Book on the Tennessee River is first of its kind
by BETTIE MARLOWE Banner Staff Writer
Oct 20, 2013 | 755 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tenn River
This photo of Lee University campus and North Cleveland Church of God is included in “Tennessee River, Sparkling Gem of the South.”
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While there are books romanticizing the mighty Mississippi River, or capturing the beauty of the Chattahoochee or documenting the Ohio, no such book has existed on the Tennessee River — until now. Chattanooga-based photographer/pilot Ron Lowery has released a new book, “Tennessee River: Sparkling Gem of the South.”

In this new book of stunning aerial photographs, Lowery provides a different perspective on the Tennessee River — all 652 miles of it, from the waterway’s humble origins in the Appalachian Mountains to its merger with the Ohio River in Paducah, Ky., at Mile Marker 1.

Few people have been as touched by the Tennessee River’s beauty as much as Lowery. For the past 30 years, he and his wife, Sue, have not only lived along its banks, but using a special open-cockpit airplane, have flown hundreds of miles along the river and its tributaries.

Lowery confided that after 30 years of living and raising a family on the banks of the Tennessee River, his fascination with the river only grew stronger.

In his book, Lowery reveals his inspiration for making the book. “To produce the photos for this book, I devoted hundreds of hours flying to find that special lighting, angle and weather condition that would best portray the subject.”

Some places, he said he flew over many times, but didn’t bother to touch the camera, but in essence, “every flight was a scouting trip.” He said getting airborne before dawn to capture special texture lighting at sunrise and, in many cases, landing in the dark after shooting a distant location in the evening, was the norm.

He flies most of the time in a twin-engine AirCam he named Cloud Chaser. He and his son, Alan, finished building the aircraft in 2000. It is designed for photography and to fly low and slow, “but it’s both safe and economical.”

Locations greater than 100 miles, Lowery said, usually meant his wife would pull the fifth-wheel RV to the location where he would meet her to camp, spending several days flying and shooting. All his photos were shot with camera handheld for the most artistic control. The fact that Sue has 30 years experience as a professional art director and graphic designer, he said, came in handy in producing the book.

Flying the unusual open-cockpit plane, Lowery captures the path of the river, its estuaries and tributaries, the cityscapes and landscapes that all tell the important story of this “sparkling gem of the South” in a 144-page, coffee-table book of photographs.

“I felt compelled to do this book because so many people seem to take the river for granted,” Lowery explained. “Although most people near the Tennessee River have their favorite fishing, boating, swimming and camping areas, few people see and understand the river’s vastness and beauty.” He continued, “I believe that even though you can experience and photograph the river from the ground or in a boat, it’s an aerial perspective that reveals the river’s true soul.”

Virtually living in the sky for hundreds of hours over several years, he has captured landscapes in all kinds of lighting and weather conditions. He has more than 40 years as a professional photographer and pilot, and is also internationally recognized for his creative photography and conceptual illustration skills.

Kim Trevathan, author of “Paddling the Tennessee River: A Voyage on Easy Water,” called “Tennessee River” “... a beautiful book that will enthrall readers interested in a variety of fields: geography, water recreation, Tennessee Valley history and culture, and perhaps most importantly, photography.”

Professional pilot Mel Hughes commented, “Lowery has captured the essence of place; the often-unseen beauty of a moment that frames what few of us ever realize is there.”

In 2003, Lowery flew the plane across the country and subsequently, he and his wife produced his first book, “Chasing Lewis & Clark Across America: A 21st century Aviation Adventure.” The coffee-table book received high praise from such publications as Southern Living and the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Kansas City Star called it a “… banquet for the eyes.”