In North Carolina, 2020 has been declared the “Year of the Woman.” So naturally, the state’s tourism board, Visit NC, had to commission imagery for its annual travel guide that properly reflected the statement. Fortunately for the board, the Tar Heel state is home to Ashley Christensen, a Raleigh-rooted restaurateur who won the 2019 James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef.
The award was not for the Southeast region — she received that honor in 2014.
It was for the entire country.
Aspen, Colorado-based photographers Chris Council and Emily Chaplin, the latter of whom gave quotes for this story, met Ashley at one of her restaurants for the Visit NC shoot. Since she’s, you know, literally the best chef in America, Ashley has a rather busy schedule. One of the reasons Visit NC keeps going back to Chris and Emily is that the pair gets the job done quickly without rushing.
The tourism board has been a client of ours for about four years. They love our work and really appreciate the extra lengths we go to and our attention to detail. They loved the portrait of Ashley. She’s really busy and in high demand, so we had to get in and get out in very little time.
In fact, Chris and Emily did so well in the short amount of time they had with Ashley that Visit NC used the image for one of its covers and online. Even though the two-time Beard winner — who is the only North Carolinian to win the top award — has to constantly keep track of the several Raleigh-area venues she owns, Ashley and her squad gave C2 their undivided attention.
Ashley was great, super helpful. Very sophisticated and understood the value and importance of this shoot. The restaurant was fully cleaned upon our arrival. Their team helped ours with little styling things.
Unfortunately for Chris and Emily, they didn’t get a chance to sample any of Ashley’s handiwork. No matter, as this portion of the assignment was only half the project.
We did photograph some of her dishes. We rarely get a chance to eat, though. We’re either rushing to get the next location or the food is cold after the shoot is done.
C2’s next location for this assignment was scenic Jackson County, through which part of North Carolina’s famed fly-fishing trail runs. The inland county sits on the opposite end of the state from Raleigh, about a five-hour drive from the capital. Chris and Emily knew one of the photos from this fly-fishing-based shoot was going to be the main cover, so they got a variety of vertical shots. While it was a smidge challenging to find women for these images, everything eventually fell into place.
We had to do some hunting to get females for this one. That kind of came together close to the last minute. We were talking to a bunch of people and then a couple people we wanted ended up being available.
Usually when you’re shooting imagery of people doing some kind of outdoor activity, those folks are going to know what they’re doing. But because of the “First That Lasts” tagline associated with the travel guide, Chris and Emily didn’t need to track down two fly-fishing experts. Just one.
One of the women in the photo is a local physician who is an experienced fly fisher. The other woman was a novice. Visit NC was trying to show people experiencing something for the first time. They wanted people who were novices, so it didn’t matter if someone wasn’t well-versed in the activity we were shooting. Because one of the fly fishers was new to the sport, we feel the shots had that authenticity. But it did help to have the one woman who was an experienced fly fisher.
And in the spirit of the other big slogan for the travel guide, the two women featured in the shot have continued to fly fish — and to teach other women about the sport.
They had so much fun on the shoot that they’ve been inspired to start a local female fly-fishing clinic series.
Even though Chris and Emily worked with an inexperienced fly fisher, there were plenty of knowledgeable people on their team. One of the individuals on site spent time as an announcer for ESPN, hosting a fishing show for the network where he met fellow fly-fishing aficionados across the country. His input informed the final deliverables.
It was great having him there to hang out and give tips. He’d say things like ‘yeah, that’s not really how you fish,’ so he helped us put the subjects in the right position. He knew exactly what he was talking about and it was nice to have that on site. It made the images more realistic.
As you can see from the shots above, Jackson County — and North Carolina in general — is beautiful. Chris and Emily also spent some time in Sylva, the county seat and subject of a cool fun fact for all you movie lovers out there.
Jackson County is picturesque, and the nearby town of Sylva is lovely. It was actually the filming location for the movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” It’s a great town to visit and has some great restaurants!
Colorado is a place where you can spend around 300 days of the year doing outdoor activities, so it makes sense that Aspen-residing Chris and Emily cherish the chance to do shoots that allow them to see slices of the America’s most breathtaking countrysides. The other nice thing about getting outside for assignments? Low key setups. For C2 Photography, the more of those kind of shoots, the better.
These projects are emblematic of the work we feel we do best and love to do. These were not highly produced shoots with trailers, ten art directors, and the like — we had to pull things together ourselves. We thrive in that environment and are happy to do that kind of work. We’ve been doing a lot more of that lately around the country, which thrills us.
Check out more of Chris and Emily’s work at c2-photography.com.