Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mucking About in the Everglades

Clyde Butcher, photographed by Woody Walters

Around this time three years ago, I took part in Clyde Butcher's annual "Muck About." I traveled with friends to spend a day photographing and "mucking about" in the Everglades, and to visit the gallery of a great photographer.

Click to enlarge  |  Clyde Butcher  |  Loxahatchee River #1

Clyde Butcher is renowned for his exquisite photographs of Florida, and in particular, his views of the Everglades. He wades through the water, using antique cameras, to capture images of Florida that are fast disappearing. Butcher's images, always black and white, range in size up to 5 x 9 feet.

Clyde Butcher  |  Everglades Restoration "Can Do"
Clyde Butcher is important, not just for his fine art, but also because he brings attention to the Everglades, which is under assault from those who would reroute its resources, and develop and destroy it.

Though people often think of the Everglades as a huge swamp, it is in fact a unique ecosystem, a slow-moving river that is home to over a 1,000 species of plants and over 350 species of birds. According to the Everglades Foundation, 67 threatened and endangered species reside within the Everglades. In her famous 1947 book, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas named this remarkable spot  the "River of Grass." The Everglades is both a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve.

Click to enlarge  |  Sandy Gonzalez, 2008
My favorite shot of the day was this serene view, taken by my friend Sandy. Wouldn't this make a striking mural? Below are some of my own Everglades images.


Mark D. Ruffner, 2008

Mark D. Ruffner, 2008
This may look like a tinted photograph, but in fact this bright red plant sprung up amidst very gray vegetation. It was quite a surprise to come upon it.

Mark D. Ruffner, 2008

Mark D. Ruffner, 2008


Mark D. Ruffner, 2008

Mark D. Ruffner, 2008

Mark D. Ruffner, 2008

Mark D. Ruffner, 2008
Mark  |  Sandy Gonzalez, 2008
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18 comments:

  1. FAbulous photos Mark, not only are you talented as an illustrator, but as aphotographer as well. Did you you get hideously wet and dirty??

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  2. Hi Mark, Beautiful Photography. I like your dark and very watery shot toward the end of your post. The Everglades, so foreign to me...would love to visit one day...but I can't get visions of Alligators out of my head.

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  3. Mark - how I would love to visit the Everglades. Is it really safe to wander around in the water? Is the red plant a type of bromeliad? Clyde Butcher's photos are very dramatic.

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  4. Hi, David - Thanks for enjoying the photography. I bought thrift store clothes to dispose of (and of course a change of clothes), but while I got wet up to my knees, the area was not particularly "mucky." Clyde Butcher encourages people to bring old shoes, and to leave them behind. His staff then cleans them up and gives the shoes to charity.

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  5. Hi, Gina - Not only is the Everglades home to alligators, it's the only place in the world where the American Alligator and American Crocodile coexist. It's also the home of a growing population of pythons, the result of pet snakes lost or let loose. Yikes!! But I should add here that the photography tour was essentially in Clyde Butcher's back yard, not in the middle of nowhere.

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  6. I would so love to do a mural of the everglades!

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  7. Hi, Rosemary - The red plant could indeed be a bromeliad or bromeliad relative, though the leaves are more spidery. The Everglades is also home to many varieties of orchids.

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  8. Hi, Scott ... and I'd love to see you do a mural of the Everglades. One of the reasons I really like the portrait Sandy took of me is that the background and surroundings look like one of those wonderful Victorian photo studio backdrops. Very painterly.

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  9. Thank you for the introduction to Clyde Butcher - I LOVE his work - and it must be amazing to see it in its large scale!! Your photographs are fabulous as well. I have taken a a tour of the Everglades - it's amazing! I published a little video of Dominique Browning today talking about her environmental work - such a worthy cause everywhere!!

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  10. What a wonderful post on many levels, Mark. How profound his large photos must be and what a treat for you to work with him - oh, I mean "muck about"! You have taught me about a great photographer as well as about the Everglades. You see, I want to write like you do - focused and informative. Thanks for your support and kind words about my taste in art - I feel like I am all over the place, but I do know what I love!

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  11. Hi, Stacey - A neighbor of mine has one of Clyde Butcher's larger photographs, and it's not only a beautiful reflection in the house, it adds a serenity that permeates the room.

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  12. Hi, HCH Girl - You may feel as though you are all over the place, but your readers might interpret that as being a multi-faceted person with that much more to share. All the same, focused is good, and I'm looking forward to upcoming postings!

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  13. What a wonderful way to spend a day, Mark. Not a hundred percent sure I'd like to wade around thigh high in water, but I do enjoy reading about it. 'Mucking about' indeed.

    I've never seen Clyde Butcher's work before. Wow.

    I enjoyed looked at your photos too. Not crazy about the idea of pythons running amok in the Everglades - too bad for any small mammals.

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  14. Hi, Yvette - I never felt as though we were in danger. Alligators would avoid groups of people and of course Clyde has been wading through the Everglades for years. But I wouldn't want to be out there alone! There's a rather famous (infamous?) photograph from a couple of years ago when a python and alligator got into a fight, and neither won.

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  15. I am definitely going to find out more about Clyde Butcher. I agree that the Gonzalez photo is magnificent. When you recommended it as a mural, it reminded me of the S.J. Perelman story in which a Lake Okeechobee tour company rips off its customers by employing just such a photomural in an industrial area.

    Each of your own photos has its own design focus. I was especially intrigued by the tree with the spiral lichens. Do they normally grow in that pattern?
    --Road to Parnassus

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  16. Great photos and blog. :)

    http://liberty-walk-sara.blogspot.com/

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  17. Hi, Parnassus - I didn't see another tree with lichen growth qiote like the one in the photograph you mention. I took that shot because the growths were so neatly round, as though someone had painted the tree, and in fact that was my initial instant impression.

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  18. Hi, Sara - Thanks for the compliment, and thanks for visiting!

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