landscape

IN SEARCH OF LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY INSPIRATION IN FLORIDA

Clyde Butcher and me at his Venice, Fla., gallery, studio and darkroom.

Clyde Butcher and me at his Venice, Fla., gallery, studio and darkroom.

I never thought I would retire to Florida. When I thought about where I would retire, I pictured myself in the Smoky Mountains, maybe the Pacific Northwest, perhaps somewhere in Montana, or Arizona and the Southwest. It just wasn’t Florida.

It’s not that I have anything against Florida, but I just didn’t consider it a landscape photographers dream location. And in retirement, one thing I was pretty sure of was that I wanted to spend a great deal of my time outdoors photographing landscapes.

But central Florida is where I ended up.

Happy about the move and once I settled on the fact that this would be home, I began researching Florida photographers, more specifically, Florida landscape photographers. One name appeared at the top of every search. Clyde Butcher.

Clyde is probably best known for his large format fine art black-and-white photography of the Florida landscape. Specifically, what caught my attention, was his work documenting Big Cypress National Preserve in Southern Florida where he owns 14 acres and where he continues to lead tours through the swamp located behind his gallery.

Clyde’s Venice Gallery and Studio is open Tuesday - Friday, 10 am to 4:30 pm . His black and white photography of the Florida landscape is inspiring me to get out and explore my new home state.

Clyde’s Venice Gallery and Studio is open Tuesday - Friday, 10 am to 4:30 pm . His black and white photography of the Florida landscape is inspiring me to get out and explore my new home state.

While browsing his website I saw an opportunity too good to pass up. Twice a year Clyde holds an open house at his Venice Gallery and Studio, located in an industrial park on Florida’s Gulf Coast, about 80 miles south of Tampa. And it just so happened that the November opening would take place when I was in Florida.

This was my chance to meet Clyde and get some first-hand inspiration. The gallery is beautiful and seeing his photographs in person, up close, was a real treat. I also had the opportunity to listen as Clyde talked about some of his work and then we discussed Fuji cameras and shooting digital while he signed my copy of his book Florida Portfolio II.

A 12x20 Ron Wisner Field Camera in Clyde’s studio.

A 12x20 Ron Wisner Field Camera in Clyde’s studio.

While known for his 8x10 view camera, I found out that Clyde has been using the Fujifilm GFX 50S 51.4MP mirrorless medium format camera lately and it just so happened that during PhotoPlus in New York City last month, I became interested in their latest medium format camera due for release in December, the Fujifilm GFX 50R. And it was Clyde’s photographs and those Florida landscapes that I was thinking about when I held that camera and formulated a plan to justify the purchase.

This huge rail camera turned enlarger, is just one of a unique collection of enlargers that occupy Clyde’s darkroom.

This huge rail camera turned enlarger, is just one of a unique collection of enlargers that occupy Clyde’s darkroom.

Besides viewing his photographs and talking to few minutes with Clyde, I was able to tour his amazing darkroom. It’s been many years since i’ve stepped into a darkroom, but it brought back many memories, and not just that familiar smell. It brought me back to how I started and there’s inspiration in that too.

I think I’ve found the inspiration I need and I’m ready to explore the Florida landscape. Next, I hope to visit Clyde’s gallery in Big Cyprus and maybe even take a walk in the swamp.







CAMERAS IN THE MIST

I was in Florida looking at some property and took note of this small grove of trees and thought it might be worthwhile returning to photograph it at some point. Then several days later when I awoke to fog, I knew exactly where I was headed. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 50mm, 1/4 @ f14, ISO 200.

I was in Florida looking at some property and took note of this small grove of trees and thought it might be worthwhile returning to photograph it at some point. Then several days later when I awoke to fog, I knew exactly where I was headed. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 50mm, 1/4 @ f14, ISO 200.

The biggest problem with photographing landscapes in the fog is actually predicting when there will be fog. And while timing, location, and a little luck are important, an understanding of the types and causes of fog may help lift the veil and put you, and your camera, in the right place at the right time.

