We’ve just had some new aerial photographs taken of Camp Alleghany by photographer Daryl Watkins and we couldn’t be more thrilled! I can’t wait to tell you about them, but first, I want to share some history.
Back in the 1970s or 80s we had an aerial photograph taken, I think from a plane. For that times and the technology available, it was a great photo. We used it for decades on a postcard that we sold in the store.
The postcard is vintage now – roughly 40 years old – giving it added character and perspective. We actually still have some postcards left and sell them occasionally in the store. (See the photo in the gallery for this blog post.)
In recent years, I had started thinking I wanted a new aerial picture. My husband Matt’s work – Shreckhise Nurseries – has a beautiful one taken by someone fairly local to where we live, Staunton, Virginia, and I’ve seen the photographer at craft fairs. He actually has done some work at The Greenbrier too. I took his card and tucked it away to think about later.
Then last summer, 2014, Daryl Watkins’ family attended Family Camp for the first time. I had never met him and didn’t know anything about him. All I know is that I was up on the Rifle Range and heard a buzzing sound, and thought there was a massive beehive near by. I actually panicked a bit because of how close the buzzing sounded, but could never find the source.
Later that day or the next day, I heard the buzzing sound again but in a different location, and, cue the nightmare vision of a bee swarm attacking me in the wilderness all alone, I freaked out, sure that bees were chasing me down from the Rifle Range.
I looked everywhere, then thought, “Well, maybe it’s a helicopter I’m hearing.”
But still couldn’t find anything. Was I going crazy?
I can’t remember exactly when I figured it out, but it was Daryl’s drone that I kept hearing around camp! He was using it mostly to take some video footage last year, but also some pictures. He sent us some of his work when he got home, and my reaction was immediate: This is it! This is who I want to do our new aerial photo!
Daryl attended Family Camp again this summer, and we worked out a little deal with him for one shot. Well, he took eight amazing, gorgeous, fantastic pictures and put them on his website. Since then, it’s just been a matter of how to best use them on our website, Facebook, and of course an updated photo postcard for the store! We may make use of a postcard template to help with that, but time will tell.
Getting to know Daryl has been a delight for all of us and we certainly don’t want to keep him all to ourselves. He’s not only talented, but also so nice and funny. So I asked, and he agreed to do a little interview for the blog. What follows is a little bit about him. I hope you’ll enjoy.
On the lightbox
How did you hear about Camp Alleghany?
My daughters attended Glen Allen Elementary School and a couple of years ago Camp Alleghany caught my eye at their silent auction.
My wife loves to camp. Me? I’m more of a hotel kinda guy. Still, I thought it would be a cool experience and figured it would be worth a shot.
Once you knew you were coming to Camp Alleghany, what expectations did you have?
I skimmed the website a little prior to our first Family Camp. I expected tents on the ground, trudging through the woods on hikes and no beer (gasp!). We didn’t realize that we’d have to take a barge across and that we’d quickly learn to tag a boat.
We didn’t know what else to expect but were excited at the thought of being disconnected from the outside world. Even with cellular/internet service, Camp Alleghany still disconnects you and allows you to settle in for a nice few days at camp.
After you arrived and experienced Camp Alleghany, how did your experience differ from what you had expected?
It became clear early on that the Camp Alleghany experience was going to be special. I had to remind myself that Camp Alleghany wasn’t eight weeks of Family Camp but that Family Camp was the ending of a summer long experience for young girls. Memories etched in stone, lifelong friends and young girls leaving Camp Alleghany as better people.
We met a number of families that come together each year to catch up on old memories but who are also part of generations of campers at Camp Alleghany. The young ladies that we have met posses qualities that we’d like our daughters to have as they get older: Independent, confident, genuine, reliable…I could go on and on.
Our second year at Family Camp only cemented what we learned in year one. We got to know some of the counselors who, in turn, got to know our daughters. Our daughters left Camp Alleghany this year talking about more than just their time on the slide or their near-bullseyes at the archery range – their memories now include the people that have crafted Camp Alleghany into what it is today.
You have two beautiful daughters – what do they enjoy about Camp Alleghany?
They thoroughly enjoyed their time in the river, the rifle range, the archery range and the scavenger hunt. They also love the time spent with the counselors.
We’ve seen some amazing aerial shots of Camp Alleghany. How did you get into aerial photography?
My mother chased me with a camera from day one and I poked fun at her for it as long as I can remember. Fast forward a number of years and I’ve been the one chasing our girls around since they were able to run from me.
I have always loved photography – it’s a wonderful release for me.
Aerial photography came almost by chance (although I think it was a natural progression for me). I was at a BBQ in our neighborhood and a buddy said, “Hey, come check this out.” Before I landed his drone, my mind was already filled with the hundreds of places in Richmond and Roanoke (my hometown) that I could shoot. I also knew that I could also make some money with my new toys.
Creative Dog Media was formed last year and has consumed lots of my free time ever since.
What is your favorite aerial shot of Camp Alleghany?
It would have to be the one of the Camp nestled in the Alleghany Mountains. It really sums up the location and seclusion of the camp.
What is your all time favorite shot you’ve taken from the air?
Growing up in Roanoke, I remember going to the Mill Mountain Star and looking down on the city. It was the best view in and of the city. The first time I went home with my drone, I immediately went downtown and took off knowing I wanted to get as much of that skyline as I could just from a different perspective. To this day, this shot of Roanoke is my all time favorite picture from the air. Since the tragedy in Roanoke in late August, it’s been shared thousands of times as one of the photos of strength for those with any ties to Roanoke.
A keepsake for the ages
Daryl’s work in so many different shots is just stunning! We’re so grateful that Camp Alleghany had the good fortune to meet him and work with him. And we want to share that love with the greater Camp Alleghany community.
Daryl has offered all of us a 15% off discount code to purchase not only any Camp Alleghany aerial shots, but any photos or photo products on his site! Here’s how to use it:
Daryl kindly and generously donated a couple of his pictures to the Camp Alleghany Alumni Association (CAAA) silent auction fundraiser at Family Camp, and they brought in over $700 for the CAAA. Since being won over to the joys of camp, and with two Ghany Girls in his camp, he’s become a big supporter of both Alleghany and Family camp! We love having him and his family as part of the ‘Ghany community.
His oldest daughter plans to attend Term Camp next summer, which is exciting. Who knows, maybe one day she’ll be on The J-Team, snapping up pictures and doing photo essays for the blog, a chip off the old block?!
Thank you, Daryl! I hope everyone enjoys these photos as much as I do!*
– Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls