SHINY SWAMP CRACKERS
I had wanted to visit the Myakka River State Park for quite a while. I had heard such great things about it including the opportunity to take air boat rides through the swamps and it having a herding place for Page The Dog to chase sheep and countless amazing sights to photograph. Unfortunately, Tropical Storm Debbie just left South Florida with this mighty park as a flooded mess. Many of the sites, attractions and trails were closed due to flooding.
As I drove through the 57 square miles of wetlands, I saw nothing but wet lands, really wet lands. However, when I looked a little closer, the puddles and flooded marshes turned into still mirrors, reflecting the spiky textures and colors above them.
In some shaded areas, there were hardly any colors shining through, so I took out the slight existence of color. Something about the black and white looked like some relief artist just erased the black out in different areas to create a highlighted swamp effect.
Occasionally, I’d come across a log with an air plant screaming, “just shoot me.” But when I processed the pictures, I think I somehow captured the laser flash from the auto focus popping back at me. Is that possible? Or did the laser light just simply get stuck in the marsh?
Some shots just didn’t seem to have much color in them so I took it out, leaving a nest of lines crossing back and forth reflected in the water. I started to like the patterns of reflected stripes in the water, better than the real foliage it was mirroring.
Sometimes a bird would spread out in front of me. But I have so many of those silly birds and I just wanted to get back to those wacky wetlands.
Spanish moss or old man’s beard, hung down everywhere. It looked to me like the trees were planning to go out dancing, dressed up fancy in their silver feather boas.
As I drove through the park, I had to pull over and shoot this one chopped off limb. Something shiny about it seemed to reflect the sparkly water below it.
Further down the road were more trees sitting in still water so glass-like that I imagined the reflection was the real image and the actual trees were nothing but a reflection.
I captured tons of these bizarre mirror shots but every once in a while I’d find one shot where all the vertical lines were penetrated with a random sweeping tree trunk, and it too got reflected.
And just as I started to get bored with the whole beauty of nature thing, I’d pass a cluster of shapes and colors pouring into each other like viscous tinted pigments into a can at the paint store.
Leaves, branches, trunks and highlights, began to spin with kaleidoscope distortion. Finger-like fans spread out and caught the sun, splashed into the air and pulled apart like identical ends of stretched chewing gum .
Secret birds stepped carefully in the distance as the jungle let me capture it.
Somehow I made it through the park and out the other end. I continued down a road I’d never been on, going to a place I hadn’t planned. A few twists and turns took me to some strange museum in the middle of nowhere. Miles back into the woods and swamps was a tiny gift shop selling honey and jelly. The shop was managed by a strange thin woman and her dog. The woman noticed me admiring a selection of whips for sale on a shelf.
“Would you like to see me crack it?” the skinny girl in boots boasted. “Come on outside and I’ll teach you how to use the whip.” I stood there amazed at how good she was with that long lash of leather.
“Would you like to crack the whip?” she asked me in her back-woods jargon. I said, “Nah…you just stand there and keep crack’n it and just let me shoot you.”
I can’t quite explain it, but I think I’ll always remember the excitement I felt, to watch that artistic girl in high leather boots flick that long leather line back and forth and hear the loud sound of it crack.