Camilla Calnan’s passion for photography has always been a part of her life. It formally began when she was four years old – her dad let her use his camera and she never gave it back! Based in Asheville since 2000, Camilla works as a freelance photographer with her husband Chris Bolm, specializing in natural portraiture, weddings, nature and landscape photography. Their exhibit, #themountainsarecalling, focuses on the unique and diverse ecosystem of Western North Carolina using photographs to capture the creativity of plants, trees, flowers, landscapes, gardens, outdoor art and micro details found in nature.

I recently had a chance to catch up with Camilla to learn more about her background in photography, inspirations and new exhibit at the Arboretum.

1. What inspired you to start photographing nature?

Nature has always been a huge inspiration for me. From my early days with the camera, I felt drawn to explore and capture natural imagery for personal work. Growing up in so many places, I would recognize the geographical and varietal differences in plant and animal life everywhere I lived. I love to discover and capture the beauty that surrounds us all, using the camera as a tool to further examine and preserve the beauty and mystery of nature.

 2. What do you believe is a key element (or elements) in capturing a good photo?

Lighting, exposure and composition are the key elements in a good photo. Beyond that, there is a magic that happens when all the aspects line up that gives the image more life, more meaning and ultimately, letting it speak to the viewer. As a non-technical answer, I have to say inspiration is another key element – if the photographer is inspired, the viewer will likely be as well.

3. How do you think photography has changed over the years?

Photography has evolved so quickly from film to digital, shifting from something that took time to process to pixels that can be viewed immediately. There is art that lives in capturing light and fleeting moments through photography – no matter if it is film or digital. Digital photography offers greater opportunities to preserve more moments in time as pixels can be filled and deleted repeatedly, unlike the commitment of film. I am thankful that I started shooting in the “film days,” working in darkrooms and processing my work by hand. It gives me a respect and understanding for the magic involved – and I believe it has helped me carry an extra reverence when shooting digital. In lots of ways, it is a beautiful thing to share moments instantly with family and friends all over the world, but I still love having to wait for film to unveil its magic through development.

4. What drew you to approach the Arboretum to display your work?

The Arboretum has always been an inspiring place to explore, discover and learn; between the awesome staff, members and visitors, my husband Chris and I feel that those who spend time there will appreciate our love of nature more than most. Chris and I love playing on campus and are usually toting cameras with us, photographing the Arboretum’s constantly evolving landscapes. As a University of North Carolina Asheville graduate, the campus always seemed like a perfect place for an exhibit – and I am ecstatic to get to display my work in the Education Center.

5. Why did you decide to focus on Western North Carolina for this exhibit?

A vast majority of my photography, work and travels is based in Western North Carolina. So, making our awe-inspiring area the focus of the show seemed intuitive. To be perfectly honest, Asheville is the first place I have known to really feel like “home.” My parents made wonderful homes everywhere we moved as the Army transferred us, but until I came here in 2000 to study at UNCA, I had never felt called to be somewhere. The mountains are calling – and have been calling me for a long time.

6. What do you hope visitors get out of this exhibit?

We hope that our exhibit inspires visitors to get out, explore and enjoy the unique area around Asheville. If they cannot go answer the calling mountains, we hope that by seeing our exhibit, they will get to “escape” into the mountains through the images. More than anything, we hope showing off our spectacular area will help encourage stewardship, respect and preservation of these awe-inspiring mountains and the wilderness surrounding us.

#themountainsarecalling photography exhibit is on display Saturday, March 25 – Sunday, July 9, on the second floor of the Education Center. Camilla will also be available for an artist meet and greet this Saturday, March 25 and Sunday, March 26 inside the Education Center.