Lowcountry Ramble

Four Holes swamp

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New prints from the South Carolina Lowcountry

I love the South Carolina Lowcountry, which is filled with American history and amazing natural beauty. So when I drove from a Bassmaster Elite Series event at Lake Murray to another bass-fishing tournament at Santee Cooper I knew I wanted to use my free days to add to my South Carolina Collection.

And it didn't take long.

I was minutes away from the condo that would serve as my office for the week-long stay on the banks of Lake Marion when I crossed through the narrow but gorgeous Four Holes Swamp. After getting checked in, I threw some gear in my room and then headed back to the swamp to check it out.

My tripod was soon set up on the edge of the shallow waters, with three tupelo trees being the focus of the print.

"Four Holes Swamp" really captures the incredible beauty of the Lowcountry's swamps. The old trees are covered with green lichen that compliments the lush greenery of the trees in the background, with those character-filled tupelo trunks surrounded by the placid water.

It was a great way to start an afternoon of rambling through the Lowcountry.

Abandoned Lowcountry Mansion

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My next goal was to get to an old church in the middle of the Francis Marion National Forest. I discovered the old Halfway Creek Church while poking around online for potential photography targets, and it looked like it had some real potential.

So I turned down Old State Road for the hour-long trip. I didn't make it more than 15 minutes before a really cool scene caught my eye: An old wooden mansion was barely visible through trees and overgrown bushes, with vines almost covering the stairs.

Yep, I pulled over to see what I could do. I took some photos with my wide-angle lenses, but to be honest they just didn't do much for me.

What to do? Well, I switched to a 70-200mm lens and started shooting, backing up into a field across the road. The image below was taken from as far away as I could in the field, with my Nikon lens zoomed 180mm to compress the scene.

I love how the two pecan trees act as framing, while the old house seems to be peaking through the limbs. The color version was sort of nice, with vibrant greens of the trees contrasted against the house's peeling white paint. But it was almost too much green.

Converting the image to monochrome and adding a sepia tone created a really nice, moody image that seems to evoke the proper feeling.

Lowcountry Pit Stop

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Another 15 minutes down the road I was pulling to the side to look at an old building that looked like it was perhaps a filling station. The brick structure had old signs, with a nice bench under the awning. I could just image folks sitting in front of the building catching up on local gossip.

Again, I opted for the 70-200mm to compress the scene and cut out a house that was just to the side.

The image, titled "Lowcountry Pitstop," really turned out nice, serving as a reminder of times past when small pit stops were important to travelers.

Halfway Creek Church

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At that point, I was really itching to get the the old church. So I put mental blinders on and passed up other interesting sights for the rest of the drive.

I pulled up to Halfway Creek Church, and my heart at first sank. From one side, the building is horrific condition. I thought perhaps it was too dilapidated to work with. 

However, when I got to the other side, the church that was built in the early 1940s on the site of a previous church, was in much better shape.

I used my 24-70mm to create "Halfway Creek Church" that captured all the color and textures of the church. I really love these old buildings, and I'm so happy I documented this church before it collapsed.

Lowcountry Port

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Halfway Creek Church photographed, I pulled up the Google Maps pin for Tibwin Plantation. I didn't know anything about the plantation other than the satellite view of the property showed a road leading to what looked like a house. I hoped it was the old plantation home.

So I made the 15- or 20-minute drive there, discovering that the property actually is part of the Francis Marion National Forest. Only foot traffic is allowed past a certain point, so I shouldered my camera backpack and grabbed my tripod, and headed out. The hike to the building turned out to be just shy of a half mile.

At first, I was excited by the first peaks of the building — but my hopes for a great photo crashed when I walked into out from under the trees for a full view of what turned out to indeed be the old Tibwin Plantation home. The building is currently shored up along the front to prevent the porch from detaching from the main building, and the chimney is being held in place by another huge brace.

It was unfortunate. So I decided to keep exploring. I looked at the satellite view of the area and saw the coastal marsh wasn't too far away. So I just continued the hike.

Another half mile away I arrived at a pretty view of marshland that could serve as a great sunset foreground. Problem was there was no water to be seen and I wasn't thrilled with just a sea of cord grass. I like strong foreground elements in my photos.

I had all but given up when I noticed the opening was flanked by live oak trees. And the one on the left side had a limb that seemed to reach out over the marsh — right toward where the sun would set.


I walked back to the truck to burn the next 3 hours driving around the area. That's how I found the most wonderful little town of McClellandville.

It honestly felt like I had landed in Mayberry. Kids were outside playing, adults were tootling around on golf carts, and the streets were canopied by oak alleys and planter-style old homes that were in pristine condition. It was so beautiful!

There also is a fishing port in the town, so I slid over there to check it out. I created two really nice prints there. The first, "Lowcountry Fishing Port," shows a group of commercial fishing boats at dock. I loved how the warm afternoon light was bouncing off the waters and lighting the vessels.

I then turned around to see some fishing nets hanging from the boom of a nearby boat. I grabbed my 300mm lens to really get in close and compress the scene, and I love the print I titled "Lowcountry Fishing Nets."

McClellandville is somewhere I'd like to spend more time. But I quickly realized I was due back at Tibwin Plantation for sunset.

Lowcountry Fishing Nets

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I then boogied back to Tibwin Plantation, hitched my backpack, grabbed my tripod and hurried back to my sunset location.

The sun was just moving behind the horizon when I arrived, so I quickly set up. Mosquitoes buzzed me (some settling and getting a taste of my blood) as I switched lenses to my Sigma Art 14mm so I could include as much of the scene as possible.

I wanted that live oak tree to be rooted in the lower lefthand corner of the image, extending up and through the frame to lead the eye into the scene. Once the camera was locked in place, I stood and waited to see if the evening would be colorful. Clouds on the western horizon made it an iffy proposition — but you don't know unless you go.

The only other real problem was a breeze blowing around the foliage. I knew that would mean cranking up my ISO to allow for faster shutter speeds as the light faded. As it turns out, I had to open my aperture much wider than I hoped. So I opted for a focus-stacked image, taking a number of photos focused on different areas of the tree. I would then put the images together in Photoshop to ensure everything was in proper focus.

Fifteen minutes later, with mosquitoes feasting on my through my clothing, the light show began. The colors were so soft and warm that it made the perfect backdrop for the scene.

The photo below, which I titled "Lowcountry Sunset," isn't my typical composition, but I really think it works and pulls together much of what makes the South Carolina Lowcountry special.

I squeezed in a couple of other beautiful photos into my work at the Bassmaster Elite Series event, and I'll be adding them to my South Carolina Lowcountry Collection soon!

Lowcountry Sunset

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