A Florida Wildman in spirit (and Instagram handle), Adam Strang Bass captures timeless shots of old Florida in the name of preservation. His images are striking. Photographs that are in and of themselves an argument for protecting our wild state. Bass has a knack for capturing moments seldom seen or at least seldom appreciated by modern man – the speckled golden gaze of an alligator contrasted by it’s dark scaled armor, a black and white shot of sand, freshly slickened by a receding wave being watched over by a cascade of clouds bursting with sunlight, a pelican flying low, its reflection mirrored in the unbroken glassy ocean surface.
Bass was born and raised in Winter Haven. He, wife Kim and two children, six-year-old Max and three-and-half-year-old (going on fifteen, he joked) Haddie moved out to Lake Pierce about six months ago – an idyllic homestead for the hunter, fisher, nature photographer. “It’s awesome because now I’m right there where I want to be – I can walk out back and take pictures of wood ducks anytime I want,” he said.
His time not shooting wild Florida is spent helping farmers with crop insurance as an agent for Carden & Associates Insurance Agency in Winter Haven. A true outdoorsman, Adam enjoys boating, fishing, and duck hunting. “Usually I’ve got my sidekicks by my side. I enjoy taking my kids out and showing them the woods, showing them the water,” he said. One of his little sidekicks, son Max, has picked up his dad’s affinity for photography. “I gave him one of my old cameras,” said Bass. “My son, I think just wants to be with Daddy all the time which I’m thrilled about.” Adam even started an Instagram for Max’s photography, @maxbass863.
“I’ve always been into art. My mom got me into art when I was a kid – she’s very artistic,” said Bass. Growing up, Adam would draw and paint. He loved it so much he almost attended art school. His career trajectory turned following 9/11 when he decided to join the Marine Corps. Bass served in the Marine Corps from 2004 to 2012. His time in the service included two tours in Iraq, in the Al Anbar Province. “It was a good experience,” he said. “I made some great brothers over there and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
His first exposure to photography was the stark black and white landscapes of beaches, everglades, ancient cypress trees and Florida wilderness shot by Clyde Butcher. He had Butcher’s prints hanging up in his room growing up. Bass, influenced by Butcher’s work, said, “Clyde Butcher, in my opinion, is one of the best photographers of all time.”
Three or four years ago, Bass felt he needed an outlet – he wanted to get back into art. He discovered Paul Marcellini, another Florida wildscape photographer, who has since become one of his favorites. Seeing Marcellini’s work gave Bass the nudge he needed to pick up the camera.
“It’s an addiction for me now, I enjoy it – trying to capture that perfect shot,” he smiled. When he began his photography, Bass said, “I kind of went out and [shot] whatever I saw. Now, I’ve gotten much more methodical about it.” He went from “spray and pray” to finding that perfect image. He scouts places to photograph and sets up, waiting for the right lighting or for an animal to come along and complete the scene.
Spending so much time off the beaten path, he’s been witness to scenes akin to a religious experience. One such spot, which he described as “overwhelming nature” is Lake Marion Creek. “It’s like a Cypress cathedral there. It’s like a holy place – just beautiful,” he said. “Cypress trees that are twenty, thirty feet around and Cypress knees that are taller than me, it’s a cool spot.” His absolute favorite place to shoot his photography is right here in Polk County where he grew up, where he’s raising his family – where his heart is. He quotes Clyde Butcher, “I have always felt that your best photographs are taken in surroundings near to your heart.”
Lake Pierce, the Kissimmee River Valley, Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek, and Lake Hatchineha are also frequently visited areas for the photographer. The palm trees and salt marshes of Crystal River in Homosassa call to him as well. His more recent affinity for the sea turtle has him heading south for Jupiter and Fort Pierce. “Right now, I’m kind of fascinated with sea turtles,” he said. “I’m trying to get long exposure night shots of them while they’re laying their eggs.”
“Keep Florida Wild”
In September, the public will have the opportunity to admire and purchase Bass’s work at his nature photography exhibit at the Lake Wales Arts Center. This will be his first showing at a formal gallery. In June he had a successful pop-up exhibit at Grove Roots Brewing Co. The exhibit, titled “Keep Florida Wild” will commence Lake Wales Arts Council’s 2019-2020 Exhibit Series. Executive Director of the Lake Wales Arts Council Andrew Allen was introduced to Bass’s photography through artist, Blair Updike.
“Needless to say, I was BLOWN AWAY by his work. He’s a master photographer and I knew that his art would resonate with our community. Adam’s a natural fit for the Lake Wales Arts Council’s exhibit series,” said Allen. He described Adam’s photography as “visually stunning,” adding, “He has been able to capture the natural beauty of our local wildlife.”
The exhibit is themed around the conservation of Florida’s wild spaces. Bass said, “One thing I’m very passionate about is preserving our wild spaces here because they’re rapidly disappearing.” He humbly hopes that by showing off the grandeur of primordial Florida through his photography, people will be more inclined to protect it. “Not too many people have been that close to a wood stork,” he said, pointing to a large print on his office wall. “They might have seen them on a golf course, but they haven’t seen them out in a swamp in the Everglades Headwaters.”
“My work, I like to think maybe it’s going to help. I don’t know if that’s true or not,” he said, “but maybe [it will] just paint a picture for people that this is what’s out there and this is what’s worth protecting.” A reception for the exhibit will be held on September 19, 2019, from 5:30 – 7pm in the Michael Crews Gallery with an open bar and food available. Admission is free to the public. The exhibit will be on display from September 20 through November 8, 2019.
Adam doesn’t take photos to make money, but he is happy to sell his prints. To him, photography has become an intrinsic passion, an addiction. “It helps center me,” he said. His work will be available for sale at his LWAC exhibit as well as on his website. Conservation of the untamed beauty of the sunshine state is so important to the photographer that he donates 15% of the proceeds from each sale to The Florida Wildlife Corridor, a non-profit organization founded by another photographer he admires, Carlton Ward.
According to the organization’s website, “The Florida Wildlife Corridor organization champions the public and partner support needed to permanently connect, protect and restore the Florida Wildlife Corridor – a statewide network of lands and waters that supports wildlife and people. Using a science-based approach, on-the-ground knowledge of the Corridor, and the support of thousands of followers throughout the state and nation, the Florida Wildlife Corridor now embarks on its most important journey – to accelerate the rate of conservation in Florida by 10% annually in order to protect 300,000 acres within the Corridor by the end of 2020.”
They approach this goal in a number of ways says Bass, “Working with land acquisitions, with conservation easements with ranchers, farmers. I think they understand the complexities of Florida and I like their process and their goals.”
The photographer is assisting with another project, the “Share Your Heritage” campaign by the Florida Cattlemen’s Association this year. The initiative of Cattlemen’s President, Matt Pearce, Bass explained the campaign’s purpose is to, “help bring awareness to the lifestyle and stewardship of wildlands in Florida that cattle families have.” In a July 2019 monthly message regarding the campaign, Pearce wrote, “I encourage each and every member to promote their story by using the #showyourpassion hashtag to tell your family’s ranching heritage. The Florida ranching heritage is the longest in the United States starting 500 years ago when Ponce de Leon brought the first cattle to Florida.”
Bass hopes to continue shooting unique landscapes and wildlife photos that breathe life into old Florida. He also plans to continue doing his part to take care of wild Florida and hopes others will follow suit. “If we want to keep Florida, Florida, we have to grow smart,” he said. “It’s great to have population growth and the positive economic climate that comes from that, but there’s also a responsibility with that. Everybody’s moving here because Florida’s amazing, but it won’t be amazing if we don’t do a better job of taking care of it.”
Adam S. Bass