Justin Costner is a Landscape and Adventure photographer based in Western NC who's work has been published and featured by numerous publications and brands such as Blue Ridge Outdoors, Our State Magazine, VisitNC, WNC Magazine and Kelty Gear. Justin discovered his passion for exploration and photography throughout numerous adventures in the Linville Gorge Wilderness with friends and fellow outdoors enthusiast alike. His desire to capture the rare, beautiful moments that nature provides has led him on many adventures to wild and scenic locations in search of magical light.
Q. How were you introduced to backpacking and the great outdoors
A. I was introduced to backpacking as kid but it wasn't until about 5 years ago that I started doing bigger objectives and really getting into camping - which lead to photography. However, as for the outdoors I grew up on a family dairy farm so we were always outside and pretty much free range kids to explore the creeks and forest around our pastures - that had a huge impact on my love and respect for nature.
Q. Growing up on a dairy farm is not something many people can relate to, what impact did that environment have on you as a child? Do you think it helped direct you in certain life or career choices?
A. I kinda touched on that earlier but yea watching my dad and grandfather planting and harvesting the crops that fed our animals and paid our bills, taking care of the land that provides and respecting nature throughout the worst of seasons. It's a simple life that requires a lot of work but I'm grateful for those experiences!
Q. Who or what in your childhood shaped your worldview the most?
A. Kind of the same with my upbringing but I would say the time spent in the mountains with good friends or photographing an epic sunrise really puts things in perspective for me and steers my path to what I want to accomplish both personally and professionally.
Q. Is there a specific book you find yourself suggesting or gifting to others?
A. That's a tough question, so many good ones to choose from. I recently read Alex Honnolds "Alone On The Wall" and I must say it's worth checking out
Q. You are in and around Linville Gorge, North Carolina, a lot, would you say the gorge is your favorite adventure spot in the state?
A. Yea I'd say the Gorge not only because the incredible views and climbing but it's special to me - I cut my teeth there as a photographer and grew a really strong passion for its protection and conservation. It's different from most western NC mountains and National Forests lands with its deep gorge and towering cliffs - definitely a must see if you haven't been! Also great for highlining.
Q. You co-founded a mountain guide service called HikeMore Adventures, what was that proces like?
A. It's been a long process with permitting and insurance but it's been great showing people these beautiful places and providing a safe and entertaining experience. Going on our 3rd year so looking forward to what the future holds. Curt Teague has been running the show while I've been focusing on photography and growing that part of the business. Check out HikeMoreAdventures.com and give him a shout!
Q. Wilderness education is a strong point of interest for many who love the backcountry because we have seen a huge rise in visitation to our National Parks and wilderness areas in the recent years. How important is wilderness education to you and the people you explore with?
A. Super important and I think that's one thing HikeMore does a great job of is teaching these inexperienced hikers and campers the proper technique and skills along with first aid and safety. It pays to be prepared in the backcountry trust me - we all have to start somewhere
Q. You spent some time out west last summer if I remember correctly, tell me about that. What impact did it have on your view of the Appalachian mountains?
A. My friend Griffen Gilbert and I road tripped out to Missoula and stopped along the way at numerous places to camp, hike and climb throughout North Dakota and Montana. The mountain ranges are so prominent out west and the lack of trees is a huge contrast to what we have here in WNC and the Appalachians. The list of places I wanna explore out west grows everyday.