Picture this: The work of Clyde Butcher
Nature photographer shares favorites
Clyde Butcher is busier than ever.
The landscape photographer often compared with Ansel Adams has a new project, “The Big Cypress: The Western Everglades,” that is a movie, PBS special, DVD, CD, book, traveling exhibit and calendars.
For him, the Big Cypress National Preserve is more than a favorite photo subject. It is his home. He lives and works and has his Big Cypress Gallery there on U.S. 41, east of Naples.
Twice a year he invites the public to sign up for muckabouts — walks led by him through his watery backyard.
Butcher relates stories behind some of his favorite black-and-white photographs as this week’s guest on “One on One with Jeff Lytle.”
Highlights are featured here. The entire 30-minute Comcast program will air at noon today on Comcast CN14 at noon.
Highlights of that and previous “One on One” programs are at naplesnews.com/oneonone.
More on Butcher and his art is available at his Web site, clydebutcher.com.
* Next week’s guest: Bonita Springs Mayor Ben Nelson.
Butcher: This one actually was a very important picture for me. I got excited about landscape from the Hudson period painters during the 1800s. This was done of a tributary of the Hudson River in New York.
The picture’s title is “Agawamuck,” which is kind of neat because it’s got “muck” at the end of it. It’s just the name of the area. It’s south of West Point ... in the southeastern part of New York.
I made this picture in 2006, when I went around America photographing for my “America the Beautiful” book.
BIG CYPRESS NATIONAL PRESERVE
Butcher: This is just west of Monroe Station.
Lytle: So it’s not far from your house.
Butcher: Six miles. I’m in the water while making this picture, and you get the feeling of being there. That’s the whole idea.
Lytle: It’s a great shot. How did you manage to capture those clouds?
Butcher: Well, that’s one thing I really love in Florida, and to make the clouds work like that, the wide-angle lens helps, and also it’s an orange filter.
A lot of people think you should use red because it makes the clouds more brilliant. But what it does also, it makes the grass go dark. And I wanted the grass to look brighter. So that’s why I did that. There’s always the darkroom too.
Basically it’s a little island and the water going around this little island. It just gave it really an intimate feeling.
You walk in and these crawdads go swooh, like a little fleet of them. It’s really interesting.
You have to realize that the water in the Big Cypress is crystal clear. It’s not like the Jersey swamp.
CIGAR ORCHID POND
Butcher: This is right behind our house. It’s about, oh, actually about an hour’s walk through the swamp to get to it. Actually I saw this in 2001, and I lost it. I couldn’t find it again. And finally, just this last year, I found it again.
Lytle: You mean you found the negative?
Butcher: No, I found the swamp. I mean, you get up there and with everything, you get misplaced.
Lytle: Can you identify some of the things we’re looking at. I mean that seems to be sort of a potpourri of everything there is out there.
Butcher: The bromeliad on the very right there, and then the resurrection fern all over the pineapple tree, and the water grass to the right, and popash trees. It’s just a typical weird — I mean, that’s what Big Cypress is about. It’s ancient.
Lytle: That picture really makes me feel like I’m there.
Butcher: It really is exciting for me. I can’t tell you how excited it was to even find it.
Lytle: That’s amazing.
Butcher: Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary manager Ed Carlson took us back there on a swamp buggy.
It’s not really what you can see from the boardwalk. But these happen every other year, maybe. There were just acres and acres of these sunflowers, and you have to realize it’s like six to 10 feet high. It’s really wild.
Lytle: So where were you when you made this picture?
Butcher: I was in the buggy; otherwise I’d be in over my head.
Lytle: That’s a magic picture.
Butcher: It really is. Well, Corkscrew is a magic place.
Lytle: It’s different every time you go.
Butcher: It really is: the dry season; the wet season.
Butcher: That’s about six miles from the gallery. But this was during Tropical Storm Gordon, I think in 1989, where normally you wouldn’t have this water.
Remember Gordon? It just came and went, came and went, and wouldn’t go away. You could canoe anywhere in the Everglades that year, and it was really fun.
Lytle: And this is the orange filter helping accentuate the clouds.
Butcher: Right, and also you can see the reflections in the water too, which makes it interesting.
TWIN GHOST ORCHIDS
Butcher: This is a spot that Rick Cruz, who works for us in the gallery, found in the Fakahatchee. Normally you only see one. Corkscrew has a ghost orchid like this that has like 12 blooms, which is pretty exciting. But it’s 40 feet up. This one’s like 41⁄2 feet up.
Lytle: Can you talk to us about how you chose to photograph that? In other words, how you decided to put those orchids in the middle of the picture as opposed to the side, and that angle?
Butcher: I want to try to get two different profiles of the same flower, so it gives two different looks. You know, straight on and a side view. And also I was trying to get the roots. See that star-shaped thing on the tree there? That’s actually the flower.
Lytle: I didn’t see that until you pointed it out.
Butcher: Without the bloom, that’s all you see. And that’s one reason they call it the ghost orchid because there are no leaves on it. That root is all photosynthesis. There are no leaves. So when you walk along it looks like a worm or just something sticking on the tree. So you can’t really see it until the orchid comes out.