The Florida National Parks Association is delighted to present the talented photographer responsible for the captivating image featured on our Florida Bay Forever license plate. Mr. Robert Chaplin’s exceptional skills behind the lens have played a pivotal role in the success of our specialty plate. A native Floridian born and raised in Miami, Robert’s deep connection to the Everglades is vividly reflected in his art.

When asked about the inspiration behind the photograph showcased on the license plate, Robert Chaplin humbly describes it as serendipity. Recounting the moment, he shares, “I visit Everglades National Park regularly for photography. This pre-dawn morning found me on the shore of Florida Bay in Flamingo, trying to decide how to shoot the sunrise when these fishermen poled by. They seemed like an interesting subject representing the unique nature of fishing in Florida Bay. I created the photograph without any thought of what it could become.”

Reflecting on his favorite memories or experiences in the parks, Robert fondly recalls countless moments. He finds joy in guiding others into the Everglades, witnessing their ‘ah-ha’ moments when they connect with and understand the unique environment. Teaching his children and grandchildren to fish in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve holds a special place in his heart. However, his absolute favorite memory is taking his wife on a fishing “second date” in the Everglades, marking the beginning of a lifelong partnership.

Robert’s journey into photography began in his childhood as a wildlife enthusiast. Initially capturing his children’s sporting events, he became the team photographer while working to support his family. The advent of digital photography in 2007 marked a turning point, allowing him greater control over the artistic process. Teaching photography, leading workshops, and participating in art shows and fundraisers followed until the tourism-driven aspects were affected by COVID. Robert still imparts his knowledge through talks and classes, dedicating more time to producing fine art. He cherishes his first camera, a Pentax K-1000, as a cherished artifact representing the start of his incredible journey.

Robert explains that capturing the widely recognized silhouette photo with the sunrise in the background presented minimal challenges. The 4:00 AM wake-up call for the sunrise in Flamingo was a small price to pay for the rewarding experience. Timing played a crucial role, with birds flying through the scene as the fisherman cast his line. The photograph’s significance grew when FNPA board member Stephen Shelley saw it and proposed its use on a license plate to benefit Everglades National Park. Without hesitation, Robert gladly donated the image, expressing his honor at supporting the park.

Seeing his work displayed on specialty license plates across the state is a humbling experience for Robert. He shares, “It’s one thing for my art to be purchased and displayed in someone’s home or office. But it’s an incredible privilege for my art to be used to benefit Everglades National Park, a place that has given so much to me.”

Much like the Florida National Parks Association, Robert Chaplin encourages all Floridian drivers who love and visit the Everglades to support Everglades National Park by purchasing the Florida Bay Forever license plate for their vehicles, boat trailers, or RVs. This commitment involves a $25 annual donation to Everglades National Park, contributing to the preservation of this unique and precious ecosystem. Join us in making a difference through art, conservation, and the spirit of Florida’s natural beauty.

Yes, the tag displays my photograph, but it is much bigger than me. It’s a simple way to support a National Park that has given so much to so many. With everyone’s help, this tag can make an enormous positive impact. Get your tag, find me in the Everglades, and let me shake your hand and thank you personally. It’s art for your ride. See You In the Glades.” Florida National Parks is so grateful for Robert Chaplin’s willingness to help with the Florida Bill and his generous donation of a beautiful imagine that will be displayed on every highway throughout the state and hopefully country with time. 

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