On the first few days in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin I was suffering from what I call beauty paralysis—I was in a place so beautiful, I couldn’t decide what to photograph.
The Holy Grail of swamp photography for me is to get mist. This doesn’t happen very often so you have to be lucky, but when it occurs the views are just mesmerizing. I travel all over the planet for my work and I had never seen such surreal beauty.
The massive cypress trees create reflections, adding depth to every photo. A lot of trees are covered in Spanish moss and it’s the moss that creates the eerie look. The great thing is there are not many people out here and so you don’t see many photographs of these places. That’s partly because you need a kayak to get around.
My biggest challenge in capturing this shot was trying to use a tripod. I use one in all my landscape photography so I spent a lot of time finding spots where the water was shallow enough for me to put the tripod down.
A tripod enables me to shoot with a small aperture—lots of depth of field while keeping the ISO down. Camera shake is a serious issue when you’re shooting handheld from a kayak, so you need to take precautions. Make sure your kayak isn’t moving when you’re shooting. You can rest against a tree, and bring some rope to tie your kayak to a tree trunk or branch so you don’t have to constantly reposition.
If you bring a tripod, get yourself some waders so that you can hop out to set up your tripod in the water. Practice getting in and out on the water because that is when your kayak is most likely to flip.
This photo is actually a selfie. To get this shot I used a remote control to trigger the camera, which was on a tripod in three-foot-deep water. It was shot with a Nikon D4 using an 80-400 lens at 1/250 and f/18.
Marsel van Oosten is a renowned wildlife and nature photographer. He won the International Photography Awards’ prestigious Travel Photographer Of The Year honor for a series that includes this photo.
Swamp Fling. Feature Photo: Marsel van Oosten