Mirror on the Marsh

The landscape of the Chesapeake Bay is a beautiful place to visit and photograph. Thousands of miles of marsh and tidal shore lines line this rare and ecologically threatened area. My close friend and fellow OP Blogger, Ian Plant, produced the quintessential photo book of this region a few years ago working with world renowned writer and environmental activist, Tom Horton. Ian and Tom’s book, Chesapeake: Bay of Light is a visual journey of some of the most wild landscapes, untamed wildlife and secret gems of the bay region peppered with quotes from Captain John Smith from his historic journey through the mosquito infested marshes and bays of the region.  A must have for any nature lover and outdoor photographer!

In this image, Mirror on the Marsh, I was exploring a remote section of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in late summer. Thunderstorms had moved across the region that afternoon producing some amazing clouds formations over the still waters of the Blackwater River.  I parked my car under a canopy of Loblolly Pines on a lonely road on the southwest flank of the preserve. From here, I followed an old dirt road that turned into a small game trail on foot for a little over a mile out to a point on the marsh that opened up to flat water looking south. The mosquitoes were swarming in clouds of black smoke sucking as much blood from me as I allowed in between attempting to bat them away and set up my gear. The clouds hung still in the sky, barely moving at all. The mirror on the marsh produced a beautiful symmetry between land and sky and a clear horizon on the west promised the potential of sweet light. I was amazed that evening how long the color lasted in the sky as it seemed to linger from fiery red to orange and finally a soft pink about fifteen minutes after actual sunset.

Mirror on the Marsh

To create an image with perfect symmetry throughout, I broke the golden rule and placed my horizon directly in the center of the frame. Rules were made to be broken and as photographers and artists it is our job, no our obligation, to break as many of rules as possible, and as often as we can. The contrast and overall impact of the sky was enhanced by using a circular polarizer at maximum effect. While this really pumped up the sky, it had an inverse effect on the water removing a good deal of the reflection. To fix that problem, I simply reduced the power of the CPl and shot a second image with the exposure optimized for the water (making sure that the exposure was 1stop darker than the sky for a natural appearance). The two separate images were hand blended in Adobe Photoshop CS4.


    Very nice capture Joe. Your persistance to endure the bloodsuckers paid off. Thanks for sharing your images and tips with us whom are just getting started. I have learned alot from you and thank you dearly. I love your work, it always has the power to place me in your shoes.

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