Every Labor Day weekend, world-renowned black and white photographer, Clyde Butcher opens up the “backyard” of his Big Cypress studio and home to the public. One of the features of this get-to-know-your-wilderness experience is the Swamp Walk, better known as Muck-About.
I love the cypress forest for its wondrous beauty and admire Clyde Butcher’s large-format photography, so my husband and I made reservations early for the photographer’s “silent walk” through the cypress swamp. Finally, the anticipated day arrived accompanied by ominous weather reports of an 80% chance of rain from Hurricane Gustav’s outer rain bands. Undaunted, we drove to the heart of the Everglades and the Big Cypress National Preserve. Lines of cars parked along Florida’s Tamiami Trail told us we had arrived.
After signing in and receiving a walking stick, two volunteer guides led our group of 13 down into up to 2 ½ ft. of clear flowing tea-stained Big Cypress water. Feeling our way along the muck-filled bottom, over roots and around stumps, our awe of the surrounding watery forest silenced us.
Wonders great and small surprised us at every turn. I’d like to share a few of the images that lured my lens with you.
There really are not many “big” cypress left. The cypress that grow in the Everglades are mostly bald cypress.
These sweet little flowers poked up out of the swamp water on spindly green stems. I don’t know their identity, but I couldn’t help but capture them.
Apple snails are the only food of the Everglades Snail Kite, a beautiful bird that seems to be disappearing from the Everglades. The snails are also food for alligators and limpets as well as an indicator species for scientists.
Exotic flora surprised us with every step. Without the patience to stop and allow your eyes to scan the wilderness, it’s easy to miss its hidden wonders.
I found myself fascinated by the variety of fungus silently recycling dead cypress trees.
It never rained, rather the cloudy sky and somewhat lower than normal temperature enhanced our watery trek. Once we hosed off and changed it was time to explore the studio. Inside breathtaking photos line the walls, some as large as 5ft. X 8ft. with every detail sharp. Clyde’s wife, Niki, has her own exhibit of hand-painted black and white Florida scenes. We found Clyde in one of the rooms chatting with visitors and signing books, calendars, and prints. He is a larger-than-life man who instantly makes you feel like you’re old friends. If you ever have the chance to visit one of his two studios, or view an exhibit of his work, jump at the opportunity. The experience will reward you with an appreciation of God’s wilderness artistry, not only in Florida but also around the nation as captured by a truly gifted photographer.