Shannon Christopher has never considered himself a nature photographer. For a dozen years now, the Tybee resident has made a living — sometimes a good living, even — shooting weddings and family portraits.
In 2010, he traveled west with a friend, in search of serenity, self-awareness and the elusive first clue from what he'd always thought of as The Muse. "I did it old school with a tripod," Christopher says with a chuckle. "I sat for hours on the edge of the Grand Canyon, watching the color and the light change. And I had my Ansel Adams moment."
Ironically, Christopher and The Muse grew closest when he began biking to remote Cockspur Island, the green spit of land between U.S. 80 (aka Tybee Road) and the Savannah River. Fort Pulaski National Monument is the island's best-known feature.
"I had some free time, and I was going over to the McQueens Rail Trail to exercise," Christopher says. "It was kind of serendipitous that I started to go over to Cockspur, always when it was closed — pre-dawn, or after they had closed the gates."
Almost as an afterthought, he'd slip his iPhone 5 into his pocket.
The Muse is an exhibition of Christopher's Cockspur photos, on view at the Tybee Island Social Club. It opens with a reception for the artist, 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28.
Yes, all the images — 20 single frames and a 3x5 collage of multiple black & white shots — were taken with an iPhone.
"It was new to me," says Christopher, "and I wanted to test its limits. I love the freedom it gives. I love that I can get on my bike and pedal all around and have an adventure. Plus, you can get in the nooks and crannies with an iPhone, that you couldn't do with an SLR (single-lens-reflex camera)."
The Muse showcases not only a bold new use for technology, but the astute application of an artist's eye in an unusual and unfamiliar medium. "Vision," he believes, "will always be singular and cannot be bought."
Who says you can't teach an old shooter new tricks?
"Man, nature photography is the antithesis of wedding photography," Christopher says. "With wedding photography, you shoot 2,000 frames in a 12-hour day. In nature photography, you might shoot 20 photos in the span of 12 hours. There's a tempo to it."