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Where the lens meets the landscape

By utilizing a longer exposure time, Justin DeMutiis was able to brighten the dark environment he photographed in “Temperate Twilight.” Photo courtesy of Justin DeMutiis

I have never been a fan of nature photography, which is strange considering my love for both nature and photography. I believe art should be used as a means of expressing one’s fears and desires, and for whatever reason, I do not believe that trees, water, and sunlight are capable of conveying emotions.

However, my opinion of nature photography changed after viewing the photographs by Justin DeMutiis currently on display at Centre Gallery in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center. The exhibit, Intimate Landscape, consists of 18 digital photographs with nature as the subject matter – subject matter as varied as the locations where the photographs were taken. Trees in Yellowstone National Park (“Eternal Growth”), driftwood on a beach in Big Talbot Island State Park (“Blackrock Beach”) and the three ecosystems of Washington’s Olympic National Park all provide material and inspiration for DeMutiis.

DeMutiis, a USF senior, first discovered a love for nature while camping and hiking with his father and brother as a young child. However, it wasn’t until high school that DeMutiis honed his photographic skills – a process that began when one of his P.E. teachers, learning of his interest in photographing stars, gave DeMutiis a camera and made him her photography assistant. Although the pair mainly focused on wedding photography, the lessons provided DeMutiis a well-rounded education in photography, DeMutiis said.

In order to create the unique look of his photographs, DeMutiis experiments with different techniques, such as long exposure time. By leaving the lens open longer than usual, movement becomes blurred and creates a dreamlike quality, as seen in “Rhythmic Flow” and “Afternoon Impression.” Also, long exposure time can be used to allow for adequate lighting in a dark environment, such as in “Temperate Twilight.”

Another innovative component to DeMutiis’ landscapes is his focus on the subtlety of nature instead of on the vista. “Chance,” an image shot locally at Hillsborough River State Park, is a close-up image of pieces of wood sticking up out of the water. Due to the angle used, it is hard to grasp the perspective, leaving the viewer to wonder how large the wood truly is. What is remarkable about the photograph is its pink hue, which was accomplished by capturing the sunset’s reflection off of the surface of the water. While a majority of nature photographers focus directly on the subject, such as the sunrise or sunset, DeMutiis focuses on the reflections or impressions of nature.

Through his images, DeMutiis strives to convey a sense of solitude – an interesting goal for someone who is the complete opposite of a solitary figure. The reception for Intimate Landscape was Friday, April 6, and provided a chance for viewers to meet the artist. DeMutiis is open and friendly, as well as talented, which could explain why the turnout for his reception was so large. The guests included many family and friends. During the two-hour reception, DeMutiis sold four of his photographs.

Kaitlyn Besch, a sophomore studying biomedical science at USF, bought “Blowing Rocks,” an image shot at Blowing Rocks Preserve in Jupiter. The photograph focuses on a rock formation at the edge of the water; as the water hits the rocks, it shoots up in the air. During the winter, when “Blowing Rocks” was shot, the water is stronger and can shoot up to fifty feet in the air. Contrary to DeMutiis’ other photographs containing water, a quick exposure time was required to capture the quick burst of water.

Besch bought the piece because she believes that DeMutiis’ work is “inspirational” and “makes you feel good inside” – sentiments obviously shared by her mother, Pam Besch, who bought DeMutiis’ “Summer Rapids.””Inspirational” is a word that comes up frequently in reference to Justin DeMutiis’ nature photography. In fact, many of the viewers at the reception discussed possibilities for the photographs, which have a high commercial value due to their amazing quality. Suggestions included inspirational posters, calendars and postcards.

Intimate Landscape is on display at Centre Gallery through Friday, April 13.