Robert McCullar left his woodworking studio behind when he moved to Santa Rosa Beach from Eufaula, Ala., in 2003, but he was left with a lingering desire to create.
Finding woodworking studios to be “unaffordable for a hobby,” McCullar decided to channel his creative energies into photography and hasn’t stopped looking through the lens since.
McCullar, who has not been formally trained in photography, was first exposed to the art by his neighbor, a professional photographer in Alabama.
“I got a lot through osmosis,” said McCullar with a smile, as he has been learning by trial and error with more than 16,000 frames shot since he first picked up a camera.
All of those were taken in his spare time of the last nine years, as McCullar is fully employed at his CPA firm in the WaterSound business center.
He said in his career, he has always found an escape in his hobbies, and when he was in Eufaula, that solace was found in his woodworking shop.
“That was therapy for me. I would go home after work and turn rough wood on the lathe and make something beautiful,” he said of the zen of the whittling tool.
Today he admits, though, that not only has his passion for photography replaced that, it has surpassed it. He says after a long day crunching numbers, there is nothing more relaxing than going home, walking to the beach, and capturing frames.
He says those beach scenes are some of his best-sellers.
“Beach scenes are what people are looking for down here,” he said. “I try to make them unique.”
That uniqueness is clear in one of his most prized photographs, a quintessential view from the 30A area depicting the outflow of Big Redfish Lake.
“It was a Sunday morning just after sunrise; conditions were perfect … I walked to the middle of the stream, and like manna from heaven, the heron showed up,” said McCullar.
When that oft-serendipitous click of the shutter and the lighting work together, a good photograph emerges.
Considering the importance of timing, McCullar makes sure he is always prepared to capture a perfect shot with his Canon EOS 5D Mark III.
“My camera is like my American Express,” he said. “I never leave home without it.”
He says sometimes while driving, he will pass a setting that would lend itself well to a landscape shot then either return at a later time or turn around to capture it.
“I’m good at U-turns,” said the artist. “It’s all about lighting. The Renaissance painters, all great artists, knew that. The darks and lights and shades of gray give them dimension.”
Aside from beach landscapes, McCullar’s subjects range from nature scenes to still lifes to portraits.
You can meet the artist and peruse his works ar the Destin Festival of the Arts at Henderson Beach State Park this Saturday and Sunday. If you can’t make it to the festival and would like more information about Robert McCullar, visit RobertMcCullar.com. To speak with the photographer about commissioning or purchasing a work, call 865-9786 or email him at Robert@RobertMcCullar.com.