Celebrating 2021's first sunrise and sunset

Starting the new year in the Louisiana swamp

Some people celebrated the ending of 2020 by staying up late New Year's Eve popping fireworks. Me? I hit the sack fairly early so I could be set up for the very first sunrise of 2021 — and I was not disappointed!

My buddy Tim Stanley, an accomplished Houston photographer, drove over to join me. We could see the gorgeous finger clouds above when we stepped out of my truck. So we quickly launched my boat between the Interstate 10 span at Henderson Swamp, and ran out to a section of scattered cypress trees just as a little color began showing on the horizon.

The wind was howling, which meant tripod work was useless: We would not be able to shoot nice, long shutter speeds anyway or the Spanish moss fluttering around would be blurry.

So we simply eased around in my boat to shoot various settings. The photo above is probably my favorite — but I ended up with two other beauties.

New Year's Promise

This was the first print created on this gorgeous morning. Those finger clouds were just perfect!

Louisiana Gold

I love sunrises because the light changes by the minute (sometimes by the second). As the sun began rising above the horizon, the sky turned an amazing gold, and we moved to this set of trees.

Mud flat almost ruins sunset

We spent about a couple of hours after sunrise just exploring the beauty of Henderson Swamp. I've spent a lot of time there, but Tim was like a kid in a candy store.

We then loaded up, drove south to another boat launch and scouted out a new section of the Atchafalaya Basin. I'd been wanting to poke around the area for new hunting grounds, and it's definitely on my to-do list. We didn't even shoot any photos because all the leaves had fallen from the cypress trees.

So we loaded up the boat again and headed around the southern tip of the Atchafalaya Basin and relaunched in one of my favorite areas. We ran across Flat Lake, zoomed up the winding and picturesque Bayou Chevreuil and ended up back in Dog Island Pass.

That's when I made a mistake that could have ruined our chances of capturing the sunset.

I ran around an island to run through a cut I've used for years — but the opening had silted up.

When I saw driftwood sticking above the water I made a critical mistake.

I let off the gas, and my boat settled on the bottom in inches of water. I quickly slammed the throttle down, but it was too late. I should have kept going, lifted my motor and blown over the mud and sand flat. 

What I did instead was just push the boat a few feet farther on the flat before it stopped.

Water temps were showing about 60 degrees, so I stripped down to my skivvies so I had dry pants to put back on and hopped out. The water depth was just above my ankles, but my feet sank almost to my knees in the mud.

I had to muscle the boat around, and then Tim jumped out and helped push the boat back into deeper water.

Fortunately, the incident only ate up about 45 minutes.

Back in action

We got back into dry clothes and headed out to find a great sunset location. After investigating a number of options, we ended up close to the boat launch in Flat Lake.

We chose a group of cypress trees at the mouth of Bayou Grosbeak, and I anchored the boat to wait for things to start happening.

Man, it was just glorious when the sun dipped toward the horizon. The clouds turned gold, but the sky above us remained cobalt blue. It created a wonderful contrast, and the clouds created great texture.

It was the perfect way to end the first day of 2021!