Wandering the backwoods around Mountain Park has turned into a passion and a profession for a former Surry Central High School student. Richard Bernabe is now a published photographer and author of nature books who now lives in Greer, S.C. but travels the southeastern United States documenting its beautiful places. "My most recent book is called South Carolina Wonder and Light and it's a collection of photographs I have taken from across the state of South Carolina, showcasing the natural beauty from the mountains to the beaches," Bernabe said in a recent interview. "Getting the images for the book involved driving thousands of miles, hiking, canoeing, getting lost, bitten by dogs, stung by bees, and lots more. All in all, however, it was a labor of love," he said. That love for the outdoors and natural places was cultivated in Surry County. "I went to Mountain Park Elementary School and Surry Central High School. With my family, I grew up near Mountain Park, hiking the woods and fishing the rivers near our home. I gained a love and respect for those places and others like it. "It became a driving force for my current profession, which is photographing and writing about outdoor sports and wild places across the Southeastern United States. I use my photography to help educate the public about the beauty of these places while helping protect them from irresponsible logging practices, pollution and overdevelopment." The images from the book cover the mountainous regions of Caesars Head and Jocassee Gorges all the way to Edisto and Hunting Islands on the Atlantic Ocean. "Much like North Carolina, South Carolina is an extremely diverse state with many different landforms and ecosystems," Bernabe said. Last fall, he did a solo canoe trip across South Carolina and filmed the expedition for ETV, South Carolina Public Broadcasting. "The 21-day trek was used in the same way - to make folks, who could never see some of these places otherwise, aware of what is out there beyond what can be seen from the road or highway," he said. His current book project is a partnership with Washington D.C.-based photographer, Ian Plant. The Lonely Shore will document the natural, desolate beauty of the Atlantic's barrier islands. From Cape Cod, Massachusetts south to Florida, including North Carolina's Outer Banks, this book will focus on the drifting sands of this fragile environment and the wildlife that inhabits it. The publisher is Mountain Trail Press and the release date will be early 2009.