American Forests Winter 2012 Issue showcases landscapes of Ocala National Forest by Florida-based naturalist and nature photographer David Moynahan in the feature “Sand Pines & Springs” and also includes another of David’s photos as its “Last Look.” In this American Forests web-exclusive interview, David describes his quest to capture the supermoon and a favorite Florida locale to shoot photos. 

David Moynahan
David prepares a prop (an alligator skull!) for a fantasy shoot on the Turner River in the Everglades. Credit: David Moynahan

When and why did you become a nature photographer?

I’ve been a naturalist and outdoorsman all my life, so when I became interested in photography in college in the early 1970s, nature photography was an easy fit. I have been a full-time nature and conservation photographer for the past 10 years.

Are you drawn to a specific type of nature photography? Wildlife? Landscapes? Detailed close-ups?

No, I love all of those. When not on assignment, I love just being in wild places and making the most of opportunities around me.

What was the most difficult image you ever tried to capture?

The “supermoon”: when the full moon coincides with the time in the moon’s orbit that it is closest to Earth, making it appear much larger in the sky than normal. I wanted to show its hugeness against a familiar object in the foreground, so I tried to figure out where it would rise on the horizon and line it up behind the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge lighthouse from a great distance. I used as much telephoto power as I had. That was before I had (or knew of) programs or apps that predicted exact moonrise on location. I was off by a few degrees. That glorious full moon behind the lighthouse would have been an amazing shot.

Do you have a favorite story that revolves around your quest for beautiful photographs?

One night, I spent six hours with a photo buddy slogging in waist-deep water in the Turner River mangrove tunnels to create a surreal nightscape with light painting and a large alligator skull. I had devised a fan of flashlights mounted on the stern of my small kayak to spray an s-curve of light down the tunnel. The experience left us giddy from cold and weariness (and relief that we had not had any tangles with living gators or crocodiles) and the ultimate photo was an over-the-top fantasy image. You’ll find more of my stories in my photo-blog — — and some on Facebook as well.

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: ©David Moynahan

Where is your favorite shooting location?

Florida, my home state. I could be more exact, but that changes all the time. I guess I’d say that St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is often my favorite spot. It is “in my backyard” and so I know it more intimately than most others.

Do you have a favorite photo?

Yes, I always have a favorite, and it always gets displaced by a new exciting shot. My current favorite is a night shot of a lagoon full of glowing alligator eyes.

Which other photographers do you admire?

John Moran, one of Florida’s premiere nature photograpers, is a mentor, good friend and shooting buddy. John Spohrer, Paul Marcellini, Carlton Ward, Clyde Butcher, Jim Valentine and Mac Stone are other Florida photographers whose work inspires me.

Digital or film?

Film for years, but digital for the past decade.

As a conservation photographer, David Moynahan’s goal is to help raise awareness of the natural and beautiful world that still surrounds us. He feels that at this time of spiraling environmental crises, too many people are disconnected from nature. By adding his work to the efforts of environmental groups, scientists and policy makers — honoring the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” — he believes that we can re-inspire awe, respect and stewardship of our remaining wild places. You can discover more of David’s photographic adventures and resulting images on his blog: