Clyde Butcher – Everglades Photographer isTurning 70!

Clyde Butcher is a local photographer of world renown who specializes in black and white fine art photography of the Florida Everglades.  An e-mail I received with details on his annual Labor Day Weekend Swamp walk behind his Ochopee or Big Cypress Gallery ( to be held on Sept 1, 2 and 3 this year) mentioned that the event coincides with celebrating his 70th Birthday. So, I thought I’d provide the link here in case anyone local reading might want to be aware of it…or even anyone far away might see it as a must do artist gallery to visit when coming to South Florida in the future.  If you love the Everglades there is positively nothing better than making time to see the exquisite work of Clyde Butcher.

When I first became interested in digital photography, I saved up for and purchased the  Canon Rebel DSLR.  All my kids had graduated from college and I was drawn to return to things I had been interested in when I was young, most especially photography and being underneath a cypress canopy in the Everglades. My sister-in- law made me a birthday gift of paying for a one day seminar offered by Clyde Butcher in Venice, Florida. It may be slightly self indulgent but reading that he will be 70 detoured me to memory lane circa March of 2004  when my enthusiasm for digital photography was new.  Below I have included an excerpt from a letter I wrote to a photographer friend at the time (2004) with some thoughts about the seminar as well as my  Thank You poem , Best of Dark and Light, which I (for better or worse) felt compelled to write and send to Clyde Butcher and his family afterwards for being such inspirational, gracious and giving hosts at the Venice, Florida  gallery with its wonderful wet lab equipment. Any opportunity offered by Clyde and his family for adventure or learning is well worth the trek.

To: Clyde


Best of Dark and Light


What is best of dark and light

When filtered through the artist’s sight?

Is what he saw really there,

Or imagined in the sylvan air?


Dual lenses record the scene,

Dark and light and shades between!

On film one captures mystery;

The other binds its memory.


The original canvas is divine,

A moment seen in fleeting time

And bathed in ever-changing light

Before the artist’s wondering sight!


What is best of dark and light,

Preserved for us in black and white?

The eternal mystery of the glades,

Of bird and wood and watery ways.


Of prehistoric mists and veils

A land where the alligator dwells,

Where lilies float and orchids bloom

Hanging on air in the misty gloom.


Where rivers of grass ever flow

And the egret, ibis and heron go.

Where majestic cypress trees arise

Beside mirrored cloud swept skies.


What is best of dark and light

Is revealed through the artist’s sight!

Interpretation, his greatest gift

To preserve, remember and uplift!


So each and every hand-dipped print

We shall regard as heaven sent.

Down to every silvered hue,

We owe it to the artist’s view!



Judy Lovell 3.20.04

March 15, 2004 – Letter with thoughts about the Seminar 

Wilderness, to me, is a spiritual necessity. When my son was killed by a drunk driver it was to the wilderness that I fled in hopes of regaining my serenity and equilibrium. The mysterious spiritual experience of being close to nature helped restore my soul. It was during that time, I discovered the intimate beauty of the environment. My experience reinforced my sense of dedication to use my art form of photography as an inspiration for others to work together to save nature’s places of spiritual sanctuary for future generations.” Clyde Butcher 

The above says a lot about this man I think and I understand the need for sanctuary.  On the whole my experience with nature photographers is that they seem to share not only an eye for beauty but a certain spiritual awareness. Photography in reality is not merely the documentation of a fact or a tangible but rather interprets the latent beauty, sorrow,  joy, and poignancy that threads through life itself. As an interpretive medium photography has to be considered an art.  Even Ansel Adams said “Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.” Humorously, if  irreverently, he shows that interpretative quality.  Now, at least one photographer I know finds the term “art” very hard to deal with imbuing it with inherent responsibility. Clyde Butcher openly admits that he wants his work to show that all is not lost as regards safekeeping the environment and by showing the best of it encourages a higher ethics in its treatment. But no matter how you look at it, the view is filtered through the photographer’s eye and mind first and is therefore his vision. Does one have to take responsibility for one’s vision? Not really, the responsibility is TO to the vision and if with every highlighted cloud or drama burned sky the essence of the artist’s vision brings clarity to a good cause, then what more could you ask of an artist? Beauty is highly individual and interpretative. I believe that art begins when the photographer decides where to stand!

