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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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Hoarfrost and sunstar on Round Bald, Highlands of Roan, Cherokee and Pisgah National Forests, Tennessee and North Carolina. Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon TS-E 24mm ƒ/3.5L II
Like his trip to the Priest Pinnacle, Greer's photography has incorporated the technological advances in the medium. It did take time to make the transition, but he made it.

"Prior to starting my own publishing company, I was shooting 35mm film and working as a stock photographer," he says. "With the completion of my first book, my interests were maturing and moving toward a more pure landscape orientation. I found myself studying the work of my favorite landscape photographer, David Muench. [By coincidence, Greer and Muench share the same birth date.] So, in late 1999, I switched to large-format cameras. It was the best decision with regards to the progression of my photographic vision as a landscape photographer that I could have ever made."

But Greer's transition in photography wasn't complete yet. There was this little issue of digital to think about. As a book publisher, Greer quickly learned the art of doing his own prepress work, but he was plagued by the time constraints of scanning large-format sheet film.

"Feeling the need to find a way to alleviate the headache of hours of scanning and cleaning sheet film, I explored what digital capture was all about," he says. "I was aware that the digital photography world was starting to really move forward, and this sparked my interest."

Within months of purchasing a Canon EOS 10D and the 24mm, 45mm and 90mm TS-E lenses, Greer sold his large-format equipment and added the Canon EOS-1Ds to his digital toolbox.

"I never looked back," he declares.

Today, Greer's camera of choice is the Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

Along with his equipment, Greer's purpose for photographing nature has undergone a transition as well. From photographing landscapes for the sole purpose of publishing, he has moved to a more worthy mission to use his skills and images to promote mountain conservation. This transition has, as he likes to say, "matured" over the past 17 years, adding, "Since founding Mountain Trail Press, the purpose has been shooting for books and calendars, and this continues today but with a twist. The more I spend photographing the Blue Ridge and southern Appalachians, the more I saw the stress exerted on these wild places. I decided to do what I could as a photographer to become engaged in the efforts to save these lands."

Greer soon was working with regional conservation and land trust groups, and before he knew it, he was neck-deep in a battle to save one of the last remaining privately owned tracts of wild mountain land in the southern Appalachians: the Rocky Fork Tract.

Greer remembers the challenge: "It was a fight like I had never experienced, with heavy political fighting."

After four years of political maneuvering, the Rocky Fork Tract was purchased by The Conservation Fund with assistance from the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and ownership is being gradually transferred to the U.S. Forest Service and the State of Tennessee.


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