Ahh, the Louisiana wilderness. After traveling around the world and seeing some truly beautiful, mountainous landscapes, the swamps can pale in comparison. That is, until you hop in a canoe and really start to explore them. The beautiful cypress knees and trees with spanish moss gently blowing in the breeze; a beautiful egret flying overhead, and if you’re lucky, a gator or two. It’s so calm and untouched and WILD.

My friend Nathan took me out on his canoe one gorgeous autumn day. We drove west on I-10 for half an hour and hopped into the blind river. Nathan is a great swamp photographer, but I was having trouble translating the beauty I was seeing into nice photographs. Those familiar with my work know that I prefer to inject a human element into the photographic stories I’m telling, so I asked Nathan to pose for me.


We discovered a half-sunken raft, providing us with a flat surface to shoot on. Nathan was happy to play around in the muck, but I wanted to set up a strobe and   was not in the mood to test my last Speedlight against the swamp’s sinkholes. As I drifted around in the anchor-less canoe, we took some shots with a shoot-thru umbrella. With no ND filter, I had to blast at full power while shooting at f/11 to match the strong sunlight. An assistant would have been much appreciated, because I could never get the light where I wanted, and finally decided to go with natural light. Nate was a champion with the poses despite never having modeled before, and he was a good sport, willing to work the camera until I got what I wanted.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have been watching some great tutorials and I’m really getting into compositing. The process of combining images to make one photograph takes a lot of time, but it can really improve an image. I decided to add some alligators next to Nathan just to increase his badassness factor. After looking for hours through the Alligator group on flickr, I found a few that worked with lighting and perspective. No, I didn’t license these images, but this is not a Nike ad, so kindly forget about it.

In the end, I worked on this image well past the stage of being tired of it! It was a learning process, and based on comments I’m seeing on Facebook, some people believe that the gators were right next to Nathan. Mission accomplished! Here’s the original image for reference: