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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Appalachian Ridge Runner


In the quest to do more than just take pretty pictures, Jerry Greer is using his images to promote conservation in the region of the country he loves the most

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This Article Features Photo Zoom

Autumn sunset over Lake Jocassee, as viewed from high above on Jumping Off Rock, Jocassee Gorges, South Carolina. Canon EOS 5D, Canon TS-E 24mm ƒ/3.5L

To reach the Priest Pinnacle in the Priest Wilderness of the George Washington National Forest in central Virginia, Jerry Greer starts out long before daybreak to trek two miles up the Appalachian Trail, and then, with his GPS, heads off-trail to reach a remote outcropping of massive boulders. This is his first trip to this area, so he relies on battery-operated digital technology to aid him in his quest. And although the hike is strenuous, he savors the damp spring air and the refreshing, cool breeze. The fresh aroma of the spring forest doesn't hurt either; no digital contraption can make that happen.

Once he reaches his destination at 4,063 feet, the view unfolds before him, and Greer soaks in a vista that defines the essence of the Appalachian Mountains. While his legs carried him to his destination, the GPS ensured he would reach the precise location he desired for photographing an Appalachian spring morning. Relying on the old, but embracing the new: That's Greer's way of doing things.

Experiencing moments like that spring morning has cemented Greer's renewed sense of dedication and urgency in having his photography count for something besides being just another pretty picture.

"To this day, that moment on the Priest is one that vividly sticks in my mind," Greer remembers. "I'm so thankful for the National Wilderness Act, and the protection and preservation that it gives to such wonderful places. Without it, I can't imagine that this view would ever grant me or others such feelings of solitude and freedom."


Summer storm and blooming Carolina rhododendron, Hawksbill Mountain Summit, Linville Gorge Wilderness, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina. Canon EOS 5D, Canon TS-E 24mm ƒ/3.5L II
Mountains always have been a part of Greer's existence. He lives, works and plays in the mountains. He breathes the mountain air. He photographs the mountains, and he shares his love for mountains with everyone he meets. His first book Appalachia: The Southern Highlands and his latest book The Blue Ridge: Ancient and Majestic celebrate mountains. Even the publishing company he founded in 1999, Mountain Trail Press, embodies his passion for this elevated landscape. But, most importantly, these days Greer is devoted to using his photography to help protect mountains.

With the exception of a seven-year stint residing in Colorado, the rumpled ridges and worn peaks of the southern Appalachian Mountains have remained Greer's home and favorite place to photograph.

"I grew up in southwestern Virginia," he explains, "within an hour of the Tennessee, North Carolina and Kentucky border. I realized while living out West that the lure of the Blue Ridge Mountains is strong. They kept calling me back, and I eventually couldn't suppress the urge to return."

During his childhood, Greer was the typical Appalachian kid, hunting and fishing with his father and grandfather whenever he could. But it wasn't long after getting his first camera in the early 1980s that he started to feel a need to leave the gun behind and photograph nature instead. Greer did step away from his love for nature for a few years, but he quickly regained his senses.

"After some soul-searching in my early 20s, my love for nature was rekindled, and I decided to pursue nature photography as a career."

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