Better Than Nothing!

by | Mar 11, 2023 | Impressive Places, Stories & Expeditions | 4 comments

I stared in disbelief at the glowing LED traffic info sign next to the barricade across the road. We had driven all this way….and then, this?

A fat moon hung close to the horizon in the dark, night sky, and the puffy clouds looked promising for a gorgeous sunrise. We were in the wild regions of north Georgia with breathtaking overlooks and shimmering blue mountains. Having researched the area, I had found an overlook that seemed like it could be the landscape photographer’s dream: clear views to both the east and west, and on the morning of a full moon. Julianna and I were on our way home from a crazy, all-night airport run, and I wasn’t about to drive through this area at sunrise without taking any photos!

And now we were almost there. Only, there was this glowing sign, blinking in the predawn darkness. I read it out loud: “Road closed March 6 & 7 for pipe repair.” I couldn’t believe it! Of all the days for the road to be closed, it had to be today.


My perfect plan was fading almost as quickly as the darkness around us. I needed to rethink this. And fast! We started driving. Up and down deserted roads, following signs for a waterfall . . . and a State Park! But there wasn’t anything there to photograph (though we did find a park restrooms that was open to the public 🙂 )The moon disappeared over the treeline, shining and glorious. Too late to find a spot to photograph that, but maybe the sunrise was still a possibility?

photo_2023-03-11_23-15-49 (2)

We found a National Forest road along the top of a ridge and bumped along, looking in vain for an opening in the trees. By now the sky was turning pink and purple and gold. I stopped the car and sighed. Oh what a disappointment! My dream had been shattered, all by a glowing, yellow DOT sign on a dark country road. We heard rushing water and drove around the bend. A less-than-stellar waterfall cascaded down the mountainside. It would be better than nothing.


230307_James Staddon_8765 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 25 mm, 2.5 sec at f - 22, ISO 50

Roadside Cascade
Seasonal falls in Chattahoochee National Forest, Georgia
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Later during the week, as we visited friends in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina, I still held onto the hope of finding an epic overlook. We hiked out one evening to a trail with the promising name of Piney Knob. There were plenty of pine trees and lots of rhododendron, but no knob. No overlook. I did find a pretty bridge along the trail, though. 

230308_James Staddon_8901 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 17 mm, 10.0 sec at f - 16, ISO 50

A couple days later, we all climbed in the van to drive up to the top of a mountain. Our friends had been here before and they spoke glowingly of the almost 360 degree view. We had packed a picnic supper and looked forward to a beautiful sunset. We trundled up the winding road for six miles. It felt like one more turn and we would be there! Except that instead of turning, the van rolled to a stop. My heart sank as the driver said: “Uh oh. There’s a gate across the road.” The sign on the gate made my heart sink even deeper. “Road Closed.” Of course! March in the mountains is still the off-season.

Once more, a perfect plan had faded away. We took another road and followed the winding, rutted trail through the mountains. No one in our group had driven this road before and we weren’t quite sure where it would end up. But as we lolloped our way through the forest, in spite of our disappointment, we were having a grand old time! I had always wanted to explore this area of North Carolina anyways. The road finally emerged onto a familiar route and now the search turned to finding a picnic area. (We did find a hiking-trail restroom that was open to the public 🙂 ) As we went along, we happened upon a large waterfall rushing through the gorge. We all climbed out of the van and clambered over the rocks to get a better view. I plunked my tripod down at the edge of the river and started framing up a shot. Better than nothing, right?

230310_James Staddon_ Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 34 mm, 1-15 sec at f - 22, ISO 50

I never did find my epic overlook this week. Maybe God just wanted me to photograph waterfalls instead?

Instead of quitting in disappointment over not getting what I was looking for, I learned this week that having a “better than nothing” mindset is very valuable. I like some of the photos I took this week. They are certainly better than nothing at all!

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  1. Lydia Bennett

    I love the touch of “glow” in each of those pictures!

    • James Staddon

      Interestingly, the glow is mostly a light Lightroom effect, consisting of a radial filter with a very warm white balance and a little Dehaze going the opposite direction, to “haze”, I guess. 🙂

  2. Warrior Princess

    So true about better than nothing. I too often don’t take photos because I am too picky. Thank you for the encouragement, James. I will try to find the beauty in “better than nothing” spots now.



  1. An Unexpected Outdoor Opportunity - Lenspiration - […] a fairly disappointing morning (as described in the last blog post, Better Than Nothing!), all I wanted to do…

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