Back on the Cover!

It’s been a few years since one of my photographs have been printed on the pages of WNC Magazine. For the first two years of their existence, as a new magazine release, my photographs were a regular fixture. Then the economy took a dive and the funding to pay for beautiful images from working photographers dried up. I still have the email sent to me explaining the reduction in funding and the elimination of the “Vistas” series. It was just another hit on a long list of photo budgets for working photographers trying to pay the bills and feed the family. Later that year I received an email that requested an image but they could only offer a credit due to the, still in effect, photo budget freeze. And as I always do, I refuse to allow the use of my images without proper payment. Credits just do not pay the bills and I’ve yet to find a bank that would accept those photo credits.

I commend the good people at WNC Magazine for deciding that it is important to offer payment to working photographers for the use of their images,  it shows that they truly care about those full-time photographers that strive to offer beautiful photographs. I’m so glad and encouraged to be working with WNC Magazine again. So, for all that are subscribers and for those in the region that buy off the shelf, check out the July 2011 issue, you’ll see my “Roan Highlands” photograph on the cover. Here’s a quick shot of my issue that I received in the mail today.

WNC Magazine_July 2011_Cover

Sorry to post some bad news on Christmas but this is devistating! Environmental Spill Disaster Devastates Tennessee!

Not sure why I haven’t received this info sooner but I just received it by email. I hope to have so photos of this soon, I’m going to make a trip to the disaster this week!

Environmental Spill Disaster Devastates Tennessee; 48 Times the Size of Exxon Valdez

By Matthew McDermott, TreeHugger. Posted December 25, 2008.

An environmental disaster of epic proportions has occurred in Tennessee. Monday night, 2.6 million cubic yards (the equivalent of 525.2 million gallons, 48 times more than the Exxon Valdez spill by volume) of coal ash sludge broke through a dike of a 40-acre holding pond at TVA’s Kingston coal-fired power plant covering 400 acres up to six feet deep, damaging 12 homes and wrecking a train.

According to the EPA the cleanup will take at least several weeks, but could take years. Officials also said that the magnitude of this spill is such that the entire area could be declared a federal superfund site.

Toxic Sludge Got Into Tributary of Chattanooga Water Supply

Apart from the immediate physical damage, the issue is what toxic substances are in that sludge: Mercury, arsenic, lead, beryllium, cadmium. Though officials said the amounts of these poisons in the sludge could not be determined on Monday, they could (at the mild end) irritate skin or trigger allergies or (longer term) cause cancer or neurological problems.

This toxic sludge got into the Emory River, a tributary of the Clinch and Tennessee Rivers: The water supply for Chattanooga, Tennessee as well as millions of people living downstream in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. TVA says that as yet the spill (which they are characterizing as a mudslide or landslide, but frankly it’s still toxic…) has not affected the water quality in the Emory River.

High Levels of Rain, Thaw Freeze Cycles May Have Weakened Pond Walls

On why the spill happened, the Tennessean speculated,

The area received almost 5 inches of rain this month, compared with the usual 2.8 inches. Freeze and thaw cycles may have undermined the sides of the pond. The last formal report on the condition of the 40-acre pond — an unlined, earthen structure — was issued in January and was unavailable Monday, officials said.

Greenpeace Calls for Criminal Investigation

In a press release issued yesterday, noting that spills of similar substances have resulted in felony charges, Greenpeace called for a criminal investigation into the spill:

“Every facility like this is supposed to have a spill contingency plan to prevent this kind of disaster,” said Rick Hind, Greenpeace Legislative Director. “The authorities need to get to the bottom of what went wrong and hold the responsible parties accountable.”

TVA Releases Official Statement

In an official statement, TVA president and CEO Tom Kilgore said,

Protecting the public, our employees, and the environment is TVA’s primary concern as we supply electric power for the people of Tennessee Valley region. We deeply regret that a retention wall for ash containment at our Kingston Fossil Plant failed, resulting in an ash slide and damage to nearby homes.We are grateful no injuries have been reported, and we will take all appropriate actions to assist those affected by this situation.

