Thursday, April 27, 2017

Swamp preserve a photographer's delight

A few dozen acres of Magnolia Plantation and Gardens (MPG) near Charleston, S.C., is set aside for what attraction operators term the Audubon Swamp Garden. I consider it more of a swamp wildlife preserve; species you'll find here include alligators, herons, egrets and anhingas.

What you see in the lead-off photo is a beautiful, colorful anhinga perched on a small branch overlooking the big pond on the grounds. As I mentioned in yesterday's post (and in a previous post from Tybee Island), anhingas are a large waterfowl, found exclusively in warm climates. They must spread their wings to dry after every submersion in water because they do not have oil glands that most waterfowl possess to protect their feathers.

The cost to stroll through the swamp preserve is $8 -- this is in addition to the $15 general admission (for adults) to MPG. (See the website's admission information tab for all the attraction costs). When you do get in, you can stroll at leisure on paved or gravel paths. Aside from a few bridges and the wooden-railed walk into the grounds, those paths (and a wooden ramp in the pond for turtles, alligators et al to rest on)  -- are the only evidence of human encroachment in this area. Seeing all that I did in the swamp preserve pumped my creative juices. I came across several men and women with camera gear indulging their craft while I was there. Most had zoom lenses; at right, is an example of one such shutterbug. Another guy whose path I crossed carried a humongous lens with a camouflage veneer. I asked him the lens' focal length, and he said 600mm f/4. I know Canon and Nikon make lenses with those specs, but I don't know if you can get them in camouflage veneer.

As I showed in yesterday's post, I got a nice shot of an alligator along a creek shore when I was in a four-story observation tower elsewhere on the grounds before ever getting to the swamp preserve. But I saw considerably more alligators in the preserve.

As always, click on any picture to pull up a larger, sharper version, which is particularly important if you access the blog from a mobile device. To view a full gallery of my shots in the Audubon Swamp Garden at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, click on the link in this sentence.

Photo geek stuff: I shot everything you see here with a Canon 6D equipped with a Tamron 28-300 f/3.5-6.3 Di VZD VC lens, using a circular polarizing filter when outdoors until very late when it started to get dark, when I did without the polarizer. I bracketed all shots for three exposures, melding a good number of all three for each composition in post-processing using Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software. In some situations where using HDR software was impractical, I composed a shot with single frames.

I walked past the wooden ramp in the pond (it actually was more like a lake) on two occasions while in the preserve. The first time, I saw an Anhinga (above) on the ramp. The second time, an alligator was there (below).

Above: Elsewhere in the lake on the second pass by, I saw at least four alligators lurking not far from the shore like the one above.

Above: It was late, nearing dark, when I took a stab at photographing the above anhinga as it arrived at this nest. Because it was so dark, I didn't know it was an anhinga at the time; just that it was huge. In post-processing, I brought out the detail and color you see here by pushing the shadows sliders in Camera Raw and in PS Elements 15, when it became clear that it was an anhinga.

Above: An egret landed on a paved path just in front of me, and I stopped in my tracks to take a series of shots. Then it occurred to me that perhaps the bird was challenging my presence in its area of the preserve. I made the decision to resume my walk in its direction, and it shuffled off to the right side. Not long afterward, I got the shot below of the egret.  

Above: My favorite mixed-light shot from the swamp garden.

Above and below: A couple of prairie-type shots.

Above and below: A couple of perspective shots of the pond/lake early on in the visit, before it came close to getting dark.   

 Above: An egret nearing the end of its landing in a tree branch. 

 Above: The wooden walk and wood-railed entry into the swamp preserve. 

Above and below: Evidence of other human life visiting the grounds while we were there.

Above: That's the sun in the pond (and yes, this was more like a pond) a good two hours before sundown.

Above: I shot this boat in a swamp from several angles, and in post-processing, I experimented with different crops. This is one of the originals.

Above and below: Two more full reflection shots, the one above featuring a tree packed with resting (and perhaps nesting) egrets. I think I like the one below better. 

Above: Another sun-on-pond reflection composition. I promise it will be the last in this post. 

Above: I conclude with a shot that grabbed me for its simple elegance, a bit of neo-impressionism in a Claude Monet kind of way.

Next up: North Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Previous posts in this series:

Part I: Savannah's Forsyth Square

Part II: Savannah's old-city neighborhoods 

Part III: Savannah's Riverwalk

Part IV: Savannah's Bonaventure Cemetery

Part V: Tybee Island, Ga.

Part VI: Revisiting Charleston, SC, and its charms

Part VII: Nature's splendor can be found at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston

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