Scruggs talks about photography

By Page H. Gifford

It would seem to those who know Horace Scruggs, that there isn’t anything he won’t try and master. It’s probably due to his meticulous character and willingness to explore and learn something new. Artists know that part of learning new skills and techniques is the ability to use curiosity to its full advantage and explore their medium without being afraid or limiting themselves. As a musician and a filmmaker, Scruggs understands this. But now he has added photography to his list of artistic endeavors.

Scruggs is the choral teacher at the Fluvanna County High School and a former musical director of the Fluvanna Community Singers.  Now retired, he continues to record  and play music with his band but is also turning to the visual arts.

He became interested in photography right after college but it wasn’t until recently that he has been able to study the art form, gain the skills, and have the funds to purchase an appropriate camera and lenses.

“In learning the craft makes my interest grow even more.  At one point I was wondering why the shot didn’t come out the way I planned now I’m learning how to control the camera to get the shot I want.”

Primarily a landscape photographer, he speaks modestly about his work, which is breathtaking, with photos of sweeping panoramic views and rich color. Scruggs has learned early to manipulate ligh to capture nature’s drama – the key to all good photography.

“I’ve been involved in adventure-oriented sports such as cycling, hiking, and water-skiing for many years. In those activities your surroundings are passing by quickly,” he said. “However, in photography, I’m focusing on the surroundings that creation provides and not what I’m doing in those spaces. It’s bringing what is normally in the background to the foreground.”

Though Scruggs has not made an in-depth study of any particular photographer that he draws inspiration from, the one remembers most is the one all landscape photographers recognize -Ansel Adams.

“There are two Ansel Adams quotes that I think of often. I am paraphrasing but the first simply says “become an expert at photographing what’s in your back yard” and “a good photograph is knowing where to stand.” Some of my favorite photographs are from places right here in Fluvanna County and especially Pleasant Grove. And some  are literally in my backyard. I took a macro-photograph of a frog that was sitting on our patio table that I love. Those words encourage me to look for amazing photographs that are close to where I live.” 

Adams had many quotes regarding seeing, thinking, and exploration of a subject before deciding on an angle. An angle and light make all the difference in photography. It captures the essence and mood of its subject.

“I’m intrigued by the moment a photograph happens in a constantly changing environment.  Great landscape photography is very fleeting.  Not every sunrise and sunset is going to be beautiful so being there when they are, and having your camera ready is special. And sometimes you have to wait until the light is just right or until the clouds part or the fog lifts. So, you do have to be pretty in tune with the weather, changing seasons, and clouds formations,” said Scruggs. “Case in point, earlier this fall we had several days of hard rain so I knew the waterfalls in the Shenandoah National Park would be full of water.  So, I took the day and hiked nine miles to catch some of the biggest falls in the park and came back with some great photographs.  If I had waited two or three days, I would have missed my opportunity. Landscape is so much in the moment.”

He said that there are many intriguing photos right here in Fluvanna; it is just knowing how to get that elusive one that makes the difference.

“I do enjoy driving around Central Virginia and finding the perfect vantage point.  There’s one photograph I shot at Carysbrook. I was heading north on 15 when I noticed a line of storm clouds to the north.  Knowing that Carysbrook Road has a steep hill I drove down and waited for the moment to present itself. A huge thunderhead rolled up with a very visible rain shaft. It was such a great moment. And as I said, fleeting.  I also enjoy anywhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This past summer we went to the Grand Canyon and I took lots of shots there.”

Scruggs explains his technique and what makes his work unlike others.

“I think framing a shot is so important and a lot of that is “where you stand.”  So, I move the camera around a lot making sure there is both breadth and depth in the shot.  Meaning I look at both sides, front and back while looking through the lens. So much of the color I achieve is in post-production. I try and bring out the subtleties of cloud formations, leaves, or waterfalls. Occasionally I’ll do a little computer magic just to enhance a blank sky but it all goes back to framing the shot and subject matter.” Scruggs added that he is also using drone photography as a way of getting new perspective on landscapes.

Photography is a highly technical art and medium and it used to include fiddling with film, filters, and f-stops as the only way to create any magic but in the computer/digital age,  photographers are only limited by their imagination.

“I love clouds, skies, mountains, and waterfalls, and the occasional wildlife.  I also enjoy macro photography with closeups of flowers, small animals, and insects,” he said.  “On one hand you have the massiveness and grandeur of creation and on the other, it’s these small intricate details.  And part of the enjoyment in all of these subjects is the chance, exploration, and the moment it all comes together.”

For more information on Horace Scruggs’ photography visit or contact him at

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