Challenge: Sunset over flooded Henderson swamp

Overcoming challenges to capture another beautiful sunset

Louisiana's sprawling swamps are some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, and watching a sunset surrounded by flooded cypress trees is a bucket-list experience.

Capturing these magical moments, however, can be challenging. Take the photo above that was taken recently in Henderson swamp near Lafayette, La.

It looks pretty straightforward: Just set up a tripod and wait for the setting sun to turn those beautiful clouds neon.

However, it wasn't that simple. In fact, it was downright risky for my camera equipment.

Why? Because the water was almost 12 feet deep. I have a custom tripod that expends to 12 feet and has a wide, stable footprint, so I can work in deep water — but it took two tries to find water shallow enough for me to work with the camera from my boat.

First try was a no-go

My first attempt at setting up my 12-foot-tall tripod left only the tripod head above the water — meaning my camera would sit precariously just inches above the water. I'll do a lot to get a photo, but that was a little to risky even for me.

The solution

My wife, who was with me, gave me the stink eye when she saw how close the camera would be to the water. So I picked up the tripod and moved about 30 yards until I found a cypress tree in only about 11 feet of water.

I carefully lowered the tripod, giving it a push to ensure the legs firmly set into the boggy bottom That left about 12 inches of space between the water's surface and my camera. Perfect.

The only thing left was to anchor my boat so I could reach the camera, lock the camera on the tripod head, compose the scene and wait.

I used a 14mm Sigma lens so the scene included the cypress tree immediately in front of me, along with another group of trees to the right of the frame.

The payoff — a wonderful sunset photo

Working with my custom tripod is difficult because the legs don't lock out, so getting them to open up to the full footprint is a struggle. Added to that difficulty is working from a boat, which has to be close enough for me to reach the camera to make adjustments but not so close that it bumps the tripod (which could be disastrous).

That effort is worthwhile, however, when the sun disappears behind the horizon and sprays color across the sky. That's when magic happens.

It's just a matter of adjusting camera settings and tripping the shutter (using a remote trigger) to document God's artistry.