An Ode to Clyde Butcher

Many years ago I got introduced to the Everglades in South Florida.  My introduction came in the way of a fishing trip with my uncle Terry.  That introduction turned into a mini love affair with this amazing, secluded and inspiring landscape.

I’ve fished, kayaked, camped and photographed the Everglades off and on for almost ten years. It is a landscape that is incredibly difficult to photograph and dangerous to traverse.  It is a place of magical natural beauty and no one on this planet has captured it better than Clyde Butcher.

Clyde’s vision, dedication, skill and love for this great place is captured so beautifully in his black and white landscapes.  I’ve been a huge fan of his for many years and often think of his work when I’m out shooting my work.

This week I took some time to print a handful of images in black and white.  These images were captured digitally and originally processed as color images.  It was a fun process to see what images actually “worked” in black and white.

Click on any image to see a larger version.

Shoot it till I get it

When I discover a spot that I really like I will go back again and again and again until I get the shot that I want. As things stand today that spot is a little pond in the middle of the island.

Two mornings ago I got up early, noticed a decent sky forming from the bridge and pressed down hard on the gas pedal to get to where I needed to be.

By the time I arrived the sky had completely changed.  Thick cloud cover obscured all the nice light and left me alone with drab grey skies and a few dozen mosquito bites.  This was the rare occasion when I came back with nothing.

This is a great spot so I had to try again the next morning.  The sky moved in slowly and it did not last for very long.  I didn’t need long this morning.  I had already chosen the spot and was ready for the brief window of action.

Better yet, I decided to stay for the sunset and moved to a second location that I have been working on.  I needed a good sunset shot for this client.  I had a few in the bag already but wanted one more to wow the client.  I got that one too!

Click on any image to see a larger version.

The Pond and the Marsh

I’ve gotten up early and photographed sunrise everyday the past week.  It was a bit hit or miss.  Lucky for me mostly hits.  The sky right along the horizon looked great but the rest of the sky lacked any drama.  I’m always looking for the big drama filled sky.  It usually doesn’t happen.

However, if you are up early and ready for the sunrise you will always get something.  Always.

When the the clouds sit right on the horizon it’s a good call to use a longer lens (think 200mm or longer) to compress the scene and fill the frame with what clouds you have.  My last few posts have good examples of this and you will see more examples in this post.

I shot on the beach earlier in the week and needed to mix it up towards the end of the week.  The first few images are from Blue Heron Pond and the last images are from a hike into the marsh at high tide.  The great light didn’t last very long but the images were pretty dramatic especially at dawn.

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Early Morning on the Beach

Sunrise is always a bit tricky to shoot.  The shooting is easy, it’s not knowing what kind of sky you’re going to get that is tricky.  At sunset I can pull satellite loops of the sky to let me know exactly what is heading my way.  The satellite can’t see in the dark so predicting what kind of sky you will get is impossible.  Whether I have a great sky or not, I always come away with something cool.  Birds, sand textures, waves and dunes look great in the low, beautiful light of sunrise.  This morning gave me great textures and colors in the sky along with a few pelicans.  It was a great sunrise.  Click on any image to see a larger version.

Reflections of a Pond

The weather has finally turned brisk and cool as autumn has arrived in the low country.  This is my favorite time of the year in South Carolina.  Today, I got a late start and missed the sunrise entirely.  Not entirely, I could see the colors of the sky change from the windshield of my car.  That is a terrible feeling as you press down on the gas pedal and yell at the car in front of you to go faster.  There was no way I could make it to a good spot to shoot the sunrise.  The early morning clouds did hang on just long enough for me make it to little pond I had not photographed in awhile.  It worked out great as it was low tide and I really love a good sky reflection.  After about an hour the skies cleared and the clouds were gone for the rest of the day.  Click on any image to see a larger version.

The Beautiful Colors of Dusk

Yet another high tide at sunset compelled me to head on out into the Kiawah River.  The client had expressed a desire to capture the beautiful sunsets that occur along this particular piece of land nestled against the river.  This evening gave me just a few wispy clouds that hung close to the horizon.  The sunset was nice but did not have the wow factor that I knew the client wanted.  I always wait at least another ten minutes after the sun drops to see if the sky would give me the explosive colors and drama that I know are possible.  This happens maybe once out of every fifteen sunsets.  The clouds have to be just right.  The clouds can’t be too thick or too saturated with water and you can not have a marine layer that sucks all the light from the sun.  On this night it all came together.  The sun dropped and within minutes the entire area lit up brightly with rich reds, oranges and yellows.  It was exciting and amazing.  I get so pumped up for evenings like this.  Click on any image so see a larger version


Highest of Tides

I shot these images about two months ago.  I like them so much I though I should share them on the blog.  This was an evening when the tides were over seven feet.  About as high as they get along the South Carolina coast.  The majority of these images are looking out across the marsh towards Kiawah Island’s famed Ocean Course, home to last years PGA Championship.  The spectacular tree line provides a landscape that is distinctly unique and unlike any other scene I have photographed.  I spend a lot of time in this particular location and this day gave me some of my most memorable images.  Click on any image to see a larger version.

The View from Eagle Island

I spent an evening and morning exploring around the edges of Eagle Island on Kiawah.  The tides were high at sunset and at sunrise the past couple days.  With the combination of high tide at a great light period you will always find me somewhere up to my waist in the water.  The sunset didn’t really materialize for me this week but the half hour before the sunset was pretty special.  The next morning I arrived early to make sure I captured images at dawn.  The light is magical ten minutes before the sun rises.  This morning was no exception.  Click on any image to see a larger version.

Part Two of Dusk at the Beach

After having success the previous night I decided to go back to the beach.  I had noticed a large cloud forming the covered almost the entire sky.  I also noticed that the edge of this cloud was breaking just about where the sun was going to set.  Even better, I noticed that the cloud was thin which often indicates that when the sun sets the cloud will explode with color.  It exploded with color.  Again, I played around with shutter speed to get unique textures in the water and waded out a bit to shoot back towards the land.  A beautiful sunset!  Click on any image to see a larger version.

Dusk at the Beach Part One

When I go out to shoot sunset I typically get to choose between a beach, marsh or river scene.  More often than not the beach gets short changed.  In my head I think it is just too darn easy and cliche to shoot the sunset beach image.  I try to find ways to make the shots more unique or memorable.  In this case I decided to go out into the surf and shoot the sunset from the ocean.  I also ramped up my aperture to f16-22 to get motion blur with the water.  It is a cool effect.  There is great texture shape and color in these sunset images.  It was a very good night.