It was the call of the wild that took me to the Everglades — an alligator’s call. And for my first trip east across U.S. 41 South, the Tamiami Trail, I was armed with nothing but my Mamiya C330, a twin-lens, medium-format film camera.
To me, there is nothing like the colors and grain of film. The look of the image you get from a film camera is something digital photography will never be able to produce. I still try to use film cameras whenever possible.
One tends to photograph differently using a film camera. Because the camera takes 120 film (a larger negative than 35mm), I get only 12 exposures to one roll. With these limits, I tend to take my time making photographs. Pictures become a lot more meaningful.
As civilization drifted away and the flat, wet wilderness came into view, I had only one goal on this journey: to see and photograph my first alligator. I had yet to see one alive since moving to Southwest Florida, and I was beginning to feel I was the only who had not spotted the great reptile.
Native to Florida, alligators have been found in our brackish waters for centuries, and scientists say they might be the least changed from their Jurassic ancestors. The Crocodylia body form dates back more than 180 million years, and some say these animals are living dinosaurs.
When I passed Ochopee, I came upon Turner River Road and made the right-hand turn down the gravel path. I slowly made my way up the bumpy road with my eyes scanning the parallel canal. I eventually spotted what I came to see. Not one, but five alligators were swimming up and down the canal. I quickly jumped out of my car, camera in hand, and made my way toward these long-anticipated creatures. They swam effortlessly in the still waters and ignored my presence. I ended up carefully shooting a roll of film of the majestic creatures in their natural environment.
When a larger alligator did take notice, it slowly began to make its way toward the water’s edge. I knew this was my cue to leave. I ventured into nearby areas the rest of the day but didn’t have any other sightings.
I was happy to finally see firsthand the animal I had long anticipated. And capture it on a medium I hope doesn’t go the way of the dinosaur.