When Rob Travis was a kid, he’d visit his grandmother once or twice a year in rural Georgia, and she taught him to identify all the bird songs ringing through the pines: the call of the dark-eyed junco, the white-breasted nuthatch, the brown thrasher. As he grew, his love of birds did, too. He wanted to photograph them in their natural habitats, but he evolved from using a “point-and-shoot camera” — it just wasn’t up to snuff. Travis was going after National Geographic-worthy images, so he bought his first DSLR, a serious Canon with a “nice lens,” he says.
The venue Travis runs today, Blue Moon Gallery in downtown Brevard, accomplishes his early ambitions. It’s so named because “art this good only comes around once in a blue moon,” he quips. The gallery features numerous local and regional artists, as well as Travis’ own dramatic nature photography. He’s largely self taught, and has been featured in publications throughout the Southeast.
Though he initially set out to photograph just birds, he found himself equally inspired by the surrounding scenery. Now landscape photography is his niche. “Anything with a sense of atmosphere — fog, mists, and weather — really captivates me. Those settings provide an opportunity to capture unique images,” he says.
Travis’ photography has drawn him to the most striking natural spots in the U.S., including coastal South Carolina and Georgia, unpopulated Merritt Island in Florida (home to 356 bird species), canyon country in Utah and Arizona — “just about anywhere I have family, so I can camp out on their couch,” he says. But his process is generally the same regardless of location. He’ll wake up well before dawn and set up in an idyllic spot. As he waits for the sun to rise, he snaps a few night photos: “With all those stars up there, you might as well make use of them.”
As the sun illuminates the world, he pays close attention to light as it dances over flowers, birds, fields, rocks, or hills, taking shots of whatever he deems beautiful. Once the light goes flat, by late morning, he’ll eat lunch, return around 3pm — the start of the so-called “golden hour” — then work until sunset. “I’ll do this for three or four days, depending on what’s happening,” he says.
From 2001-’15, Travis worked at The Glass Feather, his father’s glass studio in Cedar Mountain. The Glass Feather closed after Travis’ father passed away, so he established Blue Moon in that space, relocating the venue to Brevard last summer.
He finds the new place ideal. While Travis was “basically begging [exhibitors] to come on board” in relatively rural Cedar Mountain, he’s having to occasionally turn artists away in Brevard. He loves the feeling of being based in a bustling arts scene. “Giving other artists an opportunity to flourish in a location like this is so gratifying,” he says.
Travis’ success in the new space seems to fall right in line with a theme that’s recently been prevalent in his life, as well as in his photography.
“It seems like my real talent is being in the right place at the right time.”
Rob Travis, Blue Moon Gallery, 24 East Main St., Brevard. For more information, see bluemoongallerync.com or robtravis.com. Travis also shows his work at Woolworth Walk (25 Haywood St., Asheville, woolworthwalk.com.