There is an old saying that if you want to see something new, take the same route every day. To Don Hutchinson, the May Artist of The Month at the Fort Myers Beach Public Library, that axiom comes true at the end of Bay Mar Drive!
“My primary work is nature photography,” says Don, “especially the magnificent sunsets from the beach off Bay Mar, with me taking photos day after day from almost the exact same spot, and these sunsets are insane! Colors on Fort Myers Beach are dramatic, with a juice to them that makes the colors pop! I often think, ‘Holy smokes – it is amazing what you capture here!’”
While Don visited Fort Myers Beach for 25 years, he moved here full time in December 2015 to help take care of his parents. He grew up in North New Jersey, before moving to a small farm where he was a gentleman farmer. He credits his love of nature to a lifetime as a landscape designer and installer: “I began that before my teenage years, by pulling my old lawnmower around the neighborhood to take care of everyone’s yards – sometimes I feel like I made more money then doing that then I do today! Now I live on Bay Mar and love this place, as this is where it all happens!”
While his love of nature has lasted a lifetime, photography is a newer passion that came about through three events. “It’s kind of funny but my interest in photography was inadvertent. I am the father of three adult girls, and my oldest was actually my initial inspiration, as when she was young she traveled the world on foot taking amazing and artistic photos and that opened the door for me. Then, in 2003, I took my first image, more or less by accident, of an owl off the side of the road. The third was the arrival of the digital age, where you did not need chemicals and a dark room to bring your work alive, and it took off from there. The minute my feet hit the ground, I never stopped shooting photos.”
The Long View & Bigger Picture
Don reflects, “I never thought I would be that crazy person who cannot stop taking pictures, but you see your stuff and cannot put down the camera. It is a lot of work and doesn’t come easy – you have to run around at all times of the day and night – but I like to capture the long view and bigger picture. You then spend a lot of time on the back end of photos, to bring them to life, and after two hours of editing, they go straight to Facebook or my website and out into the world where anyone can view your art. People ask me all the time if my work is a photograph or painting, because they find them so intriguing. I am not a technical expert; I am not that guy that you ask, ‘What setting did you use; what was your shutter speed,’ as I work in the automatic setting.”
His primary advice? “When you see the setting sun, forget how tired you are, hop off the couch, grab your camera, run to the beach and position yourself to get that shot. This is not easy. Then there is the back end to bring that photo to the exact look you see in your head. I am fortunate I have an almost photographic memory, as the picture never quite looks like how you remember it, and the computer helps you to seal that image. I am by no means a computer expert, but taught myself the editing process. Editing is where the decision comes in as to which photos live and which die, so to speak, as you cannot work on them all; you have to pick the ‘keeper!’” He calls the hardest part “cataloging and copywriting all your photographs, to protect the business aspect of it. I have roughly 10,000 pictures and if I do not take another one this year, I would be set, but then something catches my eye and off I go.”
Professionally, Don is drawn by bright vibrant colors, “like a box of crayons!” In addition to photography, Don is a history collector, and a passion, besides photography, is restoring old Schwinn bicycles! “I have a couple hundred, and one of the reasons is because they are so colorful, like a box of crayons with wheels! The more color something has, the more I am attracted to it. Bicycles I collect, but photographs I share, but this is a business, so I share them for the right price!”
While Don’s principle work is nature and animals, he recently branched out to people, photographing his first wedding. “It is different to shoot people, and fun. In the past, I photographed musical performers like George Thorogood and that is something I enjoy.”
To Don, living on Fort Myers Beach is ideal: “I could not live in a place…where you do not know your neighbors. Fort Myers Beach is a true community, where it seems like we have a parade every time someone has a birthday! I love working for the kayak folks at Santini Plaza, where everyone is so friendly and they treat you like family.”
As to how his exhibit ended up at the library, Don says that “Dr. Leroy Hommerding, the director, called and asked if I wanted to do a show there and I said, ‘OK!’ To be honest, I am not sure how he heard about me, but I am grateful for the opportunity.” Don’s work remains on display in the 3rd floor gallery and bookstore areas through Wednesday, May 31, with visitors encouraged to vote for their favorite piece.
“Photography is what I do, and it means everything to me,” Don said. “Photography is very objective – I see different things in my images than others do, and they interpret things I don’t see, as each person takes their own message from them.” When asked what his photographic future holds, Don lets out a hearty laugh and says, “fame and fortune, or how about just making enough from sales to pay the rent! I would eventually like to expand outside of Lee County, but I always discover something new right here.” As for his unique business name of Blue Turtle Galleries, “I feel strongly about that, as it just did not come out of nowhere, but was given to me by a shaman!”
He calls the best part of his profession that “all my photographs have a story behind them, and often I fall in love more with that than the actual picture. One of the advantages of a website is I can share those stories and, to me, that is half the fun!”
To experience the fun of the photography of Don Hutchinson, view his show at the FMB Public Library through May 31 or see his website at blueturtlegalleries.com.
Photos by Don Hutchinson.