Monday, May 12 — “Night Photography” Contest & Speaker, Chuck Sutherland

1.  A slideshow of all the “Night Photography” contest entries will be shown.  Following the slideshow, all the the “placing” images will be revealed  (1st, 2nd, and 3rd places in each competition division, Novice, Regular, and Mast; 1st, 2nd, 3rd places according to the members’ chosen favorites).
2.  Chuck Sutherland presentation:  “Explorer Documents Tennessee’s True Underground”

Chuck Sutherland Explorer and Cave Photographer
Cave Explorer and Photographer

Chuck Sutherland goes underground on a regular basis, and he loves it.

Sutherland, a graduate student and teaching assistant at Tennessee Tech University, documents much of Tennessee’s landscape with his camera.

“I really enjoy documenting places no one has been,” says Sutherland. Although he admits there aren’t a lot of those places left, there are still a lot of places that are off the beaten path.

While his undergraduate degree is in Geographic Information Systems (which Sutherland describes as “Google Maps with way more stuff”), he has had an interest in photography for much longer. Given a camera by his mother for his high school graduation, Sutherland asked himself, “What am I going to take pictures of?” With the advent of digital photography, ideas began to flow. Looking at the photos of others, he found someone whose nature photographs were accompanied by scientific names and descriptions, and he knew he had found his niche.

“The elements came together,” Sutherland explains. The first element, science, is Sutherland’s passion. The second element he describes as adventure. “I want to go places people don’t normally go and take the photos no one else has gotten.” The third, making a photo look “as awesome as possible,” takes skill. Sutherland brought these elements together with astounding results.

Sutherland has been instrumental in documenting a good portion of Tennessee’s landscapes and geological formations. “The models I use help me guess where waterfalls are based on geological variables. They help me identify great places to go.” He has photographed much of Tennessee’s remote area, and one of his most sought after photos is of the Minister’s Treehouse in Crossville.

It’s clear from talking with Sutherland that his passion is caving. As a geographer for the Tennessee Caving Survey, he has chronicled many of the state’s almost 10,000 caves, and more are being discovered all the time. Sutherland currently lives in White County, home to over 1200 caves.

“Underground is really a frontier,” says Sutherland. “There’s nothing in the world like it. It’s exercise for the mind, body, and soul. You use muscles you don’t normally use when you’re crawling around in a cave. You learn to manage your fear and learn about sensory deprivation. Colors become monochrome; there is no variation. Then it becomes amazing with formations, rooms, and waterfalls. It’s an escape. It’s my place.”

Combining caving, hiking, and photography, Sutherland is able to satisfy his senses of adventure and creativity. “We are explorers,” he says. “We are curious. I use my curiosity as an engine for my photography.”

His lecture will include photos of many of Tennessee’s hidden natural treasures.