“Every year, just while hiking, I take 100,000 landscape photos,” estimates Asheville writer and professional adventure photographer Rachel B. Pressley. “My portfolio is insane.” But there’s method in the madness for Pressley, who majored in Sustainable Development with an environmental concentration at Appalachian State University while minoring in Commercial Photography and Journalism. In addition to writing and photographing for magazines, Pressley shoots weddings, elopements, portraits, and creates content for social media, taking photos and writing related stories about gear for major outdoor brands such as L.L. Bean, Merrell, and Blundstone, and for beer powerhouse Wicked Weed.
Your photojournalism is really tied to your desire to promote a more sustainable environment, isn’t it?
Yes. I want my photos to drive other people to get outside — to inspire them the way I’m inspired when I’m chasing sunrises, sunsets, cotton-candy skies, the golden hour. I want them to feel the warmth and coldness, the trees blowing, the smells, the sounds, the beauty, the sensory overload.
How do you frame the raw immediacy of nature?
I sometimes shoot as I’m walking, to capture the organic moments as they’re happening. I always use natural light, and I like movement in my photos — when I’m doing wedding photography, I always instruct my couples to walk, sway, dance, etc.
Does looking through the viewfinder distract from the moment you’re trying to experience?
My camera has a touchscreen, so I can focus and shoot while looking over and around it. I think it’s safer to shoot that way, too.
I fear getting distracted because I’m a little clumsy and I literally shoot right on the edges of cliffs. My uncle is a very experienced landscape photographer, and last year he was taking a picture and the next thing his wife knew, only his eyeglasses were left on the cliff. He fell into the ocean and will be okay, but suffered a traumatic brain injury. So, as much as I want to create art, I want to do it in a safe way.
How long have you been a photographer?
My dad gave me my first real camera when I was 12 and I photographed every happy thing in the backyard — bees, flowers, trees — and started developing my eye. But I guess it really started when I was seven. We took a trip out to Yellowstone, and my mom gave me and my sister each a notebook and a disposable camera to document and remember it.
Almost 20 years later you’re still traveling, taking photos, and writing about it.
I’ve hiked approximately 100 trails over the past year. I like to plan an itinerary, pick a few national parks out West, and cover 5,000 miles in two weeks — either car camping, tent camping, or RV camping.
That’s serious mileage.
I’ve already planned 10 or 15 trips for this year — West Virginia, Washington State, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine …
But you also hike and shoot all over WNC.
I’ve shot in every county in WNC, but during COVID I felt stuck and wanted to get out past WNC.
Asheville can be a good place to come home to, and a good place to leave.
Exactly. It excites me to go to different states and come back home with a greater appreciation for these mountains.
Do you have a favorite hiking spot?
I’m always roaming between Mount Mitchell and Balsam Range. I also love Linville Gorge.
Rachel B. Pressley, Asheville. Pressley is currently booking clients for 2022 and 2023. To learn more, visit rachelbpressley.com, @rachelblaireroams on Instagram, and the artist’s print shop, rachelblaireroams.darkroom.tech — where her prints can be purchased in a range of formats.