This month’s Instagram Takeover features Western North Carolina-based photographer Serge Skiba. When Serge isn’t out and about in the Blue Ridge honing his skill in everything from whitewater kayaking to mountain biking, he’s busy documenting the inherent beauty that our southern mountains have to offer.

“A love for the natural world led me to my recent passion, photography,” Serge says. “No matter what I did in life it always included being outside. Mountain biking, trail running, hiking, triathlons, and now Whitewater Kayaking are hobbies I enjoy when I am not chasing a setting sun over a mountain ridge or waking up in the still of the night only to witness and welcome the new day as the sun appeared on the horizon.”

Check out Serge’s outstanding work below and get to know what makes him tick with our short Q & A below. Don’t forget to follow him on Instagram @earthcaptured to stay up to date with his most recent adventures.

7) WilsonCreekL-25 copy

Wilson Creek was designated as a wild and scenic river area and is no surprise why. This is a dream for any outdoor enthusiast. From White Water Kayaking, fishing, hunting, biking, tubing, along with many other activities this river has it all.

4) Green5L-15 copy

On a normal day you will see hardly any people in the places whitewater kayakers paddle intense class V + rivers. Not on this day. Each year people brave the grueling, steep hike in to the gorge to watch the Green River Narrows Race. The hike out is not for the faint of heart. There are a lot of people with heart in the gorge that day. All of us awed and amazed by the awesome event.

8) CabinTrailL-2 copy 2

Early settlers lived in cabins like this one in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The star trails represent time passing and thinking about the life these people that came before us had here. The Blue Ridge Mountains are filled with beauty, but they are also filled with a rich history.

2) 2015HemphillBald2L-11 copy 2

After a cold night of camping @Lion_king was thrilled for the sunrise. His pup Bruce sitting close by watching the his dad stick the landing. There are many great experiences with camping the Blue Ridge Mountains, one of the most rewarding is seeing the sun rise.

1) 2015DevilsBathTubphotosL-2 copy 2

This crystal clear blue water is a rare find in the mountains of North Carolina. Add the colorful autumn leaves and you get a magical scene at Devils Bathtub. This place is has become one of my new favorites.

5) Unaka1Lpart2-1 copy

Sunsets like this one in the Blue Ridge can often times be an epic sight. @Steve_yocom and his German Shepard pup, Asia playing after sunset as you see the beautiful colors quickly disappearing from the sky of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

3) 2015HemphillBaldcampingdoubleL-4 copy 2

We camp because we love nature. We camp on top of a mountain so we can feel alive. We get many of our adventure ideas from Blue Ridge Outdoors. Thanks y’all!
6) Unaka4LMainrework-12 copy
Red Fork Falls in Tennessee is quite an impressive waterfall. This cascade pops with a golden color as the sun shines down on it. One of the best things about our mountains are the countless waterfall hikes that are there to 

BRO: What first drew you to photography?

SS: With so many beautiful places to see and explore in this world, I wanted to be able to preserve the best of those moments.

BRO: If you could only choose one area in this region to hike and explore and photograph for the rest of your life what would it be?

SS: Hands down it would be the Roan highlands. There is an abundance of beauty and open space to hike, explore, camp, and feel unbound from daily responsibility and stress.

BRO: How long have you lived in the Blue Ridge?

SS: I live just north of Charlotte, but I spend almost every weekend in the mountains. I only have to drive 30 minutes to see the mountains ranges of the Blue Ridge on the horizon so that gets my heart pounding.  People have posted photos of the Charlotte skyline from the top of various mountain peaks in the Blue Ridge, so when I am not able to be in the mountains, I like to visit the top floor of a high rise in Charlotte and see the Blue Ridge mountain ranges to the north and west.

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 10.57.01 AM

BRO: What is you favorite place to shoot outside of the Blue Ridge?

SS: I love photographing the coast of South Carolina. This is where I grew up as a child and loved seeing the sunrises over the ocean. Each day was a new beginning and to dream new dreams. I go back often to revisit the dreams I have made in to reality, and to forge new goals.

BRO: One piece of gear (minus your camera) you wouldn’t head into the woods without?

SS: Bear Spray. One must remember that once you step on that trail you are in their territory. I never want to harm wildlife, but you never know when you can be confronted with a situation in the back country. I’ve had a handful of encounters with bear while hiking and each of those times they have no interest in humans. I only deployed the spray once and that was by accident. Unfortunately our group was on the receiving end of that spray. Not fun. 🙂

BRO: Aside from photography, what is your favorite outdoor activity?

SS: White water kayaking is my ultimate favorite thing to do outside of photography. There are places kayakers get to see that you just can’t reach by car, or even hiking. This is where I consider the heart of the Blue Ridge to be. A place of complete solitude.

BRO: Craziest adventure ever experienced during an outdoor shoot?

SS: I’ve hiked and camped almost every possible weather situation. The craziest was probably when we had to bush wack from the bottom of a gorge to the top of the mountain ridge and back down to get back on trail with all of our backpacking gear on probably about 60-70 pounds worth. I won’t lie, it was kinda scary climbing hand over hand knowing with just one slip I was tumbling back down towards the gorge.

Even with a GPS once we got back over to the other side of the mountain ridge we almost couldn’t find our way back on trail. We finally found the trail and made our way up to the top for what we hoped was going to be spectacular sunset. That night we decided to pack up camp and head back down as there was a heavy storm forecast to roll through the area overnight. We hiked back down for 3 hours in the dark losing the trail twice after finally making it back to the car. That storm never happened. The Blue Ridge Mountains is a beautiful place, but conditions can become rugged and unpredictable. One must be able to expect unpredictable conditions and learn to adapt and react to any situation you are faced with in order to have a great experience.

BRO: Is photography your primary gig?

SS: I am working up to making it primary, for now I have a Monday through Friday desk job.

BRO:  Do you have a favorite backpacking loop in the Appalachians?

SS: Carvers gap to 19E along the Appalachian Trail. The hike begins along a popular trail passing by many friendly day hikers. The crowds soon thin out and you are immersed in the amazing landscape of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

BRO: What advice would you give to an aspiring outdoor photographer?

SS: Meet similar individuals who enjoy taking new adventures. Become part of social media photography groups and don’t be afraid to join in for a trip with fellow photographers. There are group hikes posted for anyone who wants to join. choose one that you think might be a good starting point.  It starts with just one good experience before that fire inside you with drive your passion.  I used to think that getting ” that shot” was the most important thing, now it’s the fellowship and friendships that develop along the way that I most enjoy. The experiences I have with others makes my photos seem more genuine and meaningful.