Venice-based wilderness photographer Clyde Butcher first shot at one of our national parks—Yosemite—back in the 1960s. “I didn’t get anything good,” he says. “I didn’t understand when you had to be there for the sun to be just right.” Turns out, for Yosemite, April is the perfect time.
Since those early days, Butcher has gotten a lot of photographs right. Recently, he released his book Celebrating America’s National Parks, Preserves, Monuments and Recreation Areas, filled with dramatic, large-format black-and-white images covering more than five decades of his work at 33 national parks. The book is timed to coincide with the ongoing centennial year of our national parks system; a few of Butcher’s striking photos from the book are shown here.
Butcher admits it was a massive job deciding which photos to include from the thousands he’s shot over the years. Tough, too, to name his favorite parks, when he and wife Niki have roamed with his camera equipment from canyons to mountains to waterfalls to swamps all across the country. But perhaps because Yosemite came first, it, along with Florida’s Everglades and Big Cypress National Preserve, stand out for him.
Butcher lived in the Big Cypress area for a while before moving about 12 years ago to Venice, where his 2,200-square-foot darkroom is the biggest in the United States. He still has a gallery in Ochopee near Big Cypress, which just exhibited for the first time all of his national parks photos. Here in Venice, the photographer opens his Warfield Avenue studio and darkroom to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 10 and 11—a great opportunity to meet the genial Butcher, admire his work and pick up a signed copy of the book. (You can also purchase it online, at clydebutcher.com.)
The book’s publication doesn’t mean Butcher is done capturing images of our diverse and memorable parks. When we spoke, he had just returned from a few days in Florida’s own Dry Tortugas. And he’s planning return visits to Glacier and Olympic National Parks in the near future, too. More photos to savor, from the man filmmaker Ken Burns has called “a national treasure.”