- Welcome to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
- Come walk the boards with my husband Alby and me!
- by Lisa Lanser-Rose
Some of my favorite pictures are of shapes and textures. Other favorites were accidents that only reveal themselves after cropping. My husband, Alby takes most of the photos, especially the most excellent ones. For one thing, he has the better camera.
He’s hard on himself. He says he got “nothing good” on this outing. I always go through the memory card he tosses at me and find a few gems.
Alby took these anhinga photos. I chose the first because of the oval shape and the way the bill accents the gleaming silvery-white streaks on the shoulders. The oval effect isn’t fully happening for me. Still, I like the spikiness and the way the branches seem to bounce in all directions.
When the anhinga opens its wings to dry itself, it always reminds me of a woman opening an opulent crystal-beaded shawl across her upper back.
I love when Alby gets lost behind his lens. Then I know that later on, he’ll toss me the memory card, and I can go on another exploration, searching through his photos for the jewels he doesn’t know are there. For example, he was disappointed that the light didn’t allow him crisper shots of the red-shouldered hawk, but I like the dreamy haze around this one.
Some of my favorite moments are the quotidian ones, a hawk doing what a hawk does when we’re not looking. Again, to Alby, this is trash.
Am I “settling” for less?
We had many photos of this flycatcher, many that had a better Audubon precision about them, but I was drawn to this one because the angle of its beak seems to add momentum to the lines of the twigs, but I don’t know what I’m talking about when I use the word “momentum” this way. I just know what I feel.
Am I too “female” in my willingness to find beauty in what a man throws away? Look–there’s a second bird in the background I didn’t notice the first dozen times I looked at this shot. Or has long years of writing and teaching taught me that patience pays? So does scrutiny, and an openness, a willingness to be surprised.
I relished the oily gleam here (especially since I know it was just water and not oil), and I loved the brassy sheen on the frog. It took me awhile to identify the frog, but I wasn’t surprised to discover its name is “bronze.” Alby happened to catch it directly behind–I checked in an alignment tool, and the symmetry is just about perfect. Again, half the magic is in the cropping. Alby wants to use the machine to capture the perfect photograph, and sometimes he does. I want to take what he gleaned and, with very basic tools and a little effort, find the hidden potential, and add to creation. Is that art?
For me, there are two kinds of “good” bird photos. The first is one like this that makes it easy to identify the bird. You can even see the elusive red in the belly.
The second “good” bird photo is one like this, that draws my eye to textures and colors and angles and contrasts and makes me feel as if Alby has caught the bird going about his honest avian business. Alby, too, preferred the second woodpecker photo.
Often, especially when we’re talking about shapes, contrasts, and colors, I have little idea what possessed me to shoot the photo (this is mine), or to choose the photo when Alby’s taken it. Sometimes I can almost express it in a caption. WordPress won’t let me caption this one (it’s mysteriously linked to all the other photos, in a kind of caption-wormhole. If I delete it, they all disappear). I wanted to call this “Angles and O’s.”
I know this isn’t a particularly fabulous photo, but it made me smile to see the heavy-lidded leaning posture. Night herons are among my favorite birds.
As we walked, Alby asked me why so many swamps are called “Lettuce Lake.” I didn’t know. And I wanted to take a shot like this, but none presented themselves to me. Alby took this. There was a section where the leaves were streaked with swamp water from a passing alligator, which we didn’t see. I thought a solid mass of leaves would be boring, and I suppose this picture is, but it’s less boring than I expected. Then again, maybe it’s because I get thinking about what might be going on below . . .
Speaking of killers, the strangler fig fascinates many people. I took this shot (not artistic enough for Alby), but I took it for my own pseudo-scientific reasons. It shows a point at which the strangler fig shifts from root to trunk. That shift-point isn’t always so clear.
Here’s Alby’s portrait of a raccoon. Later, as we were going through the photos and this little face popped up, he asked me what it was. It shouldn’t surprise me how little he knows about North American wildlife. He’s a South African. He spent part of his childhood running like a wild animal himself on a farm with ostrich, antelope, and spitting cobras, so he’s no stranger to animals or the outdoors. When I was a girl, they categorized masculine and feminine thinking. As an engineer, Alby’s more interested in how to use the camera. We both are equally interested in the science of photography, and also in the character of the animals. Of the two of us, I’m more interested in their names and their biology. Can you tell the gender of the photographer from the photo?
