain Overlook

Sunrise at Hazel Mountain Overlook in Shenandoah National Park

Hazel Mountain Overlook is one of many scenic viewpoints along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. Located near milepost 33, this northeast-facing overlook is a great place to view the sunrise and has a beautiful view of the namesake mountain, a valley and surrounding countryside. Large boulders and a distinctive, lone pine tree add to the appeal of the area, and I knew soon after arriving that they were elements that I wanted to include in any photograph I took here.

Camping at Big Meadows Campground near milepost 51, I thought that if I left around 5:00 a.m., I would have enough time to make it to Hazel Mountain Overlook and set up my camera in time for sunrise. It ended up taking me longer drive to and locate the pullout, however, so by the time I arrived the sun was already beginning to rise. I hastily set up my camera at what seemed like a good spot and took a few photos. I was fairly satisfied with the results but knew I could do better with proper scouting and timing.

After the sun rose more and the light became harsh, I packed up my camera and walked around the area to see if I could find a better location to set up my tripod the next morning. After a scramble down the rocks and through some brush, I found my ideal spot. I made a mental note of the location and route to get there, so I could find it again in the dark.

I returned the next morning without incident and took the photo above with my FujiFilm GFX 50R medium-format camera and GF 30mm f/3.5 R WR lens. It was breezy that morning, so the biggest challenge to taking the photo I visualized was timing the exposure to keep the branches and leaves sharp on the foreground bushes and prominent tree on the right.

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