The air was warm and humid. It enveloped me like a womb. There was no breeze except the one created by my own passage. Water striders dappled the smooth surface of Tranters Creek as I paddled up the North Branch.
There were no sounds in the early morning except the jays and a raucous pair of crows. An osprey passed overhead intent on its own business. There was a sudden clatter of wings when I flushed several wild turkeys from their roost in the trees above my head.
The water was high on the blackwater creek after a tropical storm had passed, the earliest in the season for years. The high water allowed me further up Tranters Creek than usually accessible in July, floating me over fallen branches and rotting logs.
High up the creek, resting my forearms on the loom of my paddle, I waited on the light.
The word photograph literally means “writing with light.” It seems an appropriately poetic term, but it does require light. Not any ordinary light will do. I was waiting for the morning sun to rise high enough above the horizon to cast streams of light through the trees standing guard along the edge of the creek.
I photograph landscapes—wetlands particularly. I don’t have the patience for wildlife photography; I admire those who do. But stalking light requires some patience, as well. You can’t demand its appearance. Mostly, you can’t even predict it. Like water, light follows its own path.
That morning in July, the light was fickle. A thin layer of clouds was cast across the sky. I watched sunlight fall on tree trunks, then fade with the quickness of a breath. In the remaining shadows, it looked like I floated in a drowned forest.
The reason I’m drawn to these lowly places – wetlands and swamps disdained by most people – is this playful dance of water and light. It’s a dance that doesn’t depend upon an audience. It goes on in solitude, a thing of delicate beauty that continues whether I’m here to see it or not. But the delight of being there!
It seems to me this is the profound truth of the world, the superfluous beauty that encompasses us.
Is it not by his high superfluousness we knowThe Excesses of God
Our God? For to be equal a need
Is natural, animal, mineral: But to fling
Rainbows over the rain…