From Nov. 14-19, 2022 I joined a photography workshop organized by Chuck Haney to explore the cypress swamps in the bayous of Louisiana. I had thought that the primary aim of the workshop was the shore birds, but it turned out the main target was the cypress trees in the swamps. I heard about the workshop through my academic colleague David Sparks, who is an avid bird photographer that I met when I was in Denver over the summer.

The workshop started in an unconventional manner. We spent the first night at the Oak Alley Plantation, an old Southern plantation that has been preserved and maintained as a site to get a sense of what life on a plantation was like. So, for example, there were restored slaves quarters and blacksmith shop.

Oak Alley plantation

Oak Alley plantation

Lake Dauterive

After Oak Alley, we moved to a motel in Breaux Bridge which gave us access to two different sites, Lake Dauterive which we explored by boat at sunrise and mornings and Lake Martin which we photographed from shore. We were joined by a local guide Charles Bush who made arrangements for the boats. So for three consecutive days we rose very early to get to Lake Dauterive at sunrise, boarded one of the two boats from which we shot the wildlife and landscape. Unfortunately the weather was very uncooperative so the sunrise was not great on several days. However, on the last morning we had clear skies at sunrise with little wind which created the environment that Charles was looking for: mist backlit by the rising sun amongst the cypress trees. The mist is only possible when the air temperature is colder than the water temperature so late autumn is one of the few times in the year when this is likely.


Stuck in the mud in Lake Dauterive

Sunrise on Lake Dauterive

Great blue heron takeoff

Photo crew on Lake Dauterive

Mist and backlit cypress trees at sunrise in Lake Dauterive

Mist and backlit cypress trees at sunrise in Lake Dauterive

Lake Martin

We took a break after shooting on the boats for breakfast and lunch during the day and then reassembled in the afternoon to go to Lake Martin where we hoped to get sunset photos. Unfortunately we only had one day with a decent sunset so most of the time we were looking for bird photos from the shore.

This great blue heron has especially prominent orange ‘elbows’ on the wings, which I had never noticed on a bird that I’ve photographed a lot.

Lake Martin tableau

Backlit Spanish moss with duck blind in the background

Sunset on Lake Martin with flock of birds overhead

Great egret against a cypress tree

Cormorants at Lake Martin

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