This next raccoon portrait is mine. Alby spurns my camera and calls it “a relic.” I’m just happy to have it. I can’t get the stunning zoom shots he gets.
This is one of my photos too. I loved how sinuous and erotic this appeared to me.
The colors of the lichen in the swamp continually surprised me. There was an early section of boardwalk covered in maroon and white, and I didn’t snap it. I thought I’d see it again, but we never did. Alby and I are both continually torn between living in the moment and living through the camera. Then again, living through the camera is its own kind of moment.
I love the play of pale green against the pink and silvery gray. The more I look at this photo, the happier it makes me. Who cares why?
Where we live, we see ibis all the time out on people’s lawns, where they just look goofy, and I worry they’re getting too many chemicals in their diets. You don’t often see them up high like this. Having caught this fellow from the backside, at an angle from which we don’t usually observe, Alby was delighted. He prefers the first photo, with the gold against the pink and a view of the face, which is more important to him than it is to me.
I prefer this one, which I could have lightened to bring out the warmer tones if I’d thought about it, but I liked the silly sense of voyeurism and the vulnerable pink skin.
Later on, we saw this ibis foraging, and I was struck by how beautiful it is. They usually look like something that wobbled out of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, but this bird against the black water, standing over its own reflection and making circles in the water–well, I won’t say it took my breath away. But for a moment, I felt as if I was seeing it “right” for the first time.
This next shot (all the ibis photos are Alby’s) makes me especially happy–it looks as if he’s stirring the water, or better yet, as if he’s on a record album (remember those?) and his bill is the tone arm.
Okay, this is the kind of photo Alby prefers, crisp and classically gorgeous.
This is one of my “artsty” photos, where I can’t tell you what possessed me to say, “Now!” and snap it. As I walked on the boards, it was quiet here, (we never escaped the sound of highway traffic, sadly) but what seized me, I think, was a sudden sense of movement, not that any of this was moving, but as I stepped into this perspective, all of the bromeliads and branches seemed to coordinate in a jump of visual delight.
This next photo I struggled to take. The scene looked too perfect, like a diorama of a swamp scene or a museum display, and I wanted to capture the artificiality. I had the wrong lens on my camera, and then had the wrong angle. I’m happy with the shot. There’s just something about the pollen-dusted surface of the water; the way the cypress are all leaning to the left and the fallen log leans against them; the bridge the log makes with the reddish shag and bromeliad on it against all the green, and the lily spray in the foreground.
Alby took this. It seems angry and hopeful at the same time.
Both of us tried to capture the gleam of water beads on the leaves. They never seem to dry off. None of our photos capture how much more beautiful they were in person, like crystal.
Alby caught this great egret stalking. In fact, there was a small crowd of photographers snapping away. I guess it tells you something about me that so many of these photos look like theater sets. I’ve never been part of a play, but I almost hear a director saying, “Cue bullfrog.”
Not as clear as I’d like, but I found this charming.
Not sure who shot this one, but I loved the predatory energy, as if the strangler fig only just wound itself like a python and squeezed.
Okay, this is so much prettier than anything Martha Stewart’s done.
This next shot is definitely Alby’s. I said, “Wow, how did you SEE this one? I love it!”
He laughed, tickled me, and said, “Oh, I know how you like those artistic shots.”
“So it was an accident?”
“Yes,” he said, laughing even harder, as if embarrassed. “It was an accident.”
I’ll never know for sure, but something tells me it wasn’t an accident. I know he was frustrated trying to photograph the many beautiful spiders and webs laced throughout the swamp. The camera has a terrible time focusing on them. I suspect this was just a test shot for him, but for me, once cropped, it’s among the most elegant finds of the day.
Here’s another example of an almost-Audubon shot, and then a happy find.
This shot Alby would have deleted, but it’s one of my favorites.
I took this. I almost feel I should apologize, but I was having so much fun with my eyes. My vision is going with age, and I’m so grateful I was out in the world, saw this oddball tree, captured it, and got to share it with you.
I took this one, and it might be my favorite of the day. So much life!
This one makes me feel so light and happy, as if I’m lying in a hammock, which you could certainly do on such a soft, cool December day.
I don’t remember if I took this one or Alby did, but it’s definitely in my top-three favorites of the day.
Alby took this shot of a misty magical fallen trunk–it’s another one of my great favorites of the day.
- Great egret