Behind The Shot: Balance – Outdoor Photographer

Caddo Lake, near Shreveport, Louisiana

Photo By Sapna Reddy

“And into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul.” The words of John Muir seem so true when exploring the magical cypress forests of the bayou.

Spreading 26,000 acres across the states of Texas and Louisiana, the bayou offers a primeval portal into incredible photography opportunities for both landscape and wildlife. The giant bald cypress trees, some of them 400 years old, decked in autumn glory, appear to float across the water just as their serpentine roots hint at the secrets beneath the murky waters. Spanish moss draped over the branches of the trees like fine gossamer adds a ghostly feeling to the place. When the mist rises from the water, the landscape is turned into an ethereal dream. There’s something hauntingly beautiful about this place that invokes a feeling of the supernatural.

As I kayaked across the multiple small waterways, I searched for compositions, often stopping and getting out into the water to stabilize the camera. Getting in and out of the kayak without tipping it over with the water level well above my knees was challenging, to say the least. I forced myself to suppress thoughts of water snakes and alligators in the murky water, ignored the freezing temperature and instead focused on the beauty before me. After a couple of days, I slowly got used to the environment. I was able to relax and enter the artistic zone mentally and truly began to appreciate the spectacular opportunity for photography offered by this unique landscape.

On the day I took this shot, I was hoping to capture an image that conveyed the beautiful balance achieved by nature in this location, home to over 200 species of birds. It was no surprise that I saw plenty of them. The egrets easily stole the show. I was photographing the tree in this shot, and there were a few birds around moving in and out of my frame. I liked the negative space offered to the right with the unique architecture of the tree and hoped to add a focus point to complete the visual story.

As if on cue, this lovely bird flew into the frame. The contrast in the colors between the vibrant autumn foliage and the snow-white softness of the egret’s feathers offered a beautiful visual balance. Contrasting with the structure of the giant tree, the graceful lines of the small bird accentuated the visual interest in the frame and made an apt portrait of this landscape. I took two shots—one with the focus on the main tree trunk and a second shot with the focus on the bird. The two images were subsequently blended in Photoshop. In order to ensure I wouldn’t have any motion artifact related to the bird, I decided to shoot with a high ISO for a faster shutter speed. 

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Sony a7R IV, Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS at 400mm. Exposure: 1/2000 sec., ƒ/9, ISO 2000.

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