Photographer of the Month Interview: Paul Marcellini

Featured Photographer, December 2010:   Paul Marcellini

This month, our featured guest is Paul Marcellini.

We want to thank Paul for his generosity in allowing us to ask our questions, and for sharing his valuable time with us! Please check out his site links to see more of his beautiful work, and to let him know you enjoyed this interview.

:: How did you get started in photography, specifically, landscape and wildlife as a focus?

I have always been involved in both art and nature. My mom would send me to nature camp and that helped develop a deep love for everything outdoors. Art class was my escape from school. I wasn't fond of classrooms, preferring to be self-taught, and art was a place where I naturally excelled and had very few limitations. I painted mostly in high-school and had to take some photos as a basis for my portfolio, so those were some of the first images of the Everglades. I moved into photography in college as a means to better document some of my outdoor adventures. It wasn't until graduation, and then winning the Outdoor Photographer Magical Adventure's Contest, that I really started taking it serious.

:: Have you ever done anything with portraits or weddings?

Nope, nope. nope. Had offers, and it just doesn't interest me. One area I may dive into more that isn't represented is the abstract architectural stuff. That has always interested me, despite it not showing up in my current work.

:: I saw a photo of you online (Facebook, I think) with a machine gun? What's THAT all about? Do you roll with a machine gun in the everglades to protect yourself?

Ha ha, that was at the 1st Annual Ammo-Camo-Jamo held by some friends. It was camping, 4-wheelers and heavy artillery. We only shot hay bales with targets, though. Oh, and a butterfly got caught in the crossfire of a shotgun (oops). The biggest threat to me in the glades is the crayfish. I go barefoot many times and they have an attraction to pinching my pinky toes.

:: What do you find most amazing about Florida, for photography? What challenges do you think it provides that maybe other areas of the country don't?

Well, we have skies. I focused on these and built a good body of work on great skies. I think without them, several images would not compare. South Florida does not get fields of wildflowers, no fall color, no strong mountains for backgrounds. My skies are my backgrounds, so I look for the best foregrounds I can. Light really does make the scenes down here. Water also dominates the landscape, so if you are uneasy with getting waste deep in water with no clarity, you may have a hard time seeing some of the more pristine and wonderful areas.

:: Give us a photography story about the scariest or worst day you've had with photography. If you have any stories dealing with large alligators, feel free to include one of those as well.

I have actually had a lucky, or "boring," photography career in that respect. I like chasing storms, so I have had a few close calls. I have one image called Power Unleashed [posted on this page, on the right] that is a 180 degree pano of a storm over the Everglades. I was shooting the opposite direction for sunset and it actually snuck up on me. I was in an area of sharp, jagged limestone called pinnacle rock. It makes for slow travel, as it can poke up two feet and breaks easy if you step on the tips, leaving you falling and slicing your legs. I was about a half mile from my Jeep, which was between me and the approaching storm. It was getting electric too, I could hear my tripod buzzing. As you can tell, I am still here, but it was a close-call. I got to my Jeep about two minutes before the storm wall hit. I actually remember not even breaking down the tripod, just throwing it in.

I have surprisingly had no real close calls with gators. The ones you have to worry about are at the tourist areas where they associate humans with food. Where I go, they are typically shy. I had one curious six footer once, when I was in the water, but a quick pop on the nose with the tripod sent him swimming the other way.

:: You mentioned moving to Tennessee. Photographically, what excites you about that area?

Well, the move is more for my personal life and the photo business would definitely slow down, but I definitely am looking forward to being closer to the Smokies. I love all habitats, but the lushness of forests always wins me over. I'm really just going to take what life presents to me for a while.

:: Do you have any plans in the future to photograph anywhere new and exciting?

Ha, so many places. I've got the art show season starting up, so that kinda keeps me local for the winter, but I would love to make a trip to Central/South America. I love the tropical scenes and all the wildlife of the rainforests.

:: What is the best piece of photography advice you have ever received?

I am pretty much self-taught, so nothing really comes to mind, but I do remember posting an image for critique on Nature Photographers Network and Marc Adamus, a huge inspiration of mine, commented. He said I had a mundane foreground. From that point on, I tried to find the most interesting thing to throw in your face for my wide-angles. It really gave me a nice drive to get better.

:: If you had to shoot with one lens for a month, which one would you take, and why?

I have used 16-400mm in a few hours before, so I never leave a lens behind, but I would have to go with my 16-35mm. I learned to see at ultra-wide and it is by far the easiest for me to compose a compelling image with. I have been branching out as much as possible with focal lengths, but that focal length (or crop-sensor equivalent) is really the most natural for me.

:: Any shows, or anything you want people to be aware of, in regards to your photography?

Well, I have about nine art shows and sales I will be participating in this winter in South Florida. I also will have my work up in the Everglades Visitor Center for December 2010.

Paul Marcellini

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