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Behind The Work: Photographing Campgrounds for Naventure

Behind The Work is an in-depth exploration of the thought process and reasoning—good and bad—that goes into some of our favorite projects.

 

The Task at Hand

Last fall, Show And Tale was contracted by Naventure—an outdoor adventure company—to photograph campsites in the Pisgah National Forest of Western North Carolina and the Ocala National Forest in Central Florida. Naventure needed to update its website's design, and a desire for fresh imagery came with that. The photography needed to showcase the campgrounds straightforwardly and highlight the unique intangible attributes that made these locations special to enthrall potential visitors so much that they felt they had to camp with Naventure.


While the ask was simple, the timeline was immediate. Naventure wanted me to capture the Western North Carolina sites during the fall season, and it was already mid-October. Then, I was to go to Ocala National Forest to photograph those campsites to have them done before the new year. We got to work fast, starting with the sites closest to Asheville, NC proper and making our way westward to Brevard.


The biggest hurdle of the project was the expedited timeline. I could not go through my typical routine for planning shoots, which consists of checking the weather several days from when I want to shoot and choosing the days that present the best conditions to go out. Good landscape photography relies on optimal weather conditions. This is even more true in woodland photography, which is what I was photographing since the campsites were located in a forest. And what most people consider a beautiful day—sunny with clear blue skies—can make for dull sunrise or sunset photos with skies that lack interest. Those same conditions can create harsh, unpleasing contrast in woodland photography, along with an often saturated green colorcast. Nevertheless, it was my responsibility to get the job done and get it done well.

 

Phase One: Western North Carolina

Our first stop was Lake Powhatan, the largest site to photograph in North Carolina. This site contains 75 campsites, 12 glamping sites, bike paths, a swimming lake, and a beach. Having never photographed camping and amenity sites for an adventure company before, starting at Lake Powhatan gave me a good idea of what to expect logistically from this project. Moving at a deliberate pace, it took me seven hours to complete photography at Lake Powhatan, and with that timeframe in mind, considering the size of the other locations, I mapped my itinerary with the goal of finishing the Western NC sites within two weeks.


Below are some of my favorite photographs from this portion of the project. Click directly on the photos to open the expanded view to see the entire photo.


 

Phase Two: Ocala National Forest

Next came my trip to Central Florida to photograph the sites in the Ocala National Forest. I rented my vehicle and drove to Ocala a week before Christmas, giving myself a four-day shoot schedule but adding a fifth day in case I needed it. A limitation in capturing the beauty of the grounds Naventure operated in Ocala National Forest was that I could not use my drone. There was a military base in the area, and FAA guidelines restricted anyone from flying a drone within the boundary of Ocala National Forest, so my drone stayed home. That Monday morning, I started at Juniper Springs Campgrounds and Recreation Area, the largest site in Florida.


Having been born and raised in South Florida, I was excited to see a part of my home state I'd never seen before, and it did not disappoint. I grew up climbing palm trees and strangler figs, but I gained my eye as a photographer after I moved to Asheville, so it was with a different vantage point that I approached the Ocala National Forest, and the beauty was stunning.


The first thing I was taken aback by was how striking and clear the natural springs were. I knew about the natural springs in Florida, but you cannot imagine water that looks that beautiful and clean until you see it in person. It was like liquid glass. Then, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to find captivating woodland compositions in the Central Florida forest. This would all bode well for capturing photographs highlighting why camping with Naventure in Ocala National Forest would make for a unique and memorable experience.


It was not all an enjoyable homecoming to the state I lived in for 28 years. By Tuesday afternoon, I started feeling sluggish and lethargic, and by that night, I was in the full spiral of flu-like symptoms. I spent the night tossing and turning, sweating through my sleepwear, and on Wednesday, I remained in bed, hydrating and resting as much as possible. I needed to recover fast. I planned on possibly needing an extra day, but I did not consider I'd be out of commission for multiple days.


Luckily, by Thursday morning, while not fully recovered, I felt good enough to get back out in the field. I finished at my last location Friday afternoon, checked out of my hotel room early that evening, and hit the road to my parents' house, where they retired in Lumpkin, Georgia, to spend a short Christmas Eve with them. After spending a late Friday evening and early Saturday with them, I headed home, arriving in time to enjoy the rest of the Christmas holiday with my wife.


Check out some of my favorite shots I captured for Naventure in Ocala National Forest. Click directly on the photos to open the expanded view to see the entire photo.


 

Final Thoughts

While a more robust budget and an extended timeline would have been ideal, I'm more than happy with the results and product I delivered to Naventure. Few jobs come without complications, but being able to operate within those constraints and still provide quality work is why we get paid. Good clients like Naventure understand these situations and do their best to work with you, making obstacles easier to navigate while giving you the confidence that you can do your job without having to micromanage your client.


I believe this job will be the start of a continued working relationship with Naventure, and I look forward to our paths crossing once more.

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