Adams and Adams talk photography

by Lee Adams

Kevin Adams received his first camera, a Pentax K1000, in the mid-1980s as a Christmas gift. He doesn’t know why he was given the camera ‘— he’d never asked for one ‘— but he embraced it immediately, teaching himself everything he could about photography.

Now, almost 20 years later, Adams has written six books, has had his photographs featured in numerous magazines and has thousands of eye-popping nature images in his portfolio. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Outdoor Photographer and Nature Photographer, to name a few, and his name is becoming well known in North Carolina with displays of his work being shown at parks across the state. He also sells much of his work through stock photography agencies that use the images in promotional and advertising materials.

His latest book, North Carolina Waterfalls, A Hiking and Photography Guide, is an update from his 1994 edition, and covers about 600 waterfalls that Adams has personally visited and photographed. Altogether, Adams says, there are between 1000 and 1500 waterfalls in the state, but many are inaccessible or are simply unknown to most people. His information comes from intensive studies of every topographical map in the state, which helped him find and document many of the waterfalls in his book.

Why a book on waterfalls? For Adams, it is the completion of a long journey beginning in childhood when he and his family would drive through the mountains on vacation trying to find falls. Many of their searches turned into long hours of frustrating driving, but the reward of finding the falls was worth it all in the end, Adams says in his book. He remembers how he and his family always thought someone should write a book on the falls and how to find them. With that gift of his first camera he was unknowingly on his way to fulfilling that very mission himself.

Adams’ book is one of the most valuable tools for both nature enthusiasts and photographers that I’ve seen. All of the trails accessing the falls are spelled out in terms of mileage, which Adams calculated himself using a wheel with an attached odometer. He also rates the trails on a scale of one to 10, with one being smooth and flat and 10 being the most difficult to traverse.

In his book, Adams has also included a beauty rating of one to 10, not on what he thinks is a particularly pretty waterfall, but based on how nice a waterfall looks at any given time of the year in any given weather situation. Falls ranking near the lower end of the scale may look best at certain times of the day and only during some seasons while falls higher on the scale may look nice during a combination of times and seasons.

A third scale, new to this book, is a one to 10 photo rating. This varies according to how photogenic a waterfall might be during differing seasons, times of day and vantage points.

Adams is careful to point out that his ratings are subjective, and he says he’s received numerous emails regarding the beauty ratings in his first book from those who think the waterfalls they’ve encountered are worthy of either a higher or lower rating.

Adams also speaks out to those who claim his book brings too many inconsiderate people out to waterfalls, causing harm to these pristine environments. Adams states that as a child he’d never heard of phrases like ‘no-trace camping,’ which he learned through a nature guidebook himself, and he tries to help inform the general public through his writings on how to enjoy nature and respect it at the same time. He even includes tips on soil erosion and rare plant life. The key to preservation, Adams points out, is getting people out into nature so they can learn to enjoy it and develop a desire to preserve it for the future.

Adams openly shares what he’s learned about photographing waterfalls in an extensive section in the front of the book. He covers everything from gear to proper exposure setting, composition and