HIGHLIGHT PADDLING MEDIA ~ Barry Cole Photography and Ain’t Louie Fest2016.

Daddy always said, “Do what you love, love what you do.” As a child of the 70’s with no cell phones or game consoles my friends and I played outside – ball fields, creeks, tree houses, and bike trails. As I grew older, I didn’t grow up. My backyard wood led to mountain biking the Cumberland Plateau and backpacking the Smokies. Playing in creeks became scuba diving and recklessly tubing down the North Chick after a good rain.
After college my wife and I moved to Destin, Florida, where I became a licensed boat captain. We operated a snorkel boat along the Emerald Coast. And that’s when I got hooked on photography. Between the dolphins playing in the wake of my boat and the gulf coast sunsets, my memory cards stayed full. Although I loved the Panhandle, I missed the hills and changing seasons of Tennessee. 
Hurricane Ivan rushed in and made the decision for us. The storm destroyed the boat, so we moved back to the hills and valleys I have always called home.

I still captain a tourist-driven vessel, but now it’s along the Tennessee River where I can once again hike my beloved mountains and walk the creeks in search of cascading waterfalls. I’m a hiking photographer. Definitely not ultra-light, my pack typically pushes 20 pounds for simple day hikes. I guess you could label me a landscape photographer with a specialty in waterfalls. My portfolio contains over 400 such water features from several states. The world holds many lovers of waterfalls and creeks. This is where the photography and boating communities merge.

One of my buddies recently invited me to shoot the ALF event on the Tellico River capturing kayakers as they played with Baby Falls. Waterfalls, boats, and creeks…I couldn’t say no.

That day’s rain clouds created an overcast effect offering near-perfect shooting conditions. “Flotation devices” of all shape, sizes and colors came, one after the other, as onlookers cheered for those managing to stay afloat. Afterwards I hung out with a few participants and reached one life-confirming thought: There is not a tighter community than those that share a passion. Whether you paddle, rely on the wind, or like me, push a throttle (I do have a sit-on-top kayak – no laughing!), the boating community is generally made of good people who typically go out of their way to help one another. The same can be said for my fellow hiking/photography buddies; we are bound by a passion and willing to share good times and bad.

I love photography and have made a dime here and there doing it. But I would have never gotten into the hobby if it weren’t for nature and my passion to capture a scene so as not to forget it. Shooting boats coming off of Baby Falls was great. Watching the camaraderie between people doing what they love was the icing on the cake. I guess daddy was right.

The ultimate ALF album!
What’s it like to be at Baby Falls while all that Wallacing is going down? 

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