Connestee Falls News

How To Click In The Photo Business

There’s more to photography than meets the eye — just ask Chris Wunder.

When most people think of photography they think about light, color and composition. Chris thinks about speed, costs and competition.

Chris, a Connestee Falls resident who’s an expert in the school photo industry, is the owner and CEO of Dallas-based PortraitEFX Franchising. In March he conducted one of his “boot camps” for school photographers who paid $300 for a two-day session in Dallas. Here, three dozen school photographers learned the ins and outs of making money in the photo business.

“Training is something photographers need to hear about,” he said. “They want to concentrate on artsy-fartsy; my goal is to teach them how to run a business first.”

A self-described “camera geek” in high school, Chris shot his first wedding at age 15 with an old press camera and went on to do photos for newspapers and his high school yearbook.

“I made a lot of money on the side in those days,” he said.

He went on to start his own photo business and over the years bought and sold a number of businesses. He considers himself a businessman first and a photographer second and now owns 45 franchises nationwide.

Chris and his wife, Marjorie, moved to Connestee Falls from Charlotte four years ago. Originally intending to move to Asheville, he discovered Connestee in an unusual way. An enthusiast of recreational boating, he was unhappy to learn that the nearest venue in Asheville was 90 minutes away.

So Chris called up Google maps in search of a more boat-friendly location and zeroed in on a place called Connestee Falls.

“I saw this spot with four little lakes, and that’s where we ended up,” he said.

The Wunders now have a pontoon boat, a fishing boat and three kayaks, all on Lake Ticoa.

At age 65, Chris is in the process of winding down a career built on photographing school children and teaching other photographers about the industry that generates annual revenue of $1.6 billion. He used to travel half the time, but now he’s away just one week a month. The rest of the time he works from his home on Connestee Trail.

“Now that we have high-speed Internet here, I can work from home,” he said.

There he conducts webinars with 60 or more participants.

On May 10 of this year, The New York Times featured Chris in a lengthy article about the photo franchise business. The writer shadowed Chris for more than two days, following up with some 20 hours of phone conversation.

“It was my 15 minutes of fame,” he said.

A Gala Occasion

Connestee Falls and the Brevard Music Center are irrevocably intertwined to the benefit of both.

The music center is a cultural treasure that offers world-class concerts over its summer festival. Founded in 1936, the Music Center has matured into one of this country’s premier summer training programs and festivals.

Connestee Falls, approaching the 50th anniversary of its founding, is also a forest community, one that provides volunteers and charitable contributions to the music center and throughout the county.

Connestee residents turn out in significant numbers to volunteer at the music center. About 230 volunteers help keep the music center humming, and approximately one-quarter of those are Connestee Falls residents, according to Dave Perrett, the music center’s direct of development.

These volunteers serve as ushers, man the concession stand, and beautify the 180-acre wooded campus year-round, planting flowers, trimming trees and helping out with carpentry, painting and maintenance.

Connesteans support the Brevard Music Center with audiences, too. Residents attending festival events will recognize lots of familiar faces among the 30,000 people that attend each summer.

The two institutions will celebrate their symbiotic relationship at the fourth annual Connestee Falls Gala on Tuesday, July 8, with an evening of cocktails, dining, music and camaraderie.

Following dinner at the gala, shared by the students, will be performances of opera, voice, violins and a saxophone quartet to showcase the range and ability of these youthful performers.

The proceeds of the gala go toward providing scholarships for these outstanding young musicians.

More than 400 gifted students, ages 14 through post-college, come to the music center to study with members of a distinguished artist faculty and with renowned guest artists. For seven weeks, students participate in a vigorous program of instruction that includes ensembles, private lessons and chamber music.

For further information, contact the music center’s special events office at (828) 863-2147 or specialevents@brevardmusic.org.

Ace In The Hole

Vicky Anthony knew her tee shot on the par 3 fifth hole at Connestee Falls was a good one; she just didn’t know how good.

“I knew it was a beautiful shot,” she said. “I saw it land, go a couple of inches, then stop.”

When Vicky reached the green she saw the ball nestled against the flag stick. She pulled up the stick, and the ball rolled obediently into the cup. Hole in one!

“This was my first one, and it was exciting,” said Vicky, a Tsataga Court resident who began spending summers in Connestee Falls four years ago. “Twice I almost had hole-in-ones in Florida tournaments where they landed on the edge but wouldn’t go in. I thought I might be due.”

Fortunately for Vicky’s pocketbook, the Grill was closed on Sunday, May 26, when she aced the hole from the ladies’ yellow tee, so she didn’t have to buy drinks for everyone. Vicky didn’t get off scot-free, though, because she did pop for libations the following Tuesday on Ladies Day.

“She was beaming from ear to ear and treated many of us lady golfers to a drink,” said her friend Sue O’Neil.

The Longest Light

The intersection of West Main Street and Caldwell in downtown Brevard has what must be one of the world’s longest small-town traffic signals. The wait to cross Caldwell seems to last forever. (Actually it’s 93 seconds, which is close enough to forever for most pedestrians and motorists).

The city seems to have recognized that there’s a considerable irritant at work here. When pedestrians press the button that’s supposed to trigger the traffic light (the button is actually nothing but a pacifier), they hear a recorded message: “Please wait to cross Caldwell.” When the light finally does change, you have just 10 seconds before it turns to “Wait,” so put on your track shoes.

Canine Communication

“I WAG,” says a silver Toyota Corolla. A white Ford Edge runs on its “PAWS,” while a black Subaru Outback offers up a “SHTZU4U” (Shih Tzu for you). Every one of these car owners obviously “LOVESK9S” (red Subaru) and “MY DOGS” (cream-colored Chrysler Pacifica).

(Jim Grodnik’s Connestee Falls News runs on the last Thursday of every month. The next one will appear July 25. Write to jgrodnik@comporium.net. If you like big band music and toe-tapping jazz, listen to Jim “Swingtime” from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays on White Squirrel radio 102.1 FM, 1240 AM or www.wsqlradio.com.)

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