About Cynthia Strain

The mountain resort town of Highlands, N.C. (or more accurately, the beautiful valley of Horse Cove) has been my home since 1982. Originally from the Canton/Alliance, Ohio area, I have also lived in Arizona, Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky.

I had been photographing for a few years when I began a serious study of it in 1987.  For 3 years I was under the tutelage of Gil Leebrick at the Appalachian Environmental Art Center (then part of the Highlands Biological Station). We learned B&W photographic and darkroom techniques as well as being exposed to the work and techniques of many nationally-known photographers who came to the center.

Color landscape photography (both film and digital) is now my primary subject matter, but I also enjoy doing portrait and wedding work. Known for photographing the beautiful scenery around Highlands, I am thought of as “the Highlands Photographer.” In addition to documenting the area, I’m always looking for a creative or emotional interpretation of what I see.  I also travel whenever I get the chance and have photographed wildlife in Kenya, wading birds in Florida, people and towns in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, and the vast landscapes of the American Southwest.

In the fall of 2008 I published my first book, “A Highlands Autumn.” The book is 40 pages and features around 60 images. My plan is to publish a coffee table book.

My second love is birding, and my bird photographs and articles were featured regularly in the Laurel Magazine for many years.  Other local publications have published my photography and articles on numerous environmental topics. My photographs have been featured in several national publications as well.

Woodworking is something else I enjoy doing. I salvage wood wherever I can find it and have accumulated a nice pile of wormy chestnut, cherry and barnwood to make picture frames and birdhouses.

For the past 11 years I have operated Mill Creek Gallery & Framing in the Highlands Village Square on Oak Street.  The gallery features primarily my photography, but I also sell photography by Bill Lea of Franklin, NC as well as his books; books by Franklin photographer Hildegard Sandhusen; pottery by Cathy Christie; my hand-made birdhouse Christmas ornaments; and decorative birdhouses. I hope that you will visit the gallery if you are ever in the Highlands NC area. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday in season.

Photography classes and lessons are another service I provide. I have taught photography workshops both independently and through the Center for Life Enrichment and the Bascom-Louise Gallery in Highlands, as well as providing individual lessons.

In 2006 I began organizing two art/craft shows annually. The Village Square Art & Craft Shows are held in the courtyard of the Highlands Village Square and in the Kelsey Hutchinson Park next door (also called Pine Street Park) twice each summer. The shows feature great talent from the region and includes fine art, folk art, pottery, jewelry, baskets, rustic furniture, turned wood, gourds, and some odd and interesting stuff, such as cement mushrooms for the garden, and face painting. Every show is different, but they are all fun for the whole family. Check out the photos in the gallery to see some of our crafters. If you live in the region and are interested in participating in the show, contact me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Decorative License Plates

Decorative License Plates

Decorative license plates are available for Highlands, Cashiers and Franklin. Each 6 x 12 inch plate is made from high quality recyclable aluminum and with a protective UV coating. Note: click image to see the full selection.

    Price: $16.95

    Shipping: $4.50