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 is my primary subject matter, but I also enjoy doing portrait and wedding work. 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.

I published a coffee table book, "Highlands Through the Seasons" in 2012. It has sold out, but I plan on publishing another 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 and have accumulated a nice pile of wormy chestnut, cherry and barnwood to make picture frames and birdhouses.

I have operated Mill Creek Gallery & Framing in the Highlands Village Square from 2004 through 2020. While I plan on retiring the end of 2020, for now the gallery features my photography I also do custom picture framing. 

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 were held in the courtyard of the Highlands Village Square and in the Kelsey Hutchinson Park next door  twice each summer. Since being sponsored by Mountaintop Rotary, the show has been renamed The Highlands Mountaintop Show. 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. 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