Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hidden in the Mist - A Austrian Landscape Photographer Discovers Louisiana Beauty

The following Blog entry was written by Georg Popp. Georg is a noted professional landscape photographer. He traveled to our area last fall in order to photograph the amazing virgin Cypress at Lake Fausse Point. I thought that Georg's blog put into perspective the world class beauty available to all of us here in South Louisiana.

To view more of Georg's photos and learn more about him and his wife, go to:


Assuming it’s mostly locals that come over to Lake Fausse for a leisurely paddle amongst gigantic bald cypresses and take some photographs, it must sound odd to hear a photographer from as far as Vienna, Austria would fly over for a week to do just that.

At least, when I stood - up to my chest - in the swampy waters of the Lake in early dawn on my first day here last November, my tripod deeply sunken in the muddy bottom, bracing myself to the knee-roots of a cypress, I felt pretty odd, too. Odd, but enormously happy to finally made it. As easy as it seems for somebody living nearby, it was quite the feat – from a logistic and organizing standpoint – to execute this photo-trip.

To explain this, it might be a good idea to give you a rough job description, of what my life usually looks like. I happen to be a professional landscape photographer, who – together with my wife – search for unusual and unusually beautiful – or unusual, beautiful AND unprotected (or even threatened) places of the earth. To do that, we have specialized in the traditional style of taking photographs with a large formal view camera. This means, we still shoot film, we have no autofocus, zoom lenses or any exposure programms to operate with. Worse, the whole set-up is clumsy and heavy and the 4x5 inch large slide films are expensive. All in all, the camera has not changed much from the early days of Ansel Adams.

The only advantage, that I could name, would be the incredibly detailed and crystal sharp prints that are possible to get from a 4x5” tranny, and are not yet possible with digital capture!

A second advantage might be the fact, that such a camera system seriously slows you down and forces the photographer to contemplate a lot about what he’s trying to achieve, which was exactly what I was doing on my first morning in the water, long before sunrise and under a cloudy sky that would prevent me from getting any special sunrise-light.

The main goal for me on a photo-journey is, to come away with at least one photograph, which I will print, publish or show to the public in any way I can, to make folks aware it is out there. No more, no less. If it happens to be a photograph that can make people look for more than a fleeting moment, get them interested in what they are seeing, my mission would be acclomplished. Of course, I’d like to believe some of our photographs have had some effect on helping to protect some of “nature’s jewels”.

So what was it that made me come to Lake Fausse Point?

First of all it was our current project – an exhibition on forests and trees of the world, which we are inivited to present later on in 2011 during a large photo-festival in northern Germany. For this festival, we have opted to present only a very few prints. These prints will be very large ones – up to 7 feet on the long side, shown in a very attractive setting. During the ten day festival, many thousand people will walk by these prints.

Because of the high profile of this show, we wanted to present very different kinds of forests and very special ones, too. And instead of opting for the classic California Redwoods, we wanted some other special forest of North America to be included. One that might catch people by surprise and make them shake their head, for not having seen such a place.

Just which forest might fit, we didn’t know.

By accident we stumbled upon the fine photographs of Louisiana based nature photographer David Chauvin (www.davidchauvinphotography.com) and were immediately convinced!

With the decision made, there were only a few questionmarks left: Where exactly can I find a spot to maybe get a chance to come away with a good shot in only a a week? How do I get out to the trees? Are they in deep water? Will I be able to stand in the water? Will my tripod (or I for that matter) sink and get stuck in the mud? Do I need a boat? Where will I be able to get a boat? How will I be able to transport the boat (canoe) with my rental car to the Lake? What would be an ideal time of year? What about mosquitos, and last but not least: will I get bitten by Alligators?

It ain’t so easy from oversees in Europe to find out all the answers, believe me! So it was the help of David (the photographer) who answered most of these questions and linked me up with John (of Pack&Paddle). I emailed back and forth with David about autumn conditions, water level etc.and when it seemed to finally come together, I booked a plane, packed my bag, jumped on and arrived here in the timespan of 72 hours…

On my first morning out, David was so generous to even accompany me out in a kayak to show me some good spots! I couldn’t believe how smooth it all turned to be. Against my initial plans to just hop into the water with my street clothes (or maybe hiking clothes) or maybe even without clothes, for hours, John convinced me (it wasn’t hard) to borrow his hipwaders (it turned out we have exactly the same shoesize!) and to rent a sit-on-top kayak instead of a canoe. (much easier to get in and out) Above all, the water level allowed me in many places (not all though) to be able to stand in the water, set up camera and compose some decent photos. We were even lucky enough to witness a bald eagle close to us, snap a fish right out of the water.

My only setback during the days to follow was the weather, which was often way too warm (around 75 F in mid November) for morning mist to build on the water and a constant breeze, which made the spanish moss move during most of my (usually long – up to 2 minute long) exposures.

For seven straight days, I was getting out in the lake every morning (rise at 4.30, drive to the launch spot, paddle out 40min) and every evening, paddling back in the dark. I felt as happy as a kid in the bathtub! I had such a great time, I even hoped for a Gator to swim by me, while I stood in the water, but it wasn’t to be.

The results from my week of shooting however, I would only see much later on, after returning back to Austria’s cold and snow. Because of the large format camera, I couldn’t be sure whether I achieved my goal of one special photograph for our festival or not.

But photography aside one single morning made my trip so very special – no matter how the prints would turn out in the end:

I arrived at the canoe launch with the full moon still out, total calmness and fog on the water. It was one of my most memorable mornings ever! I needed no headlamp, my kayak gliding effortlessly through light mist, between ancient cypress trees, underneath the mystic looking moss, listened to an amazing number of owls, fishes jumping in the water here and there, bald eagles were already up too.

It was like being set back in a different time – maybe millions of years back. Some of the cypress trees appeared like dinos or huge creatures spreading their arms and staring at me. The knee-roots sticking out of the water like tails from a reptile. Like creatures from a different age, forgotten in an enchanted swamp, only coming out in the morning mist and hide during the day. To know there are REALLY some very large reptiles nearby was only making it even more perfect for me. When the sun came out and light beams wandered across the water and into the forest it was so magical, I almost forgot to take pictures. I just sat in my little kayak soaking it in, holding thumbs, that these “creatures” will forever be able to hide in the mist.

All landscape photos are by Georg Popp

Photos of Georg working are by David Chauvin


Ian said...

Wonderful, thanks for sharing.

Claude said...

I have photographed at Lake Martin since 2001. I now paddle my kayak and do so.
My next trip will be to Fausse Point.
Thanks Georg, beautiful images. Thanks also to Pack and Paddle for posting this article.

Claude said...

I have photographed at Lake martin since 2001. For the past two years, I have paddled my kayak and done so.
My next trip will be to Fausse Point.
Thanks Georg for the beautiful images.
Thanks also to Pack and Paddle for this posting.

sage said...

Incredible photos!