NC State alumnus photographs “Wild North Carolina”

April 6, 2011
By Bill Krueger

blevins_wildAn NC State alumnus has captured images of natural communities across North Carolina in a new book, “Wild North Carolina.”

David P. Blevins ’91, ’94 MS, is a professional photographer based in Fuquay-Varina. He joined forces with Michael P. Schafale with the N.C. Natural Heritage Program to produce a book that features areas in North Carolina that remain largely unaltered by man.

The book, published by The University of North Carolina Press, has more than 100 photographs by Blevins from locales such as the Outer Banks, Grandfather Mountain and Eno River State Park.

We spoke with Blevins about the book, his work and his love of North Carolina:

What is a “natural community”? The scientific definition is an assemblage of plants and animals that occur together on the landscape. Another way to look at it is if you’re interested in what North Carolina was like before the Europeans came, what it was like here in the past, this is one field of science where people are trying to get at that question.

Why do a book on natural communities? Natural communities are a good framework for scientists to study what the landscape used to be like. Most people today are not aware of what’s missing. I wanted to take the scientific approach to looking at the landscape and combine that with something anybody could appreciate and understand.

Any sources of inspiration for the book? The book was inspired by B.W. Wells (a professor at NC State College from 1919-49), who wrote a popular book called “The Natural Gardens of North Carolina.” Even today, that book is quite popular. It was a pioneer of this concept of natural communities.

How did this book come about? I’ve been working on this book my whole life. When I was quite young, I loved to just go hiking and spend time out in the woods. When I was in high school my father, who is an NC State alumnus, insisted that I was going to college. I wasn’t really interested in college. I was interested in the woods. Then I found out I could go to college and study the forest. That sounded like a good idea. I also started learning photography.

How much work went into getting the photos in the book? I would say the photography for the book took place over five years. I took 15,000 images, and the book has 118 images. One of the goals of the book is to show these natural communities in their best light. One of the challenges was I had to have confidence that I was looking at good examples of natural communities. I had to see enough examples of that community to see what was a consistent pattern.

Do you have a favorite photograph? The image we used on the cover is an image that worked out a lot better than I had hoped. I took a lot of pictures where I imagined what I would like to show, but a lot of the images fell short of what I imagined. I couldn’t find a forest, for example, in as good a condition as I would have liked. A lot of these natural communities are threatened now. The picture on the cover is from the Black River. I got lucky on the light, but I went there looking for that sort of light.

What was your favorite spot to visit? The one area that was easiest to be in, that I just enjoyed being there, was the area on Roan Mountain. That area is just so beautiful and easy to hike in. Hiking on those high mountain meadows – it’s hard to get any more beautiful than that. Plus, that area is not all that altered from what is used to be.

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