Iconic Lake Martin sunset tree struck by lightning

Lake Martin Sunset

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Lightning Strike causes fire that chars beautiful cypress tree

There are few places to just walk up and shoot beautiful sunset photos of the Louisiana swamp. And that's what has made the little spit of land on the east side of Lake Martin so special: A beautiful moss-draped cypress tree stands just off that area.

That has made the tree arguably the most-photographed cypress in Louisiana. That tree is seen on the left side of the photo above. It was the perfect setup!

Unfortunately, that view might have changed forever when a massive lightning storm rolled through the area over the weekend. A lightning strike sparked a fire that raced up the trunk of this legendary tree.

The tragic fire was videoed by a local resident, and the incident was covered by local news outlet KATC. Click here to watch the news story and see the video.

On the positive side of things, the tree wasn't consumed before the fire was doused by rainfall.

So now the questions is simple: Will the tree survive?

This apparently isn't the first time the tree has been struck by lighting. The resident who videoed the fire said it's happened before. So hopefully that cycle repeats itself.

Why the tree is so important

The Louisiana swamps are some of the greatest stretches of wilderness in the country. Its flooded cypress and tupelo trees offer views unmatched anywhere in the world.

The challenge is in getting to these views. That most often involves a boat of some kind. The fact is that Lake Martin was one of the only places one could drive up and walk right to a stunning, unobstructed view.

Most of the views I capture in my photos are inaccessible without a kayak or motorboat. I have both, so I can access the depths of these wild wetlands.

And the old Lake Martin cypress tree is perfectly situated, with sunset creating colorful backdrops to its moss-draped limbs. For instance, I positioned the tree on the left side of my photo "Lake Martin Sunset," using a wide-angle lens to include some of the other trees along the edge of the lake. The sunset on that evening was amazing, with most of the color happening about 30 minutes after sunset. I used a neutral density filter to allow for a 30-second exposure so the clouds streaking overhead gave the sense of movement. 

It was common for the little peninsula of land pointing to the iconic cypress tree to be crowded with photographers and others out to enjoy the end of the day.

Losing this amazing tree would make it that much harder to enjoy the beauty of Louisiana's swamps without a watercraft.

We all have our fingers crossed that this legendary cypress tree will survive.