We appreciate the continuing efforts of local and state agencies, as well as TVA employees, to respond to this situation quickly and efficiently. Our intense effort to respond effectively will continue 24/7 for the foreseeable future with the safety of the public our top priority.

Clean Coal, Yeah Right

As many people in the blog world are noting, it’s this sort of thing that really makes the proposition of clean coal so absurd. Even if you can scrub all the CO2 out of it, you still have so many other toxic waste products associated with burning coal that have to be stored that carbon emissions are just a part of the problem. How many other holding ponds are out there waiting to burst?

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Hey all, sorry I’ve been away so long, Again! I have so many projects in the works and time to post new photos and environmental news has been impossible. I’m getting my head back above water but I’m still covered up until after the first of the year. I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  Now I ‘ve got to get back to helping my little girl, Serén, open the rest of her presents!

The light at the end of the tunnel! Whew, I’m almost finished!!!

Wow! What a two-month circus I’ve had! I’ve hardly had time to post anything, anywhere. I did have a chance to modify my website,, due to requests from two of my big environmental stock clients. Stop by for a visit if you get a chance and let me know what you think. Other than that, I’ve consulted on a beautiful Oklahoma book and served as a print broker for it. Also, I designed, performed all the prepress work and I am the print broker on a book project for a great photographer and good friend, Thomas Blagden. I hope to be working with Tom in the near future on more projects for my publishing company, Mountain Trail Press. We are now in the final stages of the printing process on both projects with F&G’s on the way for final approval and then waiting for the books to make their way over the “Big Pond” to my customers. The great thing is that I can now get back to the normal routine. I hope to be posting more regularly and more than just political deliberations.

Anyway, thanks for being patient with me while I’ve been away. I’ll be posting something new tomorrow.

Photography, politics, blogs…oh my!

As I posted earlier, I apologize for the political posts as of late. With the past week of posts I feel that I must explain myself. We nature photographers generally have a specialty, whether it be landscape, macro, wildlife or, like my specialty, environmental conservation, and the list goes on. Often, we nature photographers, are nature photographers just to be nature photographers. This is generally the way it starts out but in time one will find a niche or a passion for a specific focus encompassing ones work. Working alongside conservation land trusts, and environmental groups like Wild South, Southern Environmental Law Center, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, The Conservation Fund and many more, has channeled my desire to use my photography to help protect our wild places. Rocky Fork, a 10,000 acre undeveloped land tract here in East Tennessee, has intensified my focus even more toward the environment and with environmental conservation comes politics! There’s no way around it and I can’t deny that I’m very passionate about the work I do, be it photography, my conservation efforts and politics. For my field of photography I can’t see any way around political objectives being injected into the discussion. Conservation is very political and it has been since President Theodore Roosevelt helped make it that way. As for this blog, it belongs to me and reflects my work as a photographer. It’s about my existence as a conservation and environmental photographer. There will be lots of photography and there will be some politics as I feel the need to express myself. Our new site,, is all about photography! You WILL NOT see any politics there, you’ll only see articles about photography for photographers! For those that feel passionate about nature photography for nature as well as photography, and feel as I do, that conservation and environmental issues need us in the fight to save our wild places, then I hope this is the place you visit. I welcome all to stop by and I hope that I can make a difference in guiding you in your quest to help protect our wild places!



Canon EOS 5D, TS-E 24mm, polarizer, ND grad, f/16 @ 1/16 sec

Without the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, a wonderful local land trust, and the efforts of environmentalists, photographers, politicians, and ordinary people that have a love for wild places, this area would now be closed to the public and million dollar homesites, ski runs, restaurants and lodges would grace this beautiful location.

