If you have always wanted to shoot images in the Everglades but have feared some of the snakes, gators, and other unknown dangers that might be lurking in the muck, consider joining one of the new eco photo safaris being offered by Swamp Exploreres, a new company operated by LexJet customer Rick Cruz.
Nature photographer/preservationist Rick Cruz and Master Naturalist Julie Cardenas founded Swamp Explorers to help more people experience the beauty of the Everglades environment in a way that will motivate them to join the fight to preserve it. In addition to photo safaris, they offer educational swamp walks and kayak tours to members of the general public. They both know enough about the environment that they can help you overcome your fears and see the Everglades in a whole new light.
The largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S., the Everglades includes both freshwater and salt-water habitats and is home to a rich diversity of rare and endangered species of plants and animals. Although the Everglades once covered almost 11,000 square miles in South Florida, it is only half that size today because many of the marshlands have been drained for agriculture, development, and flood control. Every time a developer claims another five acres, Rick says they may inadvertently be removing a rare plant species that exists nowhere else on Earth.
Rick Cruz understands the Everglades because he has spent the past 20 years photographing its incredible diversity of birds, plants, animals, and landscapes. In addition to shooting and printing images that he sells in galleries, Rick works closely with scientists to photographically document rare and endangered orchid species. His images have appeared in PBS documentaries and numerous books and magazines.
Through Swamp Explorers, Rick and Julie want to help more people overcome the notion that the Everglades is a dark and forbidding wasteland, teeming with snakes, insects, and alligators. They would like to help more people examine the richness of life in more detail and discover that the Everglades can be incredible pretty, pristine, and peaceful.
One of the best ways to do this, says Rick, is through a guided swamp walk. “When you’re standing in the water, and start moving through it, your fears start disappearing.”
When Rick leads a photo safari, he explains that photographing the typical scenic landscape is generally much easier than shooting within a dense canopy of foliage while wading through murky water that laps at your calves and thigh. Thus, the Everglades photo safaris aren’t designed to teach novices about the fundamentals of camera gear and choosing the right exposure settings. Instead, Rick can help you find the right composition in an environment that at times can appear very cluttered and chaotic. He also will make sure that you understand the ecological significance of everything you photograph. Cruz will also explain how to keep your camera gear protected at all times, navigate around obstacles, and use a tripod as a walking stick. He is also smart enough to avoid conducting safaris during alligator mating season.
For his own images, Cruz uses a Deardorff large-format view camera that produces 5 x 7-in. transparencies. He shoots in color, but prints most of images in black-and-white. After scanning the negatives, he uses Photoshop only for precision dodging and burning. Other than that, he typically doesn’t do any manipulation such as removing distracting elements or adding artificial colors. The only time he adds color is when he wants to draw the viewer’s eye to a rare species of plant or animal. For example, the delicate colors of an orchid look particularly striking when superimposed against a black-and-white backdrop.
In the galleries on his website, www.rickcruzphotography.com, you can see examples of the many images Rick Cruz has captured, and the types of images you might be able to capture during a photo safari through the Everglades.
To help raise awareness of the fragile beauty of the Everglades, Rick Cruz sells prints of his images through his website and in several Florida galleries, including Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery in the heart of the Everglades.
Like Clyde Butcher, Cruz obtains many of his inkjet-printing materials from LexJet. He prints most of his images on LexJet’s Sunset Photo eSatin Paper 300g on an Epson Stylus Pro 4800 printer. On occasion, he has output some larger prints on the Epson 9800 printer in Clyde Butcher’s studio.
Rick has known Clyde Butcher for years, and even spent some time working in his gallery. He laughs as he recalls how they first met. When Rick was showing some of his black-and-white prints of Everglades landscapes at an art fair, many people remarked that his work resembled that of Clyde Butcher. Rick wasn’t yet familiar with Butcher’s work, so he made it a point to visit his gallery to learn more about it. Clyde happened to be in the gallery at the time, they struck up a conversation, and have been good friends ever since. Rick says Clyde has given him some excellent advice about some of the intricacies of opening and running a gallery.
Rick can envision a time when he runs his own gallery in conjunction with Swamp Explorers. For example, if visitors admired a particular image on the gallery walls, he could offer to take them on a tour to where the image was captured.
Earlier this year, the St. Petersburg Times published a feature story about Rick Cruz and his adventures in the Everglades. You can read excerpts from the article on Rick’s blog.
For more information about Swamp Walks, Kayak Tours, or Photo Safaris, visit: www.swampexplorers.com
For more information about LexJet’s Sunset Photo eSatin papers and other options for making gallery-worthy photographic prints, call a LexJet account specialist at 800-453-9538.