This past week I participated in some equipment testing at Louisiana State University. Staying in the Baton Rouge area, I figured I’d get out of my hotel room and do a little exploring. A Google search revealed the nearby Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center. Boardwalk trails wander over this protected swamp, offering a safe way to view it without getting eaten or bitten by the myriad critters that often live in this environment. The mosquitos were not put off by this. I went on a cool, overcast Saturday and, to my surprise, had the whole place to myself. It is a haven for bird watchers and photographers. Inside the Nature Center I found a lot of photos of the local wildlife that visitors and staff have shared. They also had quite a few terrariums containing local snakes and lizards.
My walk through the swamp was very relaxing and fascinating. Here a few photos I shot while along the way.
A stand of Bald Cypress with Butterweeds
I had only my 50mm with me so I stitched a few shots together to make this wide shot.
A Bull Thistle – This shot I used my on-board flash to really nuke it with light. I then inverted the image to give it a more X-rayed appearance so that you can really make out the beautiful structure of this curious looking plant. I’ve been reading that the stalk of this plant is very good to eat and is used in Cajun salads. The taste, I’m told, is similar to celery – light and refreshing.
The rains haven’t yet yielded enough water to the to fill up the swamps. On the base of these cypress trees, you can see the darkening caused by the water line.
While visiting the Bluebonnet Swamp, I spoke with one of the volunteers working there. He told me about some other places worth seeing while I’m down here. Taking his advice, my buddy and I headed out on Sunday to Cat Island to go see the largest tree east of the Sierra Nevadas. Located a few miles outside of St. Francisville, this wetland/wildlife preserve is fed by the Mississippi River. We were fortunate to be here during the time of year when the roads are still accessible. Once the rains fill up the Mississippi, it floods out the wetlands, making it one big inaccessible swamp. The drive in was amazing. The road was mostly gravel and mud but the sides of it are covered in Yellow Top wildflowers, also known as Butterweed. It was 64 degrees out and overcast, making for the perfect weather to go exploring.
These wildflowers have a light sweet smell to them. Aromatherapy at it’s finest.
In this photo you can see how low the water is and, based on the waterline markings on that tree, just how high it will get later in the year. This tree has such great shape and texture. Definitely worth a moment to grab this shot.
I think the highlight of the day for me was all the flowers growing in the woods. What a peaceful scene. It was so quiet. Every now and then the silence was broken by echoing sounds coming from woodpeckers and other birds searching for food. Serenity. Yeah… that’s what it was.
Our walk through the woods finally brought us to The National Champion. It is a Bald Cypress measuring 83 feet tall and 17 feet in diameter with a circumference of 56 feet. According to the National Wildlife Refuge website, this is the largest tree in the US, east of the Sierra Nevadas. I don’t normally like photos of nature with people in them but the size of this thing can’t really be appreciated without something to relate the scale; in this case, me.
And this is my final image. I may go through later and see about a B-roll addition.
Nikon D600 w/ Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G AF-S