He has a soft spot in his heart for lightning.
As a kid, Andrew Shurtleff liked to sit on his front porch to watch when the storms rolled through “Lightning Alley” – the area from Tampa to Orlando, the city where Andrew grew up. Storms were Andrew’s first significant interest in nature, which is the subject of much of his photography today.
His mother worked at the Maitland Art Center, north of Orlando. Andrew regularly attended openings of new exhibits, so he had plenty of exposure to art. In high school, his sister Kate gave him his first camera for a photography class. One assignment was to shoot things in his yard. Andrew’s image of a tree shooting straight up between surrounding trees won top prize in the student category of the art show at Rollins College in nearby Winter Park.
At another art show, Andrew struck up a conversation with Clyde Butcher, the large format-camera photographer known for his black-and-white shots of Florida wildlife, most notably the Everglades. Some of Butcher’s negatives were huge, 12” x 20”. This enabled him to make prints with amazing tonal range of up to 6 feet x 9 feet.
Today, Andrew lives in Charlottesville, Virgina with wife Mai and children Ava, Cooper and Cohen.
American Frame: Where did you go after high school?
Andrew Shurtleff: I attended Florida State University, where I got a degree in economics, with a minor in business. I took as many photography classes as I could. I worked at the student newspaper, the Florida Flambeau, and fell in love with documentary photography. I became pretty good at shooting live events. I’d practically forgotten about landscape photography. Then, the university hosted an Ansel Adams exhibit. I spent hours analyzing his larger-than-life-sized prints, marveling at the clarity and tonal range of the images. Soon, I started shooting landscapes again, in the nature areas around Tallahassee. I experimented with different types of 35mm film: black and white, color, infrared. For a college student on a budget, it was expensive.
Back then, I didn’t achieve a good tonal range like my heroes, Ansel Adams and Clyde Butcher. Eventually, that would change.