Old Bridge, Overseas Highway, Florida, 2006

“I was sent down to Miami for an advertising job. I had a new 4 x 5 camera with a digital back, and I just wanted to be out there shooting like crazy. The overseas highway goes from the bottom tip of Florida below Miami all the way to Key West. It’s like driving on the ocean, which is so perfect for my sensibility coming from the Midwest. The architecture of the overseas highway was also interesting to me. So, after I shot that job, instead of coming back to Minnesota, I went back to the Keys and focused on the overseas highway for four days of shooting.

It was the perfect combination because the 4 x 5 is a very architectural type of camera. I got up at sunrise to shoot. There was a storm coming. It was a wet, windy day. Then there was a bit of a break in the storm, which brought all the right conditions together. It was a long exposure because it was early morning. There were these beautiful clouds with the sun filtering through them.

This past spring, I was down in the Keys again on a family vacation and I took my ten-year-old daughter to the spot where the shot was taken. It was really great to be there with her.”

Location: Florida Keys, Florida
Photograph Date: 2006
Medium: Chromogenic Print
Edition: 200

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About the Photographer

David Bowman

Most National Geographic photographers travel to far-flung places, like Bali or Timbuktu, in search of images. But David Bowman, who was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, finds inspiration in his own backyard, shooting the vast, open spaces and lakes of his native Midwest. His subtle, dreamlike images, often of water, have won numerous awards, including an International Photography Award and an American Photography Award. His latest project is photographing the Great Lakes.

Speaking from his home in Minneapolis, David explains how his mission is to do justice to the place he lives in, how being in the right place at the right time with the right equipment is crucial, and how returning with his daughter to a spot in Florida where he had taken a memorable photograph gave the image a special meaning.

Q & A

You only recently started working for National Geographic. What does it mean for your career—and your life? Were you intimidated?

I was honored. My parents had National Geographic through my whole childhood and I've been a lifelong subscriber. But I didn't pursue National Geographic. They actually invited me! [Laughs] A picture of mine of the state fair in Minnesota won first place in a national photography competition. It was seen by a National Geographic editor and they asked me to submit it for consideration for an opening spread. It took [the magazine] months to decide whether or not they were going to use the picture. But eventually they contacted me to say that they were going to run it—as the opening spread of the 125th anniversary issue! I had worked really hard. I had planted the seed. But I had only dreamed that something that great might happen.

What inspires you in your work, David?

The geography and landscape of where I'm from is a deep-seated inspiration. My backyard. I have spent my whole life in the Midwest and my images are informed by my life experience here. Landscapes in the Midwest are very subtle. That’s the challenge of being a photographer here. How do I make a photograph that captures the meaning and importance of this place, a photo that is worthy of this place?

National Geographic Image Collection Interview With David Bowman By Simon Worrall

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