Despite the popular vision of swamps as creepy wastelands, these environmental oases offer some of the richest opportunities for wildlife
Text And Photography By Mac Stone
Where To Go And What To Bring
A few of my favorite swamps to visit are Florida's Tate's Hell Swamp, Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park and Corkscrew Swamp. In Georgia, the famous Okefenokee Swamp isn't to be missed, and in South Carolina, Francis Beidler Forest and Congaree National Park are excellent locations.
When photographing in swamps, it's critical to have gear that can repel water. I prefer to slog by foot in swamps, so I want gear that I can access while walking. For bags, I use the Lowepro Flipside, which you can access completely without ever having to set down the bag. Since wildlife frequents these areas, I always make sure to have my longest lens on the camera in case a fleeting bird, deer or alligator appears. Some swamps, deep-braided channels, make it difficult to get proper height out of your tripod, so I carry a large tripod with a center column. When in a canoe, I have an additional tripod, which I modified to reach 10 feet for particularly deep areas. In many swamps, fickle weather can be an issue, so I have a small waterproof bag with rags to wipe down my lenses and also a $3 Op/Tech plastic camera cover so I can shoot in the rain. I hate hiking in wet shoes, so I recommend either wearing Vibram FiveFingers dive booties with a hard sole or going barefoot! Mosquitoes can be a problem in certain times of the year, but I always avoid DEET and instead opt for pants and long-sleeved shirts.
To take advantage of all of the potential photo opportunities, I carry a fair amount of photo gear. Because swamps have photo opportunities for everything from big landscapes to wildlife to macro subjects, I want to be ready with the right lens. Here's what I carry in my camera bag: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 16-35mm ƒ/2.8L, Canon EF 24-105mm ƒ/4L IS, Canon 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L IS, Canon EF 100-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6L IS, Sigma 50mm ƒ/1.4, Canon EF 100mm ƒ/2.8L Macro lens, two Canon Speedlite 550EX II flashes, Feisol Tournament carbon-fiber tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.