USVI Photographer Don Hebert - Picture Perfect
With nature his muse, USVI photographer, Don Hebert, never wants for inspiration.
Words by Laura Collacott
"The beauty of living here," says professional photographer Don Hebert from his Caribbean idyll in the U.S. Virgin Islands, "is that inspiration surrounds me wherever I look. Each year we get a handful of special days when conditions are flawless – there is absolute clarity of light, white fluffy clouds vein the sky and the ocean is perfectly calm. Those conditions are hard to replicate, and when they happen I am fortunate enough to just step outside and shoot. It's picture perfect Caribbean."
Conch salesman in BVI.
With nature his primary muse, Hebert is spoilt with riches having lived on the isle of St. Thomas since 1980 where, with its bewitching beauty, he cut his shutterbug teeth capturing all things Caribbean. Originally enticed to USVI to teach mathematics and computer science, the lure of the lens proved too strong to resist and after five years he happily embarked on his new career.
100 Pond Bay Villa in BVI
Hebert's finished photographs are precise, polished with a palpable tension resulting from the contrast of the casual scenes he captures. Shooting life in the raw, he finds beauty in the decrepit, in the daily routines and rituals of the people and places that fill his frame. Using his lens to still the moment, he snaps everyday vignettes, highlighting minutia that might otherwise go unappreciated.
West Indian House
Rustic Caribbean signboards set on weather-beaten clapboard shacks standout against the gleaming turquoise ocean; two men harvesting conch shells appear to levitate above the cerulean water in their battered boat; a fisherman casts his float-rimmed net, strikingly silhouetted against a late afternoon sun.
Fisherman casting net
Hebert's images encapsulate the essence of the region – he freeze-frames the Caribbean mood, capturing the laid-back lifestyle, evocative scents and magical, bounty-isle ambience of the land around him. Wispy trails of pink candyfloss clouds streak the sky above the soft-brushed water's edge as twilight falls at Little Trunk Bay; the fronds of a sky scraping palm tree halo above a simple blush-hued hut as if guarding it from the sun's blistering rays; a carpet of scarlet hibiscus flowers draw the eye towards a panoramic vista of Hollywood perfection, the bay's calm waters punctuated by velvety humpbacked islets. With so many of Hebert's images offering such an ideal impression of Caribbean life, it is no surprise they appear in a coffee table book – A Photographic Guide to the People, Places, Culture and History of St. Thomas.
Under Palm Tree
Combining technical expertise with artful lighting and innate savoir-faire, the Michigan born artist enhances each image with gentle digital manipulation. "Typically a day of shooting equals a day of photoshopping. Every photo can be enhanced: horizons can be straightened, you can increase contrast, you can saturate colours," he explains. "Is there a line? Absolutely. I try to keep my images natural, as close to nature as possible. I don't want people to look at it and think ‘this is photoshopped'. I want them to look at it and think ‘this is beautiful'."
Today the bulk of his thriving commercial portfolio involves shooting short-term villa rentals, resorts, private homes and architecture, an endeavour he relishes as it allows him to hone his technical skills and eye for creative composition. An eye, it seems, that runs in his family: "I don't have any formal training in photography," he says frankly. "But I come from a long line of artists – I believe I inherited my creative talent. My Dad painted in oils, my sister paints and my brother is a photographer."
Tingalayo Villa in BVI
Like the Ginger Thomas that blossoms the isle over, so too has Hebert's hobby, from part-time passion to full-time career. And for good reason. Not only is Hebert versatile in his approach to creating stunning images, but his technical skill is allied with an intuitive and artful appreciation for nature's wonder. With his impeccable sense of timing and masterly composition, he casts wondrous nature as his muse, capturing the essence of the Caribbean in each picture perfect frame.
To see more please visit: www.donhebert.com
Little Trunk Bay sunset
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