Today I planned to go out on Biscayne Bay given the forecast; partly cloudy, NW winds no more than 5 mph, mild temperatures, low tide scheduled about 10:30 am. My intention was to be on the water at least 45 minutes before sunrise and set up to capture some early light on the mangroves. I wanted to re-create the image below with other trees and variations of roots and leaves. After that, I would hang out with the birds. Given the forecast and the tidal conditions, this was going to be perfect morning.
As any photographer knows, things never happen perfectly as intended. I woke up around 4 am and immediately opened the Intellicast app to look at the weather conditions. A weather alert icon was flashing. I clicked on it and it tells me there is severe dense fog in the area. Cool! I imagined the bay mangroves in the fog looking like ghosts. This would be interesting and new for me.
I drove in the foggy darkness to Matheson Hammock. The closer I got to the entrance, the darker and lonelier the streets became. I entered the park where the guard was not yet on duty. I drove over the canal bridge and continued on the pot-holed road that leads you through a tunnel of buttonwood and mangrove trees. It is completely dark. I arrive at the turn-around where I launch my boat. The view of the bay through the mangrove trees was completely gray and the lights of Miami were invisible. There were no sounds coming from boats, only the sound of a heron flustered that I intruded upon its area.
I loaded the boat and pulled it through 2-ft deep grasses that had been blown into the shoreline. After about 30 feet of pulling, I was in the canoe paddling through calm waters. There was no sound other than the paddle rustling up the water. The shoreline on my right consisted of two or three shades of dark gray, guiding me along. I paddled a short distance and found myself in a familiar spot where mangroves march into the water one by one.
I paddled around composing images in my head. Finally, I found a group of mangroves that looked good to me, so I step out of the boat into one foot of water and sunk to my ankles in soft mud and grass. I set up the tripod and attached the camera and began to play. This would be fun!
These particular mangroves have been photographed by me hundreds of times. But what keeps me coming back is that I try to find a new way of visualizing them. For instance, I experimented with intentional camera movement, as shown here.
Another attempt was to incorporate negative space to highlight the intriguing forms of the trees.
Sometimes, it was the reflections of the trees that captured my attention.
Of course the clouds can make the mangrove scene more interesting.
And yet, I used the mangroves to frame a bird.
So today, the fog gave me yet another opportunity to try something different with old familiar subjects. I was in the water for over two hours as the morning became lighter and the details of the trees became more evident. The photo at the top was one of the first images of the morning. I used neutral density filters to allow me to use slow shutter speeds and I added a GND filter as the sky was at least 1 stop lighter than the water. I honestly did not know what to expect but as soon as I started shooting, the possibilities became clear.
No matter how familiar a place or subject is, it never gets boring to me. There is always something new to capture. Sometimes, you just have get out in the darkness and wade through the mud to find it.