But before we get into the details, why would you want to shoot in the fog anyway? For me, fog provides a softness or ethereal feeling that adds interest to the landscape. It's the unknown, the mystery. Fog can also obscure unwanted backgrounds and help to isolate a subject. But it really is that otherworldly feeling that gets me excited. 

I choose to shoot a little tighter in order to emphasize the Spanish moss hanging from the tree. It's scenes like this that scream for fog. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 50mm, 1/4 @ f11, ISO 200.

I choose to shoot a little tighter in order to emphasize the Spanish moss hanging from the tree. It's scenes like this that scream for fog. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 50mm, 1/4 @ f11, ISO 200.

So then what is fog? It might help to think of it as clouds at ground level. Made up of condensed water droplets which are the result of air being cooled to the point where it can no longer hold all the water vapor it contains.

There are four types of fog.

Radiation fog is formed on clear nights with relatively little or no wind present and usually forms in low-lying areas like mountain valleys. Radiation fog usually burns off as the sun and temperature rises.

Advection fog is when a layer of warm, moist air moves over a cool surface and is most common in coastal areas where sea breezes blow the air over cooler landmasses.

Upslope fog happens when moist stable air is forced up sloping land like a mountain range. Unlike radiation fog, upslope and advection fog may not burn off with the morning sun and may persist for days.

And finally, steam fog forms when cold, dry air moves over warm water and as it rises, resembles smoke. It is most common over bodies of water during the coldest times of the year.

Fog softens and obscures all the distractions from the background, allowing the tree to take center stage. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 35mm, 1/13 @ f8, ISO 200.

Fog softens and obscures all the distractions from the background, allowing the tree to take center stage. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 35mm, 1/13 @ f8, ISO 200.

Understanding the types of fog and when they might occur may help you to predict when and where it will happen. Or like me, you might just get lucky. 

And unlike John Carpenter's movie "The Fog", you probably won't encounter any vengeful ghosts of shipwrecked mariners, but the fact that you don't know for sure is what will add interest to your photographs. And if it adds interest for you, then it will certainly add interest to viewers of your photography.

TWO DAYS, TWO VERY DIFFERENT PHOTOGRAPHS

The first thing I noticed was the bare feet and the half empty bottle of liquor as this couple approached me on the boardwalk in Virginia Beach. That was enough for me to turn around and follow. When I noticed the dog, I had all I needed for an interesting photograph. I followed for about five minutes before the crowd thinned enough for me to isolate those elements.  Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a 16mm, 1/340 @ f2.8, ISO 200 .

The first thing I noticed was the bare feet and the half empty bottle of liquor as this couple approached me on the boardwalk in Virginia Beach. That was enough for me to turn around and follow. When I noticed the dog, I had all I needed for an interesting photograph. I followed for about five minutes before the crowd thinned enough for me to isolate those elements. Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a 16mm, 1/340 @ f2.8, ISO 200.

Part of me is jealous. I sometimes wish I could settle on just one genre of photography; landscape, street, portraits, weddings, etc., and become great at it. Instead, I find myself photographically all over the place. 

Take for instance a few weekends back. I was in Little Creek, Va., on assignment for the Navy photographing autonomous surface vehicles when weather canceled Saturday operations. Instead of calling it a day, I headed to Virginia Beach to photograph what was remaining of the annual Neptune Festival.

Since it was late in the day and the weather was not great, I decided to walk the boardwalk looking for street photos and then maybe a sunset. Sunset never really came, but I did walk away with one solid street photograph.

With sunrise or sunset photos, I like to have a foreground element. In this case, I used the pier which helps lead you into the photograph. The sun provides some backlight at the end of the pier and adds a subtle warmth overall without overpowering the photograph. Finally, I used a slow shutter speed to smooth out the surf, which further draws you in.  Fujifilm X-Pro2 with 16mm, 1 second @ f16, ISO 200.