“Compromise, Hell!” Wendell Berry

“Can we actually suppose that we are wasting, polluting, and making ugly this beautiful land for the sake of patriotism and the love of God? Perhaps some of us would like to think so, but in fact this destruction is taking place because we have allowed ourselves to believe, and to live, a mated pair of economic lies: that nothing has a value that is not assigned to it by the market; and that the economic life of our communities can safely be handed over to the great corporations.”

“Compromise, Hell!” Orion magazine , November/December 2004 – Wendell Berry


The more that I listen and read about the politicians and their move to drill in every little corner of the United States I get sick to my stomach. I truly can’t believe that the American people really understand the magnitude of the decision to open up federally protected natural areas to corporations for natural resource extraction at the expense of an addiction to oil. It will take years to get the first barrel of oil out of the ground or ocean. Do the American people believe that if congress votes yes, on drilling, the price will immediately go down? Even with the added supply, if the US Dollar remains weak the price WILL remain high. We now know that the weak US Dollar along mated with aggressive investor speculation is the real driving force to the huge price increase in oil. I only hope that the American people will heed the words of a past President.

“The object of government is the welfare of the people.” “Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.”
Theodore Roosevelt -“
The New Nationalism” speech, Osawatomie, Kansas, August 31, 1910

We are the most wasteful Nation in the world! We should be embarrassed that we, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, would be so ignorant to this manufactured situation that we would sign our wildlands over to the profiteers of “Big Oil”. While we struggle to overcome this energy situation the CEO’s sit back and count their Billions in profits. I can still remember the interview on the Today Show where the CEO of ExxonMobile answered a question as to why they will not give up the big profits to help the US economy and citizens. The CEO stated that they were not in business to help out American citizens, they’re job is to make as much money for their share-holders as possible. Now, why in the world would we be giving “Big Oil” tax breaks and a free ride to our natural areas when they care nothing about us, the US citizens. Think about it, we are paying huge prices for oil, then we are, on the back end, giving them our hard-earned dollars through huge tax-breaks and they do not care one bit! WAKE UP AMERICA!

Rhododendron season in the Highlands is near!

Wow, it’s really hard to believe that in two weeks the highcountry will be adorned with the beautiful Catawba rhododendron bloom. It feels like it was just last week that the forest was just starting to come alive from the long winter season. This is a great time to be in the mountains, especially the Roan Highlands, along the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. I have my Roan Highlands Experience workshop the 13th through 15th of June and we have spots open! If you’ve never been to the Roan during the bloom, it’s incredible! This place is in my backyard and I’d love to show all how wonderful this place is. It’s hard to believe that not too many years ago the plans were to develop the bald. Just think, condos, ski slopes, million dollar home sites and paved roads running over this beautiful landscape. Thanks to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy for protecting this wonder for generations to come! By the way, they are the group that has brokered the deal between the Conservation Fund and the owners of Rocky Fork. I’ll be indebted to them forever! Stop by and tell them thanks at  


Please visit for more info on our upcoming workshop schedule.


Catawba Rhododendron and breaking storm along Jane Bald, Roan Highlands, Tennessee and North Carolina


Canon EOS 5D,  TS-E 24mm, no filters

RAW file processed with CaptureOne Pro and Photoshop CS3 Extended

The Rhododendrons will blossom soon!

While searching for images to be printed in the June issue of WNC Magazine I came across a photograph that I had taken in 2005. I had all but forgotten about this image! Not sure why, for I really love this one. After getting the images together for two, two-page full-bleed Vista images and two more photos for a special feature about the North Carolina Mountains, I decided that I had better get my images caught up in my cataloging software. Man, I’m so far behind! Anyway, I thought that I’d post this image, being that it’s so perfect for the upcoming season in the highcountry. 


Spring in the highcountry, Craggy Gardens, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina


Canon EOS 5D, TS-E 45mm (rise and very slight off-axis tilt), Polarizer, f/16 @ .6 sec, ISO 200