The seminar was attended by about 100 people or so ranging from amateurs who love photography such as myself  to professional newspaper people , and others specializing in black and white and infrared photography.  It was a diverse and well educated group. The seminar began with Clyde’s discussion of how he became a photographer and moved on to discussion of his large format cameras, lenses, film, filters, computer printing, Photoshop, and the wet darkroom facility in Venice.

The things that I found most interesting were not just the details of photography but also three things: 1)The discussion of art relative to the hand processed fiber, gelatin silver, selenium-toned prints versus his new efforts in the digital arena. 2)The close relationship between Clyde, his wife, Niki, their daughter, Jackie, and her husband, Neil  and 3)The amount of labor and creative effort and mechanical innovation that goes into producing those prints, the largest of which are 5ft by 8ft in size!

The art discussion went along lines relating not just to vision, since I think we all agreed on vision, but on the idea of what constitutes an original. This will probably remain an ongoing and  lively consideration. The hand processed fiber prints using the enlargers and dodging and burning each picture and running the paper through all the chemical vats clearly does produce an original. In the last year Clyde has started scanning his large negatives and has learned to do the dodging and burning with Photoshop he wants to produce digital prints. Are these digital prints produced in multiple from the same artistically adjusted file still an original piece of art? Although, I think the wet developed prints are more desirable and richer looking, each digital print is still an original from the standpoint that traditional photographic prints are made from film negatives & digital ones come from a digital negative. They still reflect the photographer’s vision; no one else can claim his style or vision. The hand processed wet lab prints are say $900 for the same size a digital would sell for $300.  Media receptive to digital giclee printing can be chosen which is very similar to a wet lab print in texture and feel.  Even though I feel that way, I’d obviously rather have the dark room developed pictures if finances allowed.  They are beyond gorgeous..truly exquisite.

In addition to Clyde’s vision, cameras, and techniques part of the seminar included information given by LexJet on printers and papers. This group is totally recommending Epson for photo printing. The 2200 for high-end consumer then 4000, 7600 and 9600 for high production. Clyde is using the 9600 for his digital prints. Amazing stuff!! Amazing!!

I enjoyed the other attendees very much. …Most people in this group are very flexible in their views of available technology. However, most of us would have guessed Clyde wouldn’t ever go digital but he is recognizing it as a force. I don’t think he intends to take digital pictures, however , but rather to convert his negatives via high resolution scanning into a digital negative to work with.  He needs that large format camera detail for what he does. The advantage of giclee printing is that it puts Clyde’s vision into the hands of more people! So, it is a blessing to us all that he is making that available.

…maybe you have a sense of the day. You would have loved his gigantic enlargers and the prints hanging to dry with heavy duty clips. Truly, quite a facility and a process. His work commands a lot of money but you can see the work that goes into each piece of art…helps to understand. It is worth it!! You really HAVE to see these in person!!



Read more about Clyde and do visit….I have a feeling that National Treasure is not something he thinks of himself..but he is..check it all out!!

Scene around Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery in Ochopee, FL – from my first Swamp Walk in Sept of 2004 -with Cypress Knees and Gator..see him?

Jeff Ripple was our guide on the 2004 Swamp Walk…..artist, photographer, writer of books about the Everglades

~ by Judy on August 9, 2012.

5 Responses to “Clyde Butcher – Everglades Photographer isTurning 70!”

  1. I adore this man. There’s no other way to say it. Artist, conservationist, visionary. SO wanna go on that swamp walk!!

    • Yeah, me too!! I really do believe that the people who have the talent to really SHOW us what we are missing in our civilized lives and what we would be losing should we not be good custodians of our natural areas have a very special role. And, while art for art’s sake is enough; I am so glad that Clyde and his team take us on this quest to enter in and preserve. As far as I am concerned he is the best on the planet at what he does.

  2. Happy Birthday to Clyde! He is a fantastic photographer and I love that you were inspired by him to develop your craft beyond a hobby. Your images are brilliant examples of composition…and of Florida. Beautiful poem too!! 😀

    • If being in the primordial influence of Big Cypress doesn’t make a poet or painter out of you, then perhaps nothing will!! To have someone like Clyde Butcher show us its exquisite majesty is inspiring…what a legacy!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: