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Nov 24, 2021
"Moody Maurepas" turned out to be one of the most amazing swamp sunsets I've enjoyed in a long time. I'm so happy I was there to see that sky turn magenta!
My 2021 has been defined by crazy travel, driving all over the country while working with Bassmaster, followed by two trips to the Southwest. The upside is that I've created amazing new prints from the Florida to the Canadian border, and from Arizona to the East Coast.
The downside of all this travel is that I have spent precious little time working in the swamps near my South Louisiana home.
That changed recently when I finally just loaded the boat and headed to Lake Maurepas to 1) check on the status of my favorite swamp sunrise location after Hurricane Ida's destruction and 2) capture what I hoped would be a wonderful sunset.
I scored on both goals. My sunrise location survived a direct hit by Hurricane Ida pretty much unscathed, and I captured what is one of the most surreal sunsets I've seen this year.
"Morning in the Swamp" was taken several years ago at what has become my favorite location for swamp sunrises — and it survived a direct hit by Hurricane Ida pretty much unscathed.
My swamp sunrise location sits at the end of the access canal, so I held my breath after making the 15-minute boat drive to the lake. There were trees down all along the canal, including two huge trees right off the lake.
So I wasn't sure what to expect — but when I broke out onto the lake I was relieved to see the line of cypress trees that have served for several of my favorite swamp sunrise photos looked pretty much unchanged. I think one tree was toppled, but other than that the area looked undamaged.
I moved on to find a new area for the coming sunset with a smile on my face.
"On the Edge of Infinity" is one of my favorite monochrome photos from the Louisiana swamps!
My goal for the evening wasn't to shoot the sun actually setting on the western horizon. Instead, I was gambling that the setting sun would light up the clouds to the east.
This would give me an angle showing moss-draped cypress trees with the open lake as a backdrop.
So I motored northward on the west side of Lake Maurepas, searching for the perfect set of trees. I found a couple of likely candidates, but ultimately settled on a little cove in the cypress trees that offered two small points of trees with golden autumn foliage.
When I eased into the shallows I new I made the right decision. The bottom was uncluttered (which is nice) and hard as concrete. So moving around with my camera on the tripod would be a lot less treacherous.
I had about an hour to kill before official sunset, but I didn't just lounge around. Instead, I slipped into the waist-deep water to start looking for an early composition.
It took me a couple of minutes to recover my breath after hitting the chilly water, but soon I was comfortable and setting up for what turned out to be one of my favorite monochrome photos from the swamps.
My composition included three cypress trees with the backdrop of the open lake. There was a small chop on the water, even though there was no wind. I wanted to smooth out the water, so I knew I would be using one of my Lee Filters neutral density filters.
I ultimately settled on a Little Stopper, which extended my shutter speed by 6 stops to give me a 41-second exposure. That perfectly smoothed out the water, and provided the added bonus of smoothing out the clouds blowing across the sky.
A subtle .3 soft grad ND filter slipped over the top of the exposure helped even out the exposure a tad, while the polarizer cut glare of the water and added a bit of contrast to the trees.
The result was that the water and the sky almost melded together at the horizon to give the illusion that the trees are floating.
I titled the new print "On the Edge of Infinity, since the background looks like it goes on forever.
I then settled in to wait for sunset, with my fingers crossed that the clouds would light up. I worried it wouldn't happen because of what looked like a fairly thick cloud bank on the western horizon that threatened to completely shade the light from the eastern side of the scene.
It appeared my fears were warranted as the sun finally set. There was some nice color on the western horizon (which I could only see through the thick trees of the main cypress swamp), but the clouds to the east remained dull and gray.
I texted my wife that it looked disappointing, but I told her I was going to wait for another 15 minutes or so because sometimes the best show happens after the sun disappears over the horizon.
Sure enough, about 10 minutes after official sunset a little pink crept into the clouds behind my line of cypress trees.
I began shooting as the light all around me turned pinkish and the light clouds to the southeast were painted a soft magenta. Even the cypress trees took on a color cast.
The show only lasted about 5 minutes, but it was gorgeous!
The resulting image (seen at the top of this blog) was crazy beautiful, with that pinkish light creating a soft, moody feel to the print — so I titled this new print "Moody Maurepas."
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