What is NCS?
Hi, my name is Kial James, I’m the photographer behind Nevada City Scenics. NCS is essentially an online community that started on Facebook with me sharing local photos. But, it’s organically grown to so much more than that. It’s a place where I get to know folks from around the country (and world) by introducing them to my work; which is in essence, pretty pictures of our area we get to call home. I love sharing our little slice of God’s country to others. Whether it’s local folks, people that have moved away but still reminisce about the area or potential visitors to our area from in and out of state.
My goal is to do more than showcase this area. It’s about showing unique perspectives, hidden gems, great hiking trails, community events and so much more. I use FB and Insta as my platforms of choice, but the real tool of the trade is the beautiful surroundings and community we call home. Whether it’s downtown Nevada City and Commercial Street lit up at night or a view of Broad from the top, The Yuba, local trails that many volunteers put so much time and effort into building and maintaining, I want people to get outside and take a look around and see the area in a way perhaps they haven’t seen before.
At 16, I almost drown in a fishing accident on The Yuba. I was fishing with a friend of mine, wading out into the swift moving waters and suddenly lost my footing on slick rocks. From there, I was quickly swept downstream with hip waders on, doing my best to stay afloat. My best friend immediately when in after me, floating down river with me guiding me and helping me latch myself to a large rock near the middle of the river. Once there, he safely got to the shoreline. I was completely shaken to my core, afraid to make that small swim from the rock I was perched on to the shoreline that was less than 30 yards away. Of course I got out and never told my parents about the incident as I wanted to continue going on fishing outings. I promised myself, that some day, I’d come back and make good and show the majestic river in ways that perhaps had never been seen before.
In my early 20’s I got a job working at The Union in the circulation department. With the help of the Ad Director at the time, he saw my artistic talent and brought me “upstairs” to work. This was a turning point for me, as I was given an opportunity I’d always dreamed of doing…graphic design and eventually photography. Mind you, I had no previous experience with working on computers, building ad layouts or let alone working a film scanner. But, as a kid, it was always my dream to become a commercial artist.
Starting out upstairs at The Union as a scanner technician (back in the days of slides and film), I was partially responsible for the advertising scanning. From there, I re-discovered my love of photography from high school. Staff photographers John Hart, Kris Wakefield and Wayde Carroll were early influences on my work. I’d watch them shoot advertorial and editorial images, process and develop film and in turn, scan their images into the computer during the early days of Photoshop. I loved the creative process of photography, so much so that my mother-in-law lent me her old film camera.
While at The Union, I had access to “unlimited” rolls of film and processing. So I’d take my camera out after hours or during my lunch break and play around shooting scenes, nature, plants, etc…and in turn get those rolls processed and incorporate the photos I took into ad designs for newspaper clients. It was a win-win situation that allowed me to really understand film, ASA, framing, composition and so much before the time of digital photography.
Fast forward nearly a decade and half later, I have been self-employed doing design, web and photography work with clients from the area to Tahoe to Tennessee. Starting the FB page on a whim (fb.com/nevadacityscenics), the page quickly blossomed to 400 likes then plateaued. It wasn’t until a California State Assemblyman at the time like my page, from there I thought, this might have some potential if I just keep at it. Sure enough it did, 1500 photo posts and a few years later, the page has blossomed to nearly 10K fans. Through my website and FB page, I sell calendars, prints and more with wonderful, active engagement on the photo posts I share. I’ve got postcards, stickers, prints and calendars in a number of local shops around the GV and NC area.
It’s been fun to see out-of-town people that didn’t have a real sense of our town want to come here and visit Nevada City, Grass Valley and The Yuba. I realize it’s a delicate balance of showcasing too much or giving away “secret” river locations (which I don’t do), but in the end, I think we are very much a tourist-driven community, especially for the downtown shops. I myself enjoy playing tourist and visiting the shops and discovering new and unique treasures. Those same visitors help support our local shops and help sustain family-run businesses. The area itself is so incredibly rich was some amazing artists, musicians, poets and more. For me, I just want to showcase the beauty of this area, we are fortunate to call home.
Nowadays, I keep busy with event, commercial, portrait, fine art and other types of photography including student mentoring programs. I try and get out at least a couple of times a week to photograph for fun. Some scenes I’ve done multiple times, but with the way light and weather patterns change, there is always something unique to show, even it’s it’s a similar perspective I’ve done before. I also enjoy giving back to the community, through fundraisers and donations; I’ll donate prints, calendars, Yuba Love stickers, hats and shirts, or one-on-one photo tours.
Each year, Erin Thiem (Outside Inn / InnTown Campground) and I host a number of free Photo Walks for like-minded folks with a camera (or cell phone) in their hands to get out, walk around, and capture scenic scenes of the area, with some folks coming as far as the Central Valley and beyond for the walks. Photo Walks have included The Yuba, Bridgeport, Empire Mine, Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park, local farms and vineyards, downtown Nevada City, Inn Town Campground and others. Each time, I get to meet new people, make new friends in the community and share my love of the area.
Having been recently recognized by the Nevada City Chamber with the Dr. Leland and Sally Lewis Visual Arts Award, I know I’m in good company with some amazing local artists. It’s a blessing to live here and I want people to appreciate the beauty that this area offers. Beyond the scenic landscapes and small town scenes, there are a lot of kind and caring folks who are always there to lend a helping hand. The old historic charm and Yuba are icing on the cake, while the people are what really make this community unique. It’s my aim to someday soon showcase these unsung heroes and their stories through my page as well.