Bookends on the Lake Pontchartrain Northshore

Glockners Glow

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Lake Pontchartrain sunrise, sunset photos added to New Releases Collection

Winter can be a tough time for photography. The trees are bare, making them less attractive. That means I have been spending a lot of time in my studio working on photos from past trips and generally growing bored.

It hasn't helped that we've had extended periods of rain and low clouds. It's just been gloomy.

So when I saw some nice, high clouds forming up one recent afternoon, I pulled out my phone and checked the cloud forecast for the following morning. It seemed promising, with no low clouds in the forecast.

I told my wife I'd be leaving the house by 5 a.m. the following morning to head to a little point on the Lake Pontchartrain Northshore we had scouted out the week before. It was about half a mile south of a little dot on Google Maps called Glockners Place, and it looked to be just about perfect.

The road past Glockners Place dead-ends at what apparently was once a camp or some kind of elevated structure over the shoreline. All that remains are the wooden pilings standing in the shallows.

I knew the sun would pop over the marsh on the far side of the small cove, and my plan was to frame up the shot with the vastness of Lake Pontchartrain stretching out to the horizon on right side of the scene.

I set my alarm and hit the sack — and my eyes popped open at 3:58 a.m. the following morning. I hurried to the coffee maker and was out the door 30 minutes early.

Honestly, I was gambling. There wasn't a cloud in the sky above my house when I climbed behind the wheel of my truck. I looked back at my app, and the forecast predicted clouds moving in from the west between 5 and 6 a.m.. Glockners Point (as I've dubbed it) looked to be right on the edge of the clouds.

Would it happen? No way to find out but to be there.

So I started the 1 1/2-hour drive, keeping an eye on the sky. About halfway there I began to doubt myself. I mean, there were zero clouds overhead. Yes, there were some moving in from the west, but would it come together in time for sunrise?

Finally, I made a split-second decision to bail on Glockners Point and head to the Tchefuncte River Lighthouse, which is near the western side of the lake. I reasoned those clouds would make it at least that far.

I was nearly at the parking lot a few hundred yards from the lighthouse when the eastern horizon began glowing with the first hint of daylight — and, low and behold, there were some clouds over the eastern horizon. Man!

I quickly did a 3-point turn and high-tailed it to Glockners Point, hoping I wasn't making a huge mistake.

I arrived at the little point about 15 minutes before sunrise. There weren't huge amounts of clouds on the eastern horizon, but light, hazy clouds promised beautiful things.

And when I stepped out of the truck and peered over the rocks along the banks of that little cove, I grinned. The tide was out, revealing sand that was wonderfully textured.

I was quickly setting up my Benro Mach 3 carbon fiber tripod in the muck, keeping the angle nice and low. There were two reasons for this: First, I wanted that textured sand to be a prominent foreground element, and secondly I wanted the pilings to extend above the horizon to add a little interest in the sky.

And then the sky blossomed into golden color!

I used a simple filter setup to pull together "Glockners Glow." A Benro Master Glass polarizer cut some of the glare off the dark sand, and then a .9 soft grad neutral density filter darkened the sky enough to give me a nice, even exposure.

The final print is wonderful.

Almost missed this bonus image

Northshore Morning

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I have a firm sunrise and sunset rule: Look over my shoulder to see what's happening 180 degrees from the sun. I can't tell you how many winning images I've created by turning my back to the rising or setting sun, with clouds being beautiful pastel colors. Often, there's actually more color looking away from the sun.

But on this morning, I completely forgot my own rule. I was so taken with "Glockners Glow" that I never thought to look behind me — even though I KNEW there were more clouds over the western side of the point.

When I finally glanced to the west, my heart sank: The colors were amazing!

My excuse for my mistake is that when I scouted out Glockners Point, I didn't think there was much of interest on the western side. That's about the only justification I can come up with.

After finally noticing the colors above the marsh, I ambled across the parking lot just to see what might be possible. And I was blown away by the scene.

Look at that wonderful sea grass and the rippled sand separated by the pools of water in image above.

I almost sprinted back to grab my gear. Much of the color was fading by the time I was set up, had the horizon leveled and the camera focused. However, there still was a beautiful lavender cast to the the clouds, while the rising sun perfectly lighted up some of the sea grass and that marsh grasses.

The final image, titled "Northshore Morning," beautifully captures the last throes of sunrise above Lake Pontchartrain's north shore (known by locals as the Northshore).

Getting tunnel vision nearly cost me a beautiful addition to my Louisiana Collection!

Lighthouse sunset

Fast forward six days, and my wife and I were driving around in Mississippi just trying to have a day away from the house. But, I already had my mind set on ending the day back on the Lake Pontchartrain Northshore — if clouds formed up.

Yvette had even said that would be fine, although I wasn't going to push things. My wife puts up with so much of my photography while traveling that I decided I would be fine just hanging out with her, hitting some junk shops and enjoying the day.

However, when we walked into our final stop of the day to find a really disappointing mess of goods (I mean, it really was just junk), I began thinking about sunset again. And I was thinking the lighthouse marking the entrance to the Tchefuncte River would be perfect. I hadn't shot that old structure in several years, and I wanted to an updated image to the one already in my gallery (click here to see that original print).

I just hoped Yvette would be ready to call it quits for the day.

Sunset Over the Tchefuncte River Lighthouse

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Fortunately, Yvette finally threw up her hands and said we should just head back to Louisiana. Timing would be tight: If we didn't stop, we would arrive 10 or 15 minutes before sunset.

As I drove south on I-55, beautiful high clouds were moving in from the west. I was chomping at the bit to get set up.

We pulled to the end of the road out of Madisonville, Louisiana, with 15 minutes to spare, and I backed into position. I knew I would have to be has high off the ground as possible for a clear shot of the old lighthouse, so my plan was to set up atop my truck's bed cover.

There also is an old wrecked push boat right off the bank near the end of the road, and that would have been a great subject, allowing me a little more flexibility in the setup. However, I already have a great photo of the shipwreck. Click here to see "Bones of Lake Pontchartrain."

So I stayed focused on the lighthouse. One of the problems with the location is that a camp has been built there, and the owners have fenced off the very end of the point. That makes it impossible to shoot from the ground, as an old busted-up pier obstructs the view of the lighthouse from that angle.

I knew I would need to use a longer lens. My choice was my brand-new Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 zoomed out to its full reach. I really wanted to show the lighthouse with the old dock pilings and that beautiful sky above. So I wasn't looking to zoom all the way in for a tight view of the structure; I wanted the whole scene, and that 200mm was perfect.

Soon I was standing on my bed cover, with my camera firmly anchored to the tripod. Trouble was the wind was absolutely howling — and I still needed some height. I extended the tripod's column to its full height, and the composition was perfect.

My plan was to use a solid neutral density filter to slow down the shutter speed to create a smooth water effect. That wasn't to be, however, as I soon discovered the stiff wind was making my camera vibrate atop the tripod's column. I could have retracted the column and remedied the vibration, but then I would have those pilings in the foreground, obstructing the view of the water.

The solution was simple: Just crank up the ISO so I could increase my shutter speed until the vibrations weren't visible. To prevent increased noise from a high ISO, I used a wider aperture to allow more light through the lens. The compromise was that the water in the final image wouldn't be smoothed out - but I actually like the action of the waves.

As I worked, the sky above the old wreck to my left really turned neon, while the thin clouds above the lighthouse glowed yellow. It was crazy how different the two scenes looked.

I wasn't complaining, though. The final print, titled "Sunset Over the Tchefuncte River Lighthouse" is a wonderful addition to my gallery!

Bones of Lake Pontchartrain

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