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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Florida Explored

In his home state, John Moran found his true photographic love. He never tires of the visual possibilities and the varied wildlife and landscapes

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Photographer John Moran has dedicated his life to capturing the varied ecosystems of his home state of Florida. Moran’s river of dreams, the Ichetucknee, in north-central Florida. See the sidebar for more on how Moran captured this magical shot.

Escribano Point in Pensacola Bay.
When John Moran speaks about his life’s work, it’s almost impossible to separate the man from his place in the world. He has lived in Florida since age two, which is two fewer years than he’d prefer. He’s deeply rooted there, a nature photographer with zero interest in anything across the state line.

“I have no desire to see the world,” Moran says, “which is interesting. I have a daughter who lives in Holland and another who lives in Oregon, and those are lovely places to visit, but this is the place for me. I’m a deeply photo-monogamous kind of a guy. I’m all about Florida, all the time. It’s like the world is full of beautiful women for some other man to love. Florida is my first and only love, photographically.”

As a nature photographer, Moran thinks of himself as a generalist. Wildlife, flora, scenics—all of them interest him—but it’s the landscape that holds a special place in his heart.

Pitcher plants at dusk.
“Though I love shooting wildlife,” he says, “it’s such a crapshoot. I like that when I get up at 4 a.m. to go to the river for a sunrise photo shoot, I can be confident the river will be there waiting for me. I enjoy mixing it up with a blend of stumble-and-bumble and preplanned photo outings. I love to plan and create elaborate photos in my mind’s eye and then go out and make them happen. They don’t always work out, of course, but in many ways, the beauty of what we do isn’t about the picture—it’s the experience of being out there chasing the light.

“My favorite pictures tend to be the ones that involve lots of planning and lots of gear,” Moran continues. “I’m happiest when I have a camera in my hand and my feet are in the water; not hard to do if you’re a nature photographer in Florida. Water pretty much defines the Florida experience. We’ve got more freshwater springs in Florida than anyplace on the planet; we’ve got this huge long coastline on the Gulf and the Atlantic. Even the pictures that don’t have water, you can feel the water. We get 55 inches of rain a year here. Water is what shaped the land. Plus, it’s just fun. We are children of the dirt; we are born of the water. It’s inevitable in Florida that water is going to be what draws the nature photographer.

“Plus,” adds Moran, “if you want to photograph alligators, you’ve got to be around water.”

Alligators are a real issue for Floridian photographers, but Moran says the mostly docile creatures aren’t nearly the ravenous man-eaters outsiders mistake them for. Still, he keeps his eyes out for the prehistoric animals on every shoot.


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