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September 30, 2013

Big Cypress Reserve with Clyde Butcher

This Autumn, whilst in Florida for our Honeymoon, I had the good fortune to go on into Clyde Butchers' back yard -- quite literally! For those not familiar, Clyde's been documenting the glades and Big Cypress reserve for decades in stunning black and white.

Having joined one of his excursions, we set out at dawn into the (very dark) Big Cypress swamp that surrounds his 30acre plot situated along the Tamiami trail near the Everglades National Park.

Big Cypress swamp is dense with life, yet has a silence and tranquility to it I've not experienced elsewhere.

It's certainly a unique photography environment, and extremely challenging, especially for someone not used to this kind of enviroment. I'm more used to walking on solid ground, not wading around waitdeep in ink black coloured water with your gear. You can't see where or what you are treading on. Tree roots, boulders, rock channels all lie underfoot, none of which you can actually see. As my guide descriped, it's the closest thing to walking blind.

In many ways it pays,the slow movement to suss out the terrain under your feet causes you to process the landscape a lot more than you would walking at several miles an hour.

Another challenge is the light. The Everglades are not like a dense rainforests, the trees are sparse and light dapples on the water everywhere, causing huge contrast ranges. Long exposures were critical and even at the range of ISO 200, exposure times were pushed well into the Bulb range.

Big Cypress Florida Landscape photography by Paul Marsden

After about an hour in the swamp, we came upon a grove of the Big Cypress trees. Cradled in and amongst their submerged roots on a decaying log sat this branch, onto which clung this sapling. It very much reminded me of the Terence Malick's Thin Red line scenes, into which Malick intersperses minor events in nature (a leaf unfurling).

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