As a Miami native, photographer Paul Marcellini grew up just 20 miles from the Everglades, a national park that was once considered a swamp full of muck and alligators. But the area has drawn the attention of top-notch photographers who have brought its beauty, uniqueness and fragility to the public eye. Marcellini is one of these photographers and his images of the park have gained international recognition.

Marcellini focuses on fine art prints, and his images have been featured in galleries, publications and clients' homes and offices. One of his images has been immortalized as a Forever Stamp with the United States Postal Service, celebrating 100 years of U.S. National Parks.

Marcellini is proof that you don't have to go far from your own doorstep to capture images that make people stop and stare. You just need a passion for the location you're shooting, and dedication for getting out there no matter what.

We talked with Paul about his art, and conserving the place he most loves to photograph.

Everglades National Park
A mangrove tunnel along the Turner River in Big Cypress National Preserve. (Photo: Paul Marcellini)

MNN: Your photography focus is on the Florida Everglades. What makes this such a special place for you as a nature photographer?

Paul Marcellini: Well, it started more out of convenience, as I graduated college and moved back to Miami. As a broke kid looking for a job, it was the only affordable place to go. But, I learned photography there and also grew up around it, so it was "home." I also liked that it wasn't a popular location so I felt I was creating unique images. As I learned more and more about the ecosystems, I gave myself a goal of showing them all off in great light. I was hoping to show people it is more than a swamp.

Everglades National Park
'One of those nights where the clouds steal the show' in Everglades National Park. (Photo: Paul Marcellini)

The Everglades is a pretty phenomenal place with a lot of habitat diversity. Is there one aspect — such as cypress swamps or mangroves — that you most love photographing?

It's a tie, I love exploring the deeper cypress swamps where the old pond apples grow, all buttressed and gnarled. It's a true jungle and I enjoy the challenge of composing something cohesive in there. I also love the pine rocklands because they are one of the most diverse habitats in Florida. They are also globally imperiled so I feel a special need to get images of them out to the public.

Unfortunately, the Everglades is an area at risk from an array of threats, from sea level rise and increasingly severe storms to invasive species. What conservation issues have you come up against while photographing here?

The current issue is algae blooms. While yearly, they seem especially bad and longer lasting in Florida Bay this year. There was a large amount of seagrass die off last year and the decaying vegetation could cause areas to be hypoxic.

Everglades national park
A storm lights up at sunset over a flooded section of rocky pinelands. (Photo: Paul Marcellini)

As someone so devoted to the Everglades, what's your most pressing worry about the health and future of this amazing place?

It is always a water issue with the Everglades. Sending more clean water south through the ecosystem at the proper times of the year is the key to saving it. So many animals are tied to the water and its levels, and many need proper fluctuations for successful breeding.

Your images hang on the walls of homes and offices all over the place. Do you have a hope for a certain impact or inspiration your photos give the people who see them hanging up?

I am a bit of a passive conservationist, but I do take opportunities to educate whenever I can. I choose to photograph the "good" and then sell them as fine art prints, but I am constantly surprising people with locations. Many times they have no idea these areas of somewhat unspoiled land are near them so I hope it inspires them to get out, explore and care enough when it comes time to vote for conservation.

Florida Everglades National Park
The lines in the mud were created by alligators dragging their tails. (Photo: Paul Marcellini)

A few years ago you created an e-book, "The Ultimate Guide to Everglades Photography" where you dish on best locations, tips for shooting, and dangers to avoid. Is there anything that's changed about the Everglades, or your experience in photographing it, that you'd want readers to know about?

I believe some areas of Chekika have been closed down to motor traffic, so it would require more walking, but other than that, not much has really changed.

One last fun question — what's the most precarious situation you've gotten in while working in the Everglades?

Ha! I typically play it kinda safe, but there have been a few times with wide-angles and alligators that others might think are kind of crazy. Also lightning, I have definitely shot lightning out there while standing in knee deep water.

Everglades national park
A lightning strike is reflected in the water of the flooded rocky pinelands. (Photo: Paul Marcellini)

Want to explore more of Paul's photography? You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram!

Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.