I enjoy reading stories written by people who have through-hiked the Appalachian Trail. In several books the hikers write about becoming disoriented when crossing the top of Unaka Mountain. One writer said she felt like she was in a maze.
Unaka Mountain is near Erwin Tennessee and is approximately fifty-six miles north of Asheville, North Carolina.
The Appalachian Trail runs along the border of Tennessee and North Carolina where it crosses the summit of Unaka Mountain. The top of Unaka is a very unique and enchanting place. The summit is covered by a Red Spruce forest so dense that sunlight rarely penetrates and there is little vegetation on the forest floor. At an elevation of almost a mile high fog is common.
Though the trail is well marked, during a storm or in fog it would be easy to become disoriented since in every direction you turn the forest looks the same. For example, in the image “Misconception” there is what appears to be a trail directly in front of you; however the white blaze marking the Appalachian Trail is actually on the far left side. You also get the feeling you could be on the location of a J.R.R. Tolkien novel and a hobbit village may be around the next bend.
I thoroughly enjoy the experience of photographing on Unaka. The fog, moss, and spruce forest are a wonderland of photographic possibilities. Every time I am there I see new possibilities for images and a renewed sense of wonder at the beauty of Unawake. -Jeff
Bio: My wife joking says I’m the embodiment of the John Muir quote “The Mountains are calling and I must go.” There is quite a bit of truth to that, though it could also be equally applied to the lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia. And in 2016 to the city lights of Nashville.
I had a lifelong passion for photography but only began selling my images in 2004 after a gallery in Pennsylvania asked to show my work. I added additional galleries in Pennsylvania and then in 2007 my wife and I made the decision to move to northeastern Tennessee to allow me to chase the dream of photography as a business.
The move opened additional opportunities for making images. The mile high mountains and fertile valleys of Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia were brimming with amazing beauty and a six-hour drive away there was the incredible lowcountry. The move also gave me the opportunity for gallery representation in the region and I am especially grateful to Twigs and Leaves Gallery in Waynesville NC for being one of the first to carry my images.
In 2008 I began making a series of Angora goat portrait images. My wife told me my first goat portrait, Arlo, made her smile and the “Goats of Roan” series was launched. The goats are the impetus behind the Baatany Goat Project. This is a botany project that takes place at elevations of between 5800’ and 5900’ in the Roan Mountain Highlands on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. I became enamored with the goats and each summer I trek the Appalachian Trail to make another goat portrait or two for the series.
That same year I started another series titled “The Wild Ponies of Grayson”. Herds of wild ponies graze on the open balds of the mountains in southwest Virginia near Mt. Rogers which is the tallest mountain in the state. They, like the Goats of Roan, graze along the Appalachian Trail.
Though I do photograph in the northeast and western states the bulk of my images are made in the Mountains South and along the southeast coast.
My images been featured in books and magazines including AT Journeys (The Magazine of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy), South x Southeast Photomagazine, LensWork , Black and White photography, Shutterbug, Pennsylvania Magazine, Blue Ridge Country, Still Point Arts Quarterly, etc.
In October of 2013 the book Current, Essays on the Passing of Time in the Woods was published by Shanti Arts Publishing. Fifty-five of my images illustrate the short stories of Robert McGowan.
I am again working with Shanti Arts Publishing illustrating a book of poetry titled Natural History. It is scheduled to be released late in 2016.
I am represented by galleries in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Tennessee.