Behind the Lens: Beauty Spot

Autumn’s morning light, Appalachian Trail, Beauty Spot

Recently, I decided to take a sunrise drive up to one of my favorite local spots in the Blue Ridge Mountains to assess the impending fall colors. Beauty Spot (altitude 4,400 ft) is in the Unaka Mountains, along the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. Access is easy due to FS Road 230 (Beauty Spot Gap Road) and by the Appalachian Trail. This easy access can be a double-edged sword though, with regards to people and on beautiful weekends be aware that you will always have campers scattered throughout the open bald. Also, know that sunset is almost always crowded in the summer and fall seasons.

Beauty Spot is most notably a sunset location, but I love working with early light as it filters in over my shoulder. I’d planned this fall season composition in my head many times, but just couldn’t get all the needed elements to align. The foreground elements are never the problem if the autumn goldenrod and golden grasses haven’t been mowed, but this does happen every few years, just as it does on Round Bald in the Roan Highlands.  Also, it’s much better if the wind is light, but that’s not a huge factor with the modern digital camera and their ability to capture beautiful image files at high ISO. Anyway, on this day everything did align, minus epic sunrise color, with the clouds streaming in exactly like I wanted.

My goal in this composition was to use the iconic Appalachian Trail as my leading line and all the elements, including the sky, to converge on the far peaks in the center of the photograph. I used an ultrawide angle lens to exaggerate the visual movement through the photograph. An Ultrawide lens distorts the composition and adds to the feeling of depth. I don’t feel that this image is diminished due to the missing orange glow of sunrise. The wonderful fall grasses and wildflowers with the addition of the cloud movement makes this a powerful image and it will certainly find its way into my Blue Ridge Mountains portfolio. I’ve added a visual aid below showing my design idea for this composition.

I used a Canon EOS R with drop-in CPL filter mount adapter EF-EOS R and Irix 11mm f4 Firefly lens (Exposure: 1/30 sec; f/14; ISO 800). Support was provided by a Feisol Elite Tripod CT-3372 Rapid and Carbon Fiber Ballhead CB-50DC.

Jerry is a professional outdoor photographer and author with a focus on conservation and the environment. Jerry is also a photographic book printing consultant/broker with 20 years of industry experience. He leads photography works throughout the United States. To see his work, purchase image licenses or prints and review his workshop schedule visit You can also follow him on Instagram, twitter, and Facebook.

The Blue Ridge Ancient and Majestic – Awarded the 2011 Reed Environmental Writing Award

On March 19, 2011, I traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia were Charles Maynard, the essayist for The Blue Ridge – Ancient and Majestic, was awarded the prestigious Phillip D. Reed Memorial Award for Outstanding Writing on the Southern Environment . It was an honor to be a part of this ceremony and to support Charles in this wondrous event for him and our book. Take a moment and read about the Reed Environmental Writers Award and watch the video that I produced of his presentation. Also, I would like to thank the Southern Environmental Law Center for all that they do to ensure the protection of the region that Charles and I both call “home”.

Information from the Southern Environmental Law Center:

In the long, proud tradition of southern literature, writers have often drawn on the region’s unique natural heritage for inspiration and insight – from the haunting cypress swamps of Georgia, to the tall mountains of western North Carolina, to the rolling fields of the Virginia piedmont. As the South grows and changes, southern writers are increasingly exploring the relationship between nature and man. SELC’s Reed Writing Award honors these story tellers who capture in words our landscapes and traditions in transition.

© Jerry Greer Photography / Mountain Trail Press

In the Book category, Charles W. Maynard won for The Blue Ridge Ancient and Majestic: A Celebration of the World’s Oldest Mountains, published by Mountain Trail Press. An ordained United Methodist minister, native Tennessean, storyteller, outdoorsman and activist, Maynard chronicles the life of the Blue Ridge Mountains, from geologic time up to present-day culture, literature and music with a knowing and loving touch.

About the Reed Award

SELC’s annual Reed Writing Award has two categories: Book, for non-fiction books (not self-published), and Journalism, for newspaper, magazine and online articles. Entries must be at least 3,000 words, published in the previous calendar year, and pertain to the environment in at least one of the six states in SELC’s region (Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia). Prizes of $1,000 are awarded to the winner in each category.  Our panel of judges include some of the top environmental writers, journalists and activists of our time, including Lee Smith, Bill McKibben, Nikki Giovanni, Janisse Ray, Jim Detjen and Don Webster.


Mission of the Award

SELC created the Phillip D. Reed Memorial Award for Outstanding Writing on the Southern Environment in 1994. Its purpose is to enhance public awareness of the value, and the vulnerability, of the South’s natural heritage. The award serves to recognize and encourage writers who most effectively tell the stories about the South’s environment. The award is named for SELC founding trustee Phil Reed, a talented attorney and committed environmental advocate who deeply believed in the power of writing to change hearts and minds.

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

North Carolina Coastal Landscapes and Wildlife Workshop – a great success!

This workshop started off with a loud BANG (or series of goose calls)! Richard, me, our participants, and about 200,000 snow geese, it was a truly humbling experience.

Here’s a few still images from the scouting days before the workshop. I’ll make another post with images taken during the workshop in a few days. Also, stop by and see other images taken by me and co-instructor Richard Bernabe.

Richard and I will be offering this workshop again next year, so stay tuned! We will be posting the dates very soon!

Tundra swans in flight, Pungo Unit, Pocosin Lakes NWF, NC

Sunset and tundra swans on Pungo Lake, Pocosin Lakes NWR, NC

Tundra swans in flight, Pungo Unit, Pocosin Lakes NWR, NC

Snow geese taking flight, Pungo Unit, Pocosin Lakes NWR, NC

Snow geese taking flight, Pungo Unit, Pocosin Lakes NWR, NC

Snow geese taking flight, Pungo Unit, Pocosin Lakes NWR, NC