Peter McIntosh – A Decade of Adventures Out
Sep 20, 2016 05:00PM
● By Melanie Heisinger
By Heather Leigh Johnson
It was in 2006 that cover artist Peter McIntosh ran into publisher Tracy McCoy at an art festival. Five years earlier, McIntosh had settled in the Rabun County area, and he was on his way to becoming one of the region’s most well-regarded photographers. Many of his early images came through working with Martha Ezzard, advising her on destinations and taking photographs for a hiking series that appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
On that fateful day at the art show, McCoy told McIntosh that she would like to feature his photographs in what would become the Georgia Mountain Laurel. He jumped at the chance and added his own wish – to write a column for her new magazine highlighting adventures in the southern Appalachians. So, “Adventures Out” was born. This month marks the tenth anniversary of the column’s debut.
A decade into writing that popular column, McIntosh jokes that his biggest surprise is how quickly a month passes, how often he faces the next deadline. Yet McIntosh has never missed a month, including writing 120 of his intentionally-bad poems. Like the postal service, neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor fog keeps him from his appointed rounds at publishing a hike for local adventurers. If he repeats a destination, McIntosh will try to cover it in a different season than the one in which it first appeared. Even so, he will still drive out and take the hike again so that his readers can be sure the road and the trail are open.
New hikes, of course, take even more work. McIntosh must first find a place he hasn’t been, drive there, make notes on the mileage and directions, find the correct turn-off, and take the hike. Sometimes, a destination doesn’t pan out – a waterfall can fall beneath his standards of beauty, or a Forest Service road might be closed so that the trail is inaccessible. But that’s all part of the job, and it’s a job he thoroughly enjoys.
McIntosh is currently at work on compiling a volume of his top forty adventures. He says he prefers a list of favorites over a comprehensive geographic guide so that he can select only the best hikes with the best pay-offs. He also likes to put together multi-point destinations in which he’ll link waterfalls and overlooks in one area to each other, and top it off with a perfect spot to catch the sunset. Readers appreciate his efforts.
The greatest reward for the photographer comes when he’s hiking with his camera and gear, and he runs into a reader of the Georgia Mountain Laurel out on the trail. More than once, a fellow adventurer has pulled a copy of Peter’s “Adventure Out” column from their pocket to show McIntosh that he got them there. McIntosh enjoys not only the acknowledgment, but also knowing that he’s inspiring others to get out and discover the beauty in the area he’s been capturing for years.
McIntosh’s exposure through the magazine has opened the door for the backcountry photography workshops he leads. He has a natural passion for teaching students how to use their cameras and equipment out on hikes to a destination of their choice. When he sees their efforts on social media, he feels pride in their accomplishments. He’s a generous teacher, and he likes to hear feedback from his students and fellow hikers through his website.
Asked if he worries that he’s training his replacement, McIntosh chuckles. He knows there’s more to the art of capturing a particularly evocative sunset than just equipment or camera skills. A successful photograph requires the photographer to be at the perfect place at the perfect time in the perfect weather. When everything comes together, he feels like Ansel Adams did – that he’s reached the perfect spot right when God’s ready to have someone click the shutter. The biggest help to his art, McIntosh admits, is living in this area, right in the midst of where all the best pictures happen, and where he places himself so that he can guide the rest of us on our next adventures out.