Saturday, February 23, 2008

We made it!

We figured if we could get this monster out of our driveway, we'd make it to Everglades National Park! It took a while to get down the drive way...Clyde drove VERY slowly...however, white knuckles and all, we made it to Everglades National Park.

Needless to say, neither one of us is accustomed to driving such a large monster down any kind of road, let alone the two lane Tamiami Trail in front of our gallery. But, I do have to say that Clyde was much more serene about the drive than I was...

Driving into Everglades National Park is always a wonderful experience. As soon as I see the grasslands stretching into infinity all the weight of life lifts off my chest and I feel free, calm and relaxed. It feels good to see forever and to smell that sweet clean smell of wilderness.

The wildflowers are in bloom. I'm not sure if spring is already popping up all over, or if it is just the fact that it is always spring in the Everglades?! Never the less, I can't resist taking pictures of these wonderful splashes of color.

Our first goal, after settling the motor home down in Flamingo, was to take a quick run through the Park and explore the areas that are easy to reach. We drove north on the road through the Park, hopping out of the van whenever we saw a possible photo. The day was sunny, bright...and WINDY.

Wind is an enemy of a large format photographer. Clyde wasn't able to take any pictures because a large format camera requires a long exposure. In order for everything to be sharp and in focus, the f/stop has to be small. A small f/stop lets in less light and that means a longer exposure. The fastest exposure Clyde has used in bright sun light is 1/2 second. In order for his images to be sharp he can't have any movement at all, and that requires patience.

Our first stop was the Mahogany Boardwalk. The boardwalk took us into a Hardwood Hammock where a very large mahogany tree stood. Clyde studied the tree for a long time trying to figure out how to photograph it without the boardwalk in the image. He finally figured it out, but because of the wind, the picture will have to wait for another day.

The Bromeliads were in bloom. I had a great time taking pictures of them...but once again, because of the wind, Clyde couldn't do any photography, he could only stand and admire them.

The next area we explored was the Anhinga Boardwalk...what a thrill to be able to get so close to birds! They are so comfortable with people that you can take your time photographing. Watching the alligators lust after the baby Anhinga's was a bit tense, but that is all a part of nature. There were plenty of baby's , but I'm sure there once was a lot more because those alligators were very full!

This ugly bird is a Double Crested Cormorant. I love its primitive look and couldn't believe the color of it's eyes...they were emerald green. Amazing...

We ended the day with the difficult hike up to Rock Reef Pass...opps, you caught me...yep, it was a hike up to the pass all right...a hike of
three feet! One of the highest points in the Park.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Almost on our way...

Our trip to the Everglades National Park took a slight detour to the archaeological site of Long Key. Tim Harrington, of the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy, contacted Clyde and requested that he take a photograph of the site for a mural in the new educational center. They needed the final image to be 10 feet by 27 feet!

Long Key is one of seven "islands" known as Sam Jones' Seven Islands. Long Key is the largest island and consists of a wilderness composed of 157 acres of oak hammocks and restored wetlands that was, as recently as 100 years ago, part of the Everglades. Records of human settlement on Long Key date back to at least 1000BC with the Tequesta Indians. During the 19th century, the string of islands west of Fort Lauderdale became some of the first permanent settlement sites for the Seminole Indians. Because of its high elevation, remote inland location, isolation by Everglades marshes and the rich hammock soils, Long Key became an important and secure refuge for the Seminoles during the Second Seminole War from 1835-1842.

After the Seminole wars, and the drainage projects of the early 1900's along with the settler movement, the area was permanently altered. The the traditional Seminole lifestyle could no longer function and the Seminoles moved further west into the Everglades. The islands were settled by farmers. Today Long Key is surrounded by homes in the community of Davie. Fortunately the site was preserved and is now being used as an educational opportunity to explain the history of Florida; the Tequesta Indians, the Seminoles and the Everglades.

For us, it also explains the once great expanse of the flow of water that was the Everglades, which flowed south from Lake Okeechobee, eastward to the Atlantic and south to Florida Bay. Today when we see the homes of Palm Beach County, Broward County and Dade County we forget that the majority of that land really belongs to the Everglades.

When Tim asked Clyde to photograph the area for this project we were both excited about it. I love history, and to be a part of helping the people of Florida understand their history and how both the Everglades and the Seminoles have played a part in creating our state is a thrill to me. For Clyde, an opportunity to create a REALLY BIG photograph is an opportunity that he couldn't resist!

(the majority of the pictures taken in this blog were taken by
Tim Harrington)

It took three photo trips to the site before Clyde captured the image he wanted for the project. He began with his 8x10, thinking that by utilizing the computer he could sharpen the image enough for it to enlarge to 10x27 feet. However, after developing the film and scanning it into the computer, Clyde realized the quality just wasn't there to enlarge the image to 10x27 feet. He returned a second time with his 12x20" view camera and tried again.

His 12x20" camera is like carrying around a television! It is heavy and awkward. It took Tim and I to help Clyde with the camera.

After taking a few images at ground level, Clyde decided he wanted more height. Tim and I helped him get the camera and tripod up onto the top of the van for a better view.

The view was great, but the clouds were wimpy. We spent the afternoon waiting for the clouds that never came. Clyde took some pictures just in case he didn't have time to return, but wasn't satisfied with them.

We returned for the third time and once again put the 12x20 camera up onto the roof of the van. This time we were blessed with clouds and Clyde came away with some good photos of the scene.

He had the film processed at Dalmation Labs in North Carolina, then scanned the negative and began working with it in the computer. When it was the way he wanted the image he began printing it out...which took a VERY long time. It took 20 hours of one continuous run to print the image. He printed it in eight different sections. Needless to say, staying up all night might be what a college kid can do, but at the age of 65 it really wore out Clyde....ahhh youth....

He drove the print over to Long Key where they proceeded to install it.

They will be having a public opening when the center is completed. We will announce it when they let us know.

For more information about the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy check out this website:

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Everglades

Since Clyde is known for his black and white photography of the Everglades, it may seem strange to say that our next great adventure will be photographing the Everglades! However, that is what we plan on doing for the next two years.

Clyde's goal is to publish a book on the Everglades ecosystem from Orlando to Florida Bay. He has photographed much of the Everglades, but he is missing certain sections of the ecosystem and wants to cover it all for his next book.
Ochopee by Clyde Butcher

During the recent years of our journey in life together, I have not paid much attention to my own art. I am looking forward to renewing my art form of creating my own photographic images of Florida and hand painting the black and white images.

We will be staying in Everglades National Park for the month of February and March enjoying the beauty of that environment. If you see us out photographing, stop and say howdy! If you can't get to the Everglades, I'll try to keep you up to date with this blog.
Tamiami Trail by Niki