We Simplify The Technical!

Peggy Farren interviews famous large format landscape photographer Clyde Butcher.  Clyde tells us stories about his start into large format photography and his latest project with the Dali Museum.  Thanks for tuning into episode #84 of The Understand Photography Show!


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Understand Photography General Notes


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Women’s Photography Weekend Naples May 4-6, 2018

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 “To do anything well is difficult.”

Started photographing architectural models for school – you have to have detail, you have to draw the viewer in and make him want to enter the building.

Photographers that influenced Clyde

Saw Ansel Adams’ work at Yosemite NationalPark in 1961.  Started trying to emulate Adams, Edward Weston, and Wynn Bullock.


           “Photography is a great collector’s item, much better than the stock market.”


1969 – Decided to be a photographer instead of an architect.

Started photography in Florida in 1983.


         “When I first came here, I didn’t see anything worth photographing.  I’m from California. There’s no big mountains here, there’s no 300 foot trees.”


         “You only SEE about 4 degrees – you PERCEIVE the broad spectrum, but you don’t SEE it.  If you want to SEE something, you need to scan across it.”


         “If I make my pictures large, people will have to scan them, and they’ll feel like they were there.”


Recently switched to digital

  • likes panoramas
  • likes to have more megabytes
  • can tilt lens like large format to get everything in focus


           “In landscape photography, always keep the back of the camera level – if it gets out of level, you’ll have distortion.  I use the front of the camera to do all of the manipulating to make it work.”


Uses a Sony a7R II with all tilt and shift lenses and a Cambo ACTUS

  • modular – bellows pop off and on with a magnetic attachment
  • Pentax 645 35mmlens
  • works with all lenses EXCEPT Sony – their lenses are mirrorless, the lenses are closer to the film plane – not enough room for the bellows
  • likesFuji GFX 50S medium format with Canon lenses – capture better light


      “I have an idea of what I want for the result, then I try to get the tools that will make that.”


Using Canon tilt and shifts – “I take 3 exposures and merge them in photoshop – they come together perfectly”


Photoshop techniques learned in the darkroom – use the same techniques in the digital world as in the chemical world.


When creating a black and white from digital, you start with a color image.

  • What do I want this print to look like?
  • Change the COLORS in the print first.
    – For a darker sky – make the sky BLUER.
    – To make yellow flowers whiter, make them more YELLOW.
    – Do all of your basic work in color.  It can be difficult – you have to be able to visualize what you want.


Dali Exhibit

–  Clyde was contacted by the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL

  • They felt that Clyde was giving “the feeling of Florida” with his work.
  • Dali was really involved with the landscapes in his paintings.
  • The museum thought it would be interesting if Clyde could give the feeling of the landscapes where Dali lived and bring them back.


       “It was scary.  I’ve never done a commercial project.”


Clyde only had a week and a half to shoot for this project.

He went to Barcelona first and saw Antoni Gaudi’s work – “the Frank Lloyd Wright of Europe”.

(He took pictures for himself with his iPhone and ZEISS adapters for Telephoto  and Wide-Angle. 

From there, he went on to Figueres and saw the Dali Museum and Gallery.

Then the Butcher’s drove to Cadaques and Port Lligat to visit Dali’s house.

– Dali’s house was a fishing hut that he continued to build onto.

– Dali had a mirror set up in his bedroom so that he could be the first to see the sunrise from his bed.

– Dali had a very interesting studio: one 16′ wall had a hole in the floor so he could pull large canvases upward as he painted and didn’t have to work from a ladder.


      “For me, photographing everything doesn’t mean I photographed a lot.”


Clyde shot the whole project using digital.

Clyde shot 130 images, and he gave all of them to the museum for them to make the choices (about 45 will be in the exhibit).

He took several of the same shots 4-5 days in a row to get the best light

“How did you know what to shoot?” – I shot what was pretty – the landscapes had everything:  rocks, deserts, the ocean, hilly vineyards, and olive groves.


           “I don’t even look through the camera.  I just point and shoot.  I tape my focus at f/16.  The only thing I have to do is figure out the exposure.  I set the tripod down, put the camera on, and click-click – that’s it.  I don’t even look at the image until later that evening.”


         “I’ve been using the same view lens since 1961 – that’s why I don’t have to look through the lens, because I know what the lens does.”



See Clyde’s work:

At the Dali Museum June 16 – November 25, 2018

On his Website

All of his beautiful books are available on Amazon

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