Sunday, October 20, 2013

The mysterious mangal

One of my favorite books is a small (5x8), 64-page photo book titled "Mangroves: Trees of the Sea" by Jerry, Idaz, and Michael Greenberg. I think I found it at an Everglades visitor center among several books on display. What amazed me about the book is the spectacular photos of the mangroves of Florida, including several underwater images of the mangrove roots that serve as nurseries for countless numbers of marine animals.

Quite often, I pull this little book off the shelve when I am looking for specific information, terminology (propagules are seedlings, right?), and most of all, inspiration. The images are so breathtaking that I find it difficult to believe they exist only in the book. At any rate, when it comes to photographing, I find mangroves to be the most difficult subject for me. It might be because I spend almost all my photography time surrounded by mangroves. They are everywhere; you can't spit without hitting one! Consequently, it is easy to get desensitized to them. But also, they are shadowy, muddy, oyster-encrusted, and messy and unkempt in their green and brown presentations. Not very photogenic at first glance!

But oh, those prop roots are very intriguing and when the light hits them just so, they do become photogenic with their sensuous shapes. I am not sure how to describe it, but it makes you want to explore their mysteries through the lens. Over the years, I have attempted to do this in various ways. At first it was to illustrate the wall of mangroves that line the waterways I paddle through, day in and day out. The two images below are examples. This is OK, but how much of that can one do without being repetitive?

Because I photograph wading birds, I get very up close and personal with the mangroves and am drawn to the possibilities of photographing them in that way, mud and all. This led me to try the "Intentional Camera Movement" technique from which I have created several mangrove blurs (including a wider angle shot of a creek). I discuss the technique in another blog so will not go into it here, but let's just say that it is harder than it looks and I have a long way to go to perfect it. But, I continue to learn and experiment, and will always seek a fresh way to present the beauty of the mangrove.

As long as I live in south Florida, I will continue to photograph mangroves. They are the trees of the sea and I love them.


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