Arts & Entertainment

From the Editor: Behind the Lens of Dennis Goodman

Dazzling images: the long way around

BY February 27, 2015
Dazzling images: the long way around


“Watch the birdie" has long been a photographer’s plea to get subjects looking at the camera. With lensman Dennis Goodman, it’s just the opposite: He’s doing the looking and the bird images he captures with his camera—like the snowy egret in this issue—have propelled him to the forefront of nature photographers in Southwest Florida. “Birds,” he says, “are my passion.” More about that and his adventures shooting outdoors shortly. But what is truly remarkable is that Dennis, 44, is a professional photographer at all, given that his career path was all business until six years ago.

“I worked in the property management business for 15 years,” he says. He brought in a partner with hopes of increased growth, but then things went bad. Dennis ended up leaving the company and it was quite a financial blow for him, his wife and two daughters. “I unfortunately lost everything, including my house,” he recalls, “and had to file for bankruptcy.”

The way back was through long hours of hard work and encouragement from his wife Kristen and Pastor Johnny Pereira. They urged him to follow the passion he always had for photography. He had started taking pictures in high school and friends and relatives had always pushed him to start selling them. Dennis paid special heed to one of Pereira’s sermons saying if you don’t take a risk you may miss an opportunity God has planned for you. 

“So I went to work as a sales consultant during the day,” Dennis says, “and worked on my photography every evening and on weekends. I did everything possible to make ends meet by photographing families and special events.” And naturally he was outdoors shooting birds and flowers and animals as often as he could. “I started exhibiting at local art shows and knocking on doors or galleries and gift shops around Naples,” he says.

The talent was obvious and notice of his work grew. His photos appeared frequently in local newspapers and magazines. And look where he is now. His images are on sale at places like The von Liebig, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, the Collier County Museum, the Naples Beach Hotel, Naples Botanical Garden and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. In partnership with the Conservancy, Naples Botanical Garden and Friends of the Fakahatchee, he teaches classes on photo excursions. And he recently opened his own gallery in Naples—Dennis Goodman Photography and Printing at the Shoppes at Vanderbilt. His best-sellers are a great egret (that appeared on the December 2013 cover of this magazine), a Sanibel sunrise and the Naples Pier.

Nowhere is he happier than out in the wild. Dennis says he’s learned the habits of birds. He waited four and a half hours on the beach at Wiggins Pass last summer to get an osprey shot. He saw the bird fly from the nest and knew he’d be back. He intended to get the heads of the birds for his shot, but when the bird flew back with a fish in his mouth, that gave him a far more dramatic image. Another time at Gordon’s Pass, he was out shooting the sunset when he saw a fellow nearby hook a fish. “I know eagles look for fish,” he says, “and, sure enough, I soon spotted an eagle with a fish in its claws flying by—and that made another shot I couldn’t resist. And I love shooting water lilies (see page 54) and hunting for ghost orchids. Those ghost orchids are all so different and I’m often in waist-deep water—and who knows what’s under the water?—to capture the images. But it’s just such a thrill for me.”

This late-starter’s enthusiasm is unabated. He’s hoping for a panther sighting in the wild. He’s sometimes going more abstract with his shots now, like his colorful tree trunk photo that hangs on the wall of the Fogg Café at Naples Botanical Garden. “People ask, ‘What is that?’” he says somewhat proudly. “I love digital color. I’m exhibiting images at sizes of 6 feet and above because I like showing animals larger than life. I keep looking for new angles to shoot from. I intend to keep evolving.” There’s no stopping his watching the birdies and the rest of nature. And aren’t we all the better for it. 

The funding data in our January issue story on The Shelter for Abused Women and Children in Naples should have stated that 65 percent of the budget comes from private support, 18 percent from state and federal grants, and 17 percent from Options Thrift Shoppe.


Related Images: