Spring means one thing to many Americans - baseball season.
Back in 2010, Sports Illustrated sent Bill on a portrait series of baseball players through the many Florida Spring Training facilities.
This was a test shot in Naples for one of the images we made on that trip. I honestly don’t know who the portrait was of. I haven’t followed baseball closely since John Smoltz pitched for the Atlanta Braves, and it’s been more than a few years since that happened.
I just remember driving from Jacksonville to Tampa to Naples to Miami for the trip. A long couple days in the car down Florida’s west coast.
Florida is a long state with surprising bio-diversity. Many people who visit Florida never leave the metropolitan centers of Orlando, Tampa and Miami, but - like many places - once you get off the beaten track, the place is stunning.
It was the first time I had ever driven the Tamiami trail - a road named for the cities it connects, Tampa and Miami. For much of the Tamiami you pass strip malls and time-share high rises. But as you move south the countless convenient stores fade into the Big Cypress National Preserve and the Everglades.
It’s an otherworldly landscape that seems detached entirely from the manufactured land of Disney World. A two-lane road surrounded by swamp and cypresses.
Bill and I drove through the wetlands quietly until we passed a small building on the west side of the road with a sign that read, “The Big Cypress Gallery.” An art gallery in the middle of a national preserve. We didn’t have time to stop, but we did anyway.
We walked in to find a collection of Clyde Butcher original photographs. If you don’t know who Clyde Butcher is, look him up. He’s Ansel Adams for the state of Florida. His pictures are big and beautiful and seem impossibly simple. They seem that way because they are. There is nothing simple about lugging an 11x14 camera around the swamp, but the images are pure - the way Florida used to be.
I walked out of the gallery with a print from the same trail we had been driving, the Tamiami. It now hangs above my desk. A constant reminder of the simple beauty of a well done photograph, and the (sometimes) forgotten natural beauty of my home state.