With sunrise or sunset photos, I like to have a foreground element. In this case, I used the pier which helps lead you into the photograph. The sun provides some backlight at the end of the pier and adds a subtle warmth overall without overpowering the photograph. Finally, I used a slow shutter speed to smooth out the surf, which further draws you in. Fujifilm X-Pro2 with 16mm, 1 second @ f16, ISO 200.

Then on Sunday with a scheduled day off and much better weather, I rose early and headed back to Virginia Beach to photograph the sunrise. Even though I was 100 yards from where I made the street photograph the previous day, it was a completely different scene. 

It was just me, a few surfers, and another photographer, so instead of the crowds and mayhem, it was just great light and the sounds of the surf.

I suppose I'll never settle on just one style or genre of photography. Why would I? After all, the only thing that seems to be affected by these ever-shifting genres is my Instagram numbers as those that followed me because they liked a landscape photo, unfollow as soon as I post a street scene. 

However, those are just numbers from mostly anonymous people. What matters to me, and keeps me shooting after all these years is the variety. So even if I never become known for a specific genre of photography, I am fully satisfied that I can come away with a decent photograph from any situation.

SAME LAKE - THREE DIFFERENT PHOTOGRAPHS

When I peered out of my tent at 4 a.m., I could see the stars. An hour later when I broke camp and headed to the lake, the stars were gone and the clouds were starting to build. There was some wind, however, it was blocked by the mountains, so the surface of the lake remained calm, allowing me to capture some nice reflections. A half hour after I took this photograph, the sky became a solid gray and it started to rain. No sunrise, but I still came away with a photograph.  Fujifilm X-Pro2 with 16mm lens, 1 second @ f3.2, ISO 200 .

When I peered out of my tent at 4 a.m., I could see the stars. An hour later when I broke camp and headed to the lake, the stars were gone and the clouds were starting to build. There was some wind, however, it was blocked by the mountains, so the surface of the lake remained calm, allowing me to capture some nice reflections. A half hour after I took this photograph, the sky became a solid gray and it started to rain. No sunrise, but I still came away with a photograph. Fujifilm X-Pro2 with 16mm lens, 1 second @ f3.2, ISO 200.

I set out on an overnight backpacking trip to Avalanche Lake, located in the high peaks region of the Adirondacks in New York State, with the intention of capturing both a sunset and a sunrise photograph. What I ended up with was neither a sunset nor a sunrise, but I still came away with three photos that I'm proud to share.

The details. From the Adirondack Loj parking lot, located 16 miles from the town of Lake Placid, it is a 5.2-mile hike to the south end of the Avalanche Lake where I took the photographs. The first 2.3 miles to Marcy Dam and the next one mile are fairly easy. However, the next mile presents you with a 635-foot elevation change in order to reach Avalanche Pass before you descend a litte to the lake which sits nicely between Avalanche Mountain and Mount Colden.

I knew that I would not be able to capture the sunset unless I hiked back to the other side of the lake. and that wasn't going to happen. But the great late afternoon light coming from behind and skimming the tops of the mountains on either side of the lake added a nice warm color reflection and made the photograph.  Fujifilm X-Pro2 with 16mm lens, 1/60 @ f11, ISO 800, Exp. Comp. -1.3.

I knew that I would not be able to capture the sunset unless I hiked back to the other side of the lake. and that wasn't going to happen. But the great late afternoon light coming from behind and skimming the tops of the mountains on either side of the lake added a nice warm color reflection and made the photograph. Fujifilm X-Pro2 with 16mm lens, 1/60 @ f11, ISO 800, Exp. Comp. -1.3.

The final part of the hike which brings you around the lake is the most challenging and demanding, especially with a full pack and camera gear. You will contend with boulders, ladders, and a very winding trail, but if you take your time, it is worth it. One of the neatest parts of this section is the two "Hitch-Up Matildas," or boardwalks, that are affixed to the sheer rock walls. 

While it is quite possible to do the round trip hike to Avalanche Lake in one day, it would be tough to do that, yet still be there early in the morning or late in the day, optimal times for taking photographs. So I recommend you bring a tent and plan on spending the night. There are some lean-tos closer to Marcy Dam, but that is still quite a hike. A nice tent area sits only about 100 yards from the South end of the lake.

