Sometimes, Dan McCarthy can grab his camera and hike out to a place he knows well, such as Indian Lake State Forest in northeast Ocala, and capture the very tree or the exact natural light he was hoping to find. Other times, he enjoys a walk in the woods and comes back without a shot.
And that’s OK with him.
“You just take what nature gives you and you do what you can with it,” McCarthy said. “You can plan the time that you’re going to go, and you can hope that the light does what you want it to do, but then the clouds roll in. If I go someplace and get a nice walk in and I get to kick back and just relax and ‘be,’ and I walk away with no shots whatsoever, it’s still a good day.”
There are two halves to the story of how he became a photographer, McCarthy said.
“Originally, when I was 16 years old, my grandparents took me on a cross-country trip. We did Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Lake Tahoe, even Las Vegas, Redwood National Park. I was interested in taking pictures. No clue, no concept, no training,” he said with a laugh. “I had the little 110 disposable cameras, as many as I wanted and as much processing. We would stay in a place for a day or two, so I’d get all my pictures back. That kind of got me the bug.”
After learning the basics of light and composition in a couple of college photography classes, McCarthy embarked on a long retail career, working his way up to store manager.
“I put down my camera for 15 to 20 years,” he said.
Then he and his wife, April Forsyth, went on a trip to St. Augustine about six years ago.
“I had a halfway decent cellphone,” he remembered. “And I started taking your typical vacation cellphone shots. We did a sailboat sunset tour, and I was getting pictures of the rigging and the sun setting behind it, creative stuff. I was like, ‘This is awesome!’ I was having a lot of fun. I kind of got re-energized and motivated. And I was like, ‘Wow, I really enjoy this. I can do this.’ So, after vacation, I went and got a decent camera.”
In addition to nature scenes, McCarthy photographs interesting architectural elements. During the pandemic, he discovered photo digital smoke art. The technique, he explained, involves burning an incense stick then capturing the shapes he sees in the smoke with the aid of careful lighting and digital editing.
McCarthy’s “Release,” a photo digital smoke art piece on aluminum, was exhibited in “Venus Rising: A Celebration of Women” at NOMA Gallery in March.
Currently, “Boardwalk,” which he photographed at Silver Springs State Park, is on display at NOMA Gallery’s “Summer in the Sun” exhibit.
Many of his other works are displayed at Gallery B.
McCarthy said he is preparing for a one-man show at the Brick City Center for the Arts in December.
“My goal is to have about one-third landscape, one-third smoke and one-third architecture,” he said. “I love getting out there and trying to catch the moment of what makes today, this minute, different than everything else.”