Clyde Butcher's Big Cypress Home.
Posted on March 21, 2012

Last week a few of us were fortunate to have one of those top 10 photographic days where everything seemed to come together. We had just had an incredible Phase One IQ International conference at our Miami location with a tremendous turnout and inspiring presentations by customers, Ed Cooley and Jack Flesher.

C I Workshop at the home of Clyde Butcher

The planning of such an event had all of us working non stop to ensure that all the small details were covered and no balls were dropped. Needless to say, after pulling it off we needed to blow off some photographic steam for a few days and this is exactly what we did.

© Dave Gallagher

A few weeks before I had promoted a small workshop to shoot in the Everglades for the weekend. I had always been a huge fan on Clyde Butcher and had seen his work in galleries and private collections all over our country. However, I had never had the opportunity to spend some time in the swamp and the “muck” as a few affectionately call it. So I made some calls and did a little research. What I found was that you could arrange private swamp walks behind Clyde’s Big Cypress Gallery off of Tamiami trail in Ochopee, Florida. This was only a 90 minute drive from Miami so I jumped on the opportunity. Now, the swamp walks are normally only on Saturday’s but I was able to “sweet talk” my way into a private Friday walk for our small group.

I have to admit that I was a mix of excitement and fear thinking of walking waist deep in the swamp with reptiles as long as my rental car. I was anxious about our day until we arrived on site and was greeted by none other than Clyde Butcher himself. Clyde no longer lives at his location in Big Cypress as he has moved to Venice with his family. So I was happily surprised to meet him in person. However, that was just the beginning. For those who do not know him (is this possible?) Mr. Butcher is one of the masters of Large Format photography. He shoots everything from a 12×20 Wisner down to a 4×5 little beauty that he calls his Clyde-O-Wide. Being able to meet him and pick his brain a little was a delight. And from Clyde’s perspective, here are 6 guys with Phase One IQ digital backs all on Cambo Wide RS and Anniversary Edition large format cameras in his backyard. Needless to say, there had never been that kind of equipment in his swamp at the same time before! I felt like a school child again and I think that Clyde enjoyed it as well.

After spending about an hour getting ready and talking with Mr Butcher, we were off into the swamp with our gear. Steve was our knowledgeable and generous guide for the day. And from the first step we were knee deep in water. Now to protect the innocent and not to point out the guilty parties, there were a few who were not so thrilled to spend the day with poisonous spiders, cotton mouth snakes, and 15' gators as you can imagine. But I am happy to say, that only after a few steps into the muck, it felt quite normal and you forgot about the normal comforts of dry feet and safety on solid ground. You quickly were more enamored by the beauty and lush landscape than any negative feelings about the swamp. It really was amazing. Every new turn yeilded new flora, wildlife, or lush landscape. Honestly, we spent 6 straight hours almost waist deep in water at 2 miles into the national preserve and it felt like 90 minutes.

© Dave Gallagher

Upon exiting the swamp we were then happily greeted by Mr Butcher with a “What did you think?” And he then escorted us back to a his personal favorite spot that he thinks is one of the best shooting areas of his backyard. It was lush and green with a tremendous canopy that kept the colors saturated without too much contrast. And we all got right back into the water for another 45 mintues of shooting. But this time with Clyde’s advice and direction. After hosing off our gear, feet, boots and anything else that was full of muck Mr. Butcher then invited us into his home followed by a private tour of his gallery. Clyde shared anecdotes about the creation of many of his brilliant 4' x 6' images hanging on the walls mixed in with some experienced advice for all of us. Seldom do you have the chance to meet one of the masters of our medium. And never do you get invited into their home, their backyard, or have a personal after hours tour of their gallery. Last Friday was one of my all time favorite days in our industry. I was able to experience the beauty that exists in the mysterious Everglades and Big Cypress Preserve up close and personal. But moreover, a few of us were fortunate enough to meet and learn from one of the living masters of our medium. Thank you Clyde Butcher for your generosity and gracious hospitality. This photographer is forever grateful.

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