At this end of the lake, there is plenty of debris, mostly logs, that has built up and makes for some interesting foregrounds. In this case, I switched to a vertical and used this large branch to lead you into the photograph. Converting to monochrome emphasizes the contrast between the warm wood and the cool lake.  Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a 16mm lens, 1/60 @ f16, ISO 800, Exp. Comp. -0.3.

At this end of the lake, there is plenty of debris, mostly logs, that has built up and makes for some interesting foregrounds. In this case, I switched to a vertical and used this large branch to lead you into the photograph. Converting to monochrome emphasizes the contrast between the warm wood and the cool lake. Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a 16mm lens, 1/60 @ f16, ISO 800, Exp. Comp. -0.3.

So in the end, even if I didn't capture a sunrise or a sunset, I was able to get three different looks of the same lake and it was all made possible because I made the overnight hike. Sometimes the effort put into the hike makes the photographs even better, even if only to the photographer.

PHOTOGRAPHING THREE WATERFALLS IN THREE DAYS

A tripod of some sorts is a must if you wish to convey movement in the water. One of the advantages of tree cover and shadows is that you can normally achieve this look without adding neutral density filters to your camera. Fallingwater Cascades is a 1.7 loop hike located in the Jefferson National Forest off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Fuji x-Pro2 with 16MM. 1/1.7 @ f16, ISO 200, -0.3 exposure compensation.

A tripod of some sorts is a must if you wish to convey movement in the water. One of the advantages of tree cover and shadows is that you can normally achieve this look without adding neutral density filters to your camera. Fallingwater Cascades is a 1.7 loop hike located in the Jefferson National Forest off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Fuji x-Pro2 with 16MM. 1/1.7 @ f16, ISO 200, -0.3 exposure compensation.

I didn't set out to photograph waterfalls. In fact, I don't even get that thrilled about photographing waterfalls. Especially when it's the middle of the day in the summer. However, there are some advantages.

1. Many waterfalls are only a short hike from the road.

2. Since much of the light doesn't reach them, shooting in the middle of the day is normally not a problem. 

3. People seem to like when you show them photographs of waterfalls. Translates to plenty of likes on social media.

Light not great, lots of people, that's when you look for other angles. I noticed these leaves and how the strong mid-day sun made them pop. That same light also provided a nice rim light which separated the rock ledge from the background and also reflected off the water brightening the underside which kept it from going completely dark. Spruce Flats Falls is a 1.5 mile out and back hike located near the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Treemont. Fuji X-Pro2 with 35MM. 1/100 @ f2.2, ISO 200.

Light not great, lots of people, that's when you look for other angles. I noticed these leaves and how the strong mid-day sun made them pop. That same light also provided a nice rim light which separated the rock ledge from the background and also reflected off the water brightening the underside which kept it from going completely dark. Spruce Flats Falls is a 1.5 mile out and back hike located near the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Treemont. Fuji X-Pro2 with 35MM. 1/100 @ f2.2, ISO 200.

There are also some disadvantages to photographing waterfalls.

1. Many waterfalls are only a short hike from the road.

2. Since much of the light doesn't reach the waterfall, there can be a wide exposure range between the light that does reach them and the shadows.

3. People not only like to see photographs of waterfalls, they also like to visit them. This normally happens about the same time you decide to photograph them.

You will need patience if you hope to capture a waterfall without people. Or you could embrace it and use people to add a splash of color and additional movement in the frame. Grotto Falls is a 2.6 mile out and back hike located outside Gatlinburg, Tenn., in the Great Smoky Mountains. Fuji X-Pro2 with 16MM. 

You will need patience if you hope to capture a waterfall without people. Or you could embrace it and use people to add a splash of color and additional movement in the frame. Grotto Falls is a 2.6 mile out and back hike located outside Gatlinburg, Tenn., in the Great Smoky Mountains. Fuji X-Pro2 with 16MM. 

I actually photographed more than the three waterfalls in the three days, but after a while, they do all start to look the same.