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Judith Butler’s Camera

“I’m flattered when someone likes my photographs but it’s hard to take a bad picture in the Thousand Islands. Take your camera with you everywhere and you’ll get your picture.”

Sage advice from Judith Butler of the TIP Fine Art Photography in the Wellesley Hotel in Thousand Island Park.

Judy, as she is known, grew up in Los Angeles, CA. and as she says, “my academically oriented parents were mildly distressed when I got my first camera. I saved a year for an SLR (single lens reflex) camera when my friends were getting Kodak Brownies; plus, I was supposed to be doing school work.”

Judy discovered at a young age the important of capturing the light. “Anyone from California particularly appreciates the color of the light.” she says.  She also loved the process in  and of photography.

“A small bathroom - smaller than any closet I have now,” she quickly points out, “became my darkroom and from then until I went to college, I developed and printed my own black and white photos. I took pictures of my boyfriend, my cat, strange kids on playgrounds. Everything. A teenage girl can take a lot of pictures without being threatening.”

She attended Yale as a history major in the early 1970s and worked as a journalist for two years. But, as she says, she was “drawn to medical issues” and soon enrolled in medical school at University of California, San Francisco.  Today, she is a practicing psychiatrist in New York City in the winter, commuting for long weekends to TIP in the spring and fall and spending a long summer in residence.

Like many who find other interests or are just too busy, Judy remembers, “I put my camera down for almost twenty years, without realizing it. And then sometime after my kids were up and walking, my husband put a good camera back into my hands. And that was in the Thousand Islands.”

Judy and her husband, Tom, came to the islands through friends. They were often invited to visit but it was “too far”. In 1990, they finally accepted an invitation. “I think our host never expected us to show up. We arrived on an August weekend with a two year old in tow, and it rained the whole time. We were hooked and have never missed a summer since.” Before the weekend was over Tom announced that they were coming back to TI Park. They have been doing so for more than two decades.

They enjoyed the idyllic life of TI Park and its community, and Judy, now armed with a gift from her husband – a digital camera - was once again capturing her surroundings. “My kids pointed out that most of my photographs are of the Thousand Islands, and why not? I take Christmas and birthday pictures all year but it’s up here that I have my camera with me everyday.”

Soon she had a great number of photographs and wanted a place to display them. Her family and friends suggested she rent one of the boutique rooms on the second floor of the Wellesley Hotel.

She quickly says, “my studio was the first photographic store in TIP in over 60 years. People have been so supportive. I was ready to quit the studio a few times but my husband always wanted me to keep going. Lori Wilson Arnot and Diane Brinkman at the hotel always encouraged me.”

Much of the work Judy displays is not conventional photographs. “I was having trouble with my printer one summer, and in trying to get just the colors I wanted I stumbled across a way of making the photographs more closely resemble prints. It involves taking the large color range of a photograph and limiting it to variations of 6 to 8 colors instead of the usually hundreds of thousands. Digital printing lets me re-arrange the colors in a way that lets me try to reproduce a certain light and feel.”

At first Judy displayed mostly landscapes but more recently she has focused on portraits sometimes with an unexpected result. “My husband told me to put up what I liked, not what I thought might sell. Last summer one woman came in to pick up a photograph of her cottage and when she turned around she saw a huge portrait I had printed of a little girl. It turns out it was her granddaughter”. Others have asked for commissioned family portraits. “I love taking photographs. I’ll almost always say yes.”

The atmosphere on that second floor is something that Judy and her compatriots all enjoy. They are a business enterprise, but there is little competition for tourist dollars, and it is rather a place to share their passions – art, photographs, hand painted furniture, antiques and even Oriental carpets.

“During the winter we all talk about how much we’re looking forward to returning.”

And what are Judy’s plans when she returns?

“ Next summer I plan to set up lighting in my studio to focus more on portraits --- for the rainy days when we’re not all on the River.”


Photographs by Judith Butler, TIP Fine Art Photography, Wellesley Hotel

[Click to enlarge, use arrow keys to move from one photograph to the next]


"Lyle's cottage"© Judith Butler
© Judith Butler
Cottage on Crystal Bay #7 © Judith Butler
© Judith Butler
© Judith Butler

"Lyle's cottage"

“Cottage on Crystal Bay #7” "Fourth of July on Island Ave."


Thousand Island Park Library. © Judith Butler
© Judith Butler
"Sailboat Cottage" © Judith Butler
© Judith Butler
Thousand Island Park Library "Sailboat Cottage"


Thousand Island Bridge 4 © Judith Butler
© Judith Butler
Thousand Island Bridge 5  © Judith Butler
© Judith Butler
2010_Fall_2417 THE Japan print
© Judith Butler
Thousand Island Bridge 4 Thousand Island Bridge 5 

Thousand Islands Bridge in the style of a Japanese Print

You can contact Judith Butler by email at:

By Susan W. Smith, Editor,

Posted in: Photography
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Marian May
Comment by: Marian May ( )
Left at: 11:34 PM Wednesday, December 14, 2011
"Fame is the spur..." and how I love it when one of my dears enjoys a bit of that 4-letter word. And it's just the beginning.
My love to you always,