Clyde Butcher - I'm sinking in the mud. Three gators are yelling at me.

I was in Lake Istokpoga, and I’m up to my waste in water. When a storm is coming, it’s pulling in the air. Then, before it hits there’s about 10-30 seconds of no wind. So I’m standing, waiting for that 10-20 seconds through four or five storms that have come through. And I’m sinking in the mud.

There are three gators behind me, yelling at me. They sound kind of like a diesel truck down-shifting. I was becoming really one with nature there. In fact, I was so one with nature that I was stuck in the mud. Haha!

 

First camera

I seriously started when I was 8 years old. I got me a little Brownie Hawkeye. When I was 10, I got into 16mm movies. I did that mostly up until college.

I saw Ansel Adam’s work in 1961. “Moonrise over Hernandez” as a 16x20 was $75 bucks. Golly! Who would ever spend $75…

I started saying, “That’s kind of interesting. I think I’ll play with that.” So I started photographing nature. And I did really well. In fact I did more sales than I was doing in architecture. So I said, “I think I’ll do this.” I dropped out of architecture.

Primeval

What I like to photograph is maybe different than a lot of other people. Basically, I like primeval stuff. For example, the redwoods forest is one of my favorite spots. I feel like I am back to eternity when I am there. I mean, it’s 15 million years old. The dinosaurs were there. Then, when I started photographing Florida, I got the same feeling.

 

Everglades

I started photographing the Everglades in ’84. What’s that, 30 years? While photographing there, I’ve never met another person. That’s how primevil it is.

It’s probably the most unique place in the United States. Photographers come out here and they say, “This is confusing. It’s chaos.”

Chaos is what I look for, because in chaos you find biological order.

Affect on your life

When you’re shooting large format, there’s a lot of patience involved. Sometimes you’re in a spot for the whole day. Same spot. Waiting for the light, waiting for the wind to stop, and you become one with that spot. You get a feeling of where you are. You’re not just passing through.

Ansel Adams did kind of a “no-no” in some respects. He would try to manipulate his development for the light. And those pictures were never that successful. The ones he took that were good, the light was good.

Without the light, what do you have? You’ve got to have the right light.

Black & White

Nature is all one. If you use color, you’re defining different parts of it. Your mind’s going to see this color or that color. In black and white nature becomes a oneness. Everything is the same importance—the tree, the grass, the water, the sky. It’s all necessary; it’s all important.

 

Advice

I studied different photographers—Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, Edward Weston. Study other photographers, but you have to go out and shoot. You have to go out and have fun! But don’t bang around shooting. You’ve got to start thinking about what you do.

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Watch the complete interview in the video at the top.