page 2, continuing . . . .
|Paddling into the inlet from Taylor Creek
My Wild Horse Photo Safari
on the Crystal
second day of paddling the tidal marsh at Rachel Carson Estuarine
Reserve started as early as the first day. High tide was a little
later this day, and it appeared higher too. By the time I reached
the inlet off Taylor Creek that leads into the marsh I could tell
there were far fewer oyster beds visible above the water. That meant
I would have to be even more vigilant of them hidden just beneath
the surface, perhaps just far enough the be out of sight, but not
so far as to let me pass unscathed.
For the second
day now the creek and marsh were once again smooth as glass much of
the time. Such luck with two days of calm winds for paddling had to
be a good omen. Maybe I would have just as wonderful luck finding
the horses out on the marsh. With the water appearing higher, I hoped
to have longer to photograph, and an easier time navigating to where
I wanted to be for the best angles.
As I paddled farther
into the marsh I saw almost no oyster beds above water, quite a change
from the previous day. Luckily I could see as many horses in the distance
on Horse Island as the day before, if not more. The morning light
was just right, and I anxiously anticipated a great morning of photography
Ibis commonly hang out with the wild horses
The truth be told,
shooting either medium from a kayak is a real challenge. It's far
more difficult than it looks. The kayak is never actually still. The
lightest breeze will turn you around like a feather floating on water,
so keeping the camera pointed at your subject is like taking photos
from a merry-go-round. Telephoto lenses only compound the problem.
Beaching the bow does help keep every little ripple from jiggling
you around, but that's about all you can do to keep the kayak still.
In any event, getting these low level shots pretty much requires a
kayak (or else a lot of swimming, wading and getting wet). Cameras
don't take well to being wet. That means taking extra care in protecting
your equipment from water damage, which adds to your preparation time.
But in the end, it's worth the effort to get those photos you just
can't get any other way.
|Photographing from the kayak
This trip was
also my first chance to test my waterproof video camera using the rotating video camera mount I made
for the bow of my kayak. I hoped
the option to rotate the camera remotely from the cockpit would prove
to be a neat trick. My main concern was getting it mounted vertically
and level, and learning to tilt it to the optimal height for capturing
myself in the kayak, and for scenic views. It turned out I didn't
get all of it right, but that was the point - to test and learn for
the future. The shots here of me in the kayak were grabbed from the
video, which is an option I never had before.
|Stallions settling a disagreement
With the higher
tide this day, I reached Horse Island much more easily, and was able
to video and photograph from pretty much any spot I chose. White Ibis
seemed plentiful this time, and readily mingled with the horses. I
counted seventeen horses, the same as the previous day, which is about
half of the total herd on the reserve. I photographed Willets, American
Oyster Catchers, Ibis and sandpipers along with the horses. The sandpipers
seemed so tiny next to the horses, a context I'd never seen them in
before. They seem much larger on the beach at the end of a big telephoto
lens, but these busy little birds feeding among the horses gave the
impression they might get trampled.
|The watery world of Beaufort's wild horses
The ease of paddling
around in the deeper water, compared to the previous day, made things
all the more pleasant. I was less concerned with getting stranded
by the falling tide, though it never left my train of thought. After
a couple of hours I decided I had pressed my luck far enough. Reluctantly
I put away the camera gear and headed back.
|Paddling out of the tidal marsh
It was probably
good timing, since at one point I unexpectedly found myself encountering
shallow water over a large oyster bed. I had to back-paddle and skirt
wide around it, but the rest was easy going. On my way back to the
boat launch I thought about the adventure coming for tomorrow. Instead
of paddling, I would be boating and hiking with other photographers
on Bob Decker's Crystal Coast Wild Horse Photo Safari. I expected
to go shooting in places I couldn't readily get to without a boat
a bit larger than my little kayak. With the weather promising to continue
as beautiful as it had been for my two days of kayaking, this was
certainly going to be a trip to remember.
|Grazing on the tidal marsh