Ralph became interested in photography at an early age, due to his father being an avid photographer. Like his dad, he got his first camera at 8 years old. He has always particularly enjoyed photographing nature, especially flowers. He took lots of pictures until he got interested in video and started a video-production company in Charlotte. He pretty much put down the still camera for the next 20 years, except for vacation snapshots, and earned his living with a video camera (and he still does).
In 1999, he and his wife, Deborah Thomas, sold their video-production company and bought a large tract of land in the Cowee Valley in north Macon County. Because he was amazed by all the beautiful wildflowers on their property, Ralph started taking pictures again. To date, he has documented 150 kinds of wildflowers around the county. Next, he started photographing bees and butterflies. He is currently interested in capturing the scenic beauty of the waterfalls, mountain vistas, and rivers & creeks in Macon County, as well as some of the historic houses, farms, and barns. He really enjoys being outside and hiking with his camera.
Ralph and his father aren’t the only Prestons interested in photography. His daughter, Lisa Preston, and son-in-law, Nils Schlebusch, are professional photographers, specializing in travel and lifestyle photography. You can view their work at http://www.prestonschlebusch.com.
Ralph’s photos are published regularly in The Franklin Press and the online weekly, The Burningtown News, features one of his photographs every week. He’s also been published in Wildlife in North Carolina, The Smoky Mountain News, and The Highlander. The Land Trust for the Little Tennessee has featured many of his photographs in their newsletters, website, and in the annual calendar they publish features his photography (2007 is the third year of the calendar). The Little Tennessee Watershed Association also uses his pictures in their publications, as well as their website. In 2003, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund featured one of his photographs of the Needmore Tract in their Annual Report. To celebrate the protection of the Needmore Tract in 2004, The Nature Conservancy presented one of Ralph’s photographs of the Little Tennessee River to each of the 10 partner agencies who put together the funding for the purchase. Another of his Needmore pictures was featured on the 2006 North Carolina state map, and a roadside scene will be featured on the 2007 map.