Cypress swamps are an amazing place for a lot of things. Wildlife viewing, fishing, filming spooky movies, and photography. Just a few short years ago most of these swamps were known to locals only, and the only conversations they had were about how and where the fish were biting. Now thanks to the internet, and the popularity of digital photography, everyone knows about the beauty of the swamps and wants to grab their images of this otherworldly, eerie landscape.
These cypress swamps and bayous are all over the south, but the most popular and largest lies in NE Texas, near the Louisiana border in Caddo Lake. During the end of October and the first part of November, the colors of these bald cypresses change from green to shades of yellow orange, and red and make for a wonderful tapestry of color. I’ve been coming here for a few years now, and It’s always been one of my favorite workshops of the year.
I met my small group of photographers in Texas on a Friday afternoon, for an orientation, and our first expeditions on the lake. The first goal was to get the group acclimated to kayaks so that we could utilize these smaller boats to get into some of the calmer, and more serene parts of the lake. I’ll just say this expedition had mixed results. Thankfully we had the opportunity to spend a couple more mornings on the lake in Patio boats.
The next day we woke early and met Rich, our boat guide for the mornings for a couple hours of exploration of the lake in places with cool names like Turtle Shell, Hog Wallow, and Gator Pond. Of course, we saw none of those things, but that’s OK because the trees and rising sun made for some wonderful images. Shooting from a moving boat is more like wildlife photography than traditional landscape photography, so it takes everyone a little time to get adjusted to the different settings, but once they did everyone had a wonderful time on the water.
The next stop for the day was a visit to Jefferson, Texas for some lunch and a stroll around one of the oldest cities in Texas. Jefferson used to be a big stop on the riverboat trade paths, where paddle wheels from New Orleans would make the trek up every week to deliver goods. Even though those days are gone, it’s still a cool little town to explore.
That evening we ventured to Caddo Lake SP for some more cypress photography, this time from the safety of land and boardwalks. Even though the freedom to move amongst the trees is gone, there are still wonderful possibilities to be had with the cameras, and using longer exposures from the tripods.
he next morning we battled daylight savings time and met our second boat guide, Roger who took us out to some different areas of the lake for a wonderful sunrise. Because the area we visited had so many different compositions and possibilities we ended up spending a large portion of our time within a couple hundred-yard area. It’s amazing how just a few feet in one direction can open up completely different looks and compositions. In addition to the wider shots, there are lots of little details in the foliage that floats on the lake that make awesome images.
TThat afternoon was open for processing for any takers, while most of the group chose more rest. The images I saw were nice and had a great deal of variety. For our afternoon session, we set off to the Louisiana side of the lake to a park with a large selection of cypress trees just offshore. Again here we had options for longer exposures, some interesting high-key shots of the trees, and close-ups too!
Monday was the last morning on the lake, and while not everyone wanted to explore the bayou on kayak, those who did were treated to some wonderful soft light, and tons of different options on the eerie, backwaters of the lake. Because of the popularity of this area, we saw 3 or 4 other groups out on kayaks as well, so sometimes you had a beautifully serene image and had to wait for the kayakers to leave the area. All in all, it was a wonderful morning of light and photography and a great way to end the workshop.
Until Next Time,
Brian and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team!
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