Kevin Adams - North Carolina Waterfalls and the Night Sky

>>> Click image below to see Kevin's video interview.

The first thing I did was come up to the mountains and hunt waterfalls and take pictures of the waterfalls. It stuck with me.

Learning

I started subscribing to Outdoor Photographer the first year it came out. Like so many people my age, I started out learning from the greats, Galen Rowell, John Shaw, Larry West, people like that, reading everything that I could get me hands on. 

Turning point

The big turning point for me was when I realized that it was okay to not believe what I was reading—that I could make my own decisions. If I witnessed something, if I saw or experienced something that was counter to what I was reading, it didn't mean that I was making a mistake. When I realized that, I felt like I really started to be able to make photos.

Affect on life

Photography is an excuse, a reason if you will, to get out of bed in the morning and see that sunrise, and to stay out for that sunset, when maybe you'd rather go in and have dinner. And to hike that trail that maybe you wouldn’t hike because your knees aren't feeling good, but you do it anyway. Photography is the mechanism that keeps you on course to do that.

As photographers, we see and experience the natural world in a way that others don’t. For instance, if it wasn't for my waterfall books, I wouldn't have seen a thousand waterfalls in North Carolina. There’s no way I would have gone to a lot of them. I just wouldn’t have. But because I'm working on this project, I have to get this photo, I have to do this research for this waterfall, and it forces me to go. In the process, I'm seeing and experiencing things, and I'm happy when I get back.

ALIVE

I discovered a waterfall that I suspected was there but had to hike in to find out. There was no trail whatsoever. When I got to the base of it, it was an absolutely gorgeous waterfall with no sign that any other human had ever been there. I’m sure hunters and fishers had been there, but it was not something that the photo crowd had gotten to, or that the hiking crowd even knew existed. 

I’m standing there and the conditions were just perfect.

Favorite places

I have travelled abroad, I have been to other countries, and I’d like to do a lot more of that, but when I talk about favorite places, it’s where I’m living right now in Western North Carolina. The mountains of Western North Carolina, and the waterfalls... gosh I just love it!

Image over your mantle

It's a shot that I took of fireflies, in a jar, set up a few years ago, and I’ve never seen another shot like it, it’s one of those night photography things that I create in my mind before I shoot it.

I had to shoot the jar part of it first and focus on that. Then, when I was shooting the Milky Way layer, as I was exposing, the biggest meteor I have ever seen in my life went right through the perfect spot in the frame.

Advice

The turning point for me was when I realized that it was okay to use my own mind and think for myself, and I would encourage others to do the same. I have noticed that young people already are doing that; they don’t know who John Shaw is, they don't know what the rule of thirds is, they don't know not to center their subjects.

They’re just out there doing their thing, and they are making some really cool photos along the way. Yeah, they’re making some horrible ones too, but so do I.

They are not bound by any sort of rigid rules like old people like me tend to be. Don't let anybody tell you that it has to be done this way, just do what you like, and if you do that eventually you’re going to come upon some course that you can follow.

For more of Kevin's work, see www.kadamsphoto.com

Watch the complete interview in the video at the top.

Look for Kevin's "Best Of" teaching coming to the ALIVE Photo online classroom early June 2016.

In the meantime, we'll send you this free mini-course with landscape photographer David Muench. (Click below)