Bradenton's South Florida Museum displays nature photos taken by members of community

wtatangelo@bradenton.comOctober 28, 2012 

On the second floor of the South Florida Museum you'll find a Bradenton backyard where countless adventures began.

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is there, too, awash in a brilliant sunrise.

It's also where you'll locate the "hugging trees" adored by a 13-year-old girl.

Many more special scenes and stories are there, shared by your friends, neighbors and folks who travel from across the state to enjoy the Museum in downtown Bradenton.

The photos, about 50 total, were submitted by members of the community and visitors to coincide with the museum's current exhibit, the critically acclaimed "Preserving Eden: Clyde Butcher's Florida Photographs."

The community photos comprise the "Walk Far. Look Deeply" exhibition that runs through the end of the year.

To celebrate the event, a private reception was held for the photographers at the museum Thursday.

"There has been a lot of energy," said Samantha Sprague, curator of education at the museum. "To have something directly respond to the (Butcher) exhibit is very exciting."

The "Walk Far. Look Deeply" images include a short explanation of why the place matters to the photographer.

Sara Vaught invites museum attendees to visit her Bradenton "Backyard." It's her favorite place in Florida, a place that reminds her of going on numerous adventures with her father, who lost his battle with cancer three years ago. Father and daughter would explore the greenery, the creek and search for "little critters."

"What looks to be a boring old backyard, is a exploration wonderland to me and 'til this day provides a quite getaway," Vaught says.

Paul Bayard, also of Bradenton, climbed the observation tower at Robinson Preserve and returned with "Skyway Sunrise."

The park that covers 487 acres in the northwestern area of Bradenton is a place he recommends for running, walking and biking with rabbits and scurrying fiddler crabs. Atop the observation tower, Bayard flies with the pelican, eagle and osprey. He also enjoys kayaking with the mullet and wading water fowl.

"Sunrises and sunsets are especially wonderful," Bayard says. "The oranges and yellows from the sun complement the green shadows of the trees below. My recommendation is to visit no less than one time each week."

Isabel Hidalgo, a 13-year-old who visited Bradenton from Cooper City, shared her "Hugging Trees." It's a story similar to Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree," but with a much happier ending.

See, Isabel used to practically live in the tree. She gave it a name and would stroke its rough bark. She climbed high up and looked down at the world.

But then she got older.

School, homework, nail polish and boys took over. The tree grew older, too, and was forgotten.

One day, though, Isabel noticed a new small sapling next to her tree. A few years later, the sapling had grown onto the tree and eventually had wrapped around her tree. "The two of them seem to be like a couple in love," Isabel says. "I visit them often and see that the two will keep growing together, for as long as they live, 'til death do them part."

Famed Florida landscape photographer Clyde Butcher would be proud.

Asked to give a statement regarding "Walk Far. Look Deeply," he said, "As important as the experience of photography is, I also want to give the images a life beyond the paper and beyond my experience of taking the photographs."

Details: Through Dec. 30 ("Preserving Eden: Clyde Butcher's Florida Photographs") and Jan. 6 ("Walk Far. Look Deeply"), South Florida Museum, 201 10th St. W., Bradenton. Admission: $15.95 for adults, $13.95 for seniors (65 and older) and $11.95 for children (ages 4-12). Children ages 3 and younger are admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult. Information: 941-746-4131 or

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