Monday, April 28, 2008

An Attempt to Canoe and Photograph

[After reading the start of this it would be reasonable to say to yourself, “What the hell does this have to do with photography?” Keep reading and I'll try and tie it together.]

Yesterday I went to Bertom Lake to canoe and photograph (actually it's not a lake at all, it's the backwaters of the Mississippi River), or maybe I should say I tried to go to Bertom Lake but the water was so high that I couldn't even get to it. Usually there is a road that goes under the railroad track to a parking and boat launch area. That road is under about 5 feet of water right now. I could launch my canoe from just about anywhere and could've tried but the water was moving pretty fast (maybe three mph...which is very fast for Mississippi backwaters) and was flowing between the trees and it was cold and it was muddy and it get the picture, it was easy to justify not paddling. And when I got home and was unpacking my things I didn't have to unpack a paddle because I forgot to bring it in the first place. So even if I'd have wanted to canoe I couldn't have.

We've had some pretty intense rains here lately. It's pretty messy in the river bottoms. In lots of places water backed up behind culverts (or even bridges) and came up over the road. I've also seen some mini landslides. Where a road has been cut into hillsides and the uphill side of the road is steep sometimes a bunch of dirt comes sliding down onto the road. Kind of weird to be going along and you look over and there's a chunk of sod or a multiflora rosebush on the road next to you.

OK. To tie this back in to photography I didn't get to photograph from my canoe so I went to a State Park that is partially on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. The park entrance is fairly low and a stream that flows into the Mississippi had flooded and washed part of the road away...and that is the only way up the bluff (by car anyway). So even my plan B was a bust. But, as they say, “when life gives you lemons...” so I tried to make lemonade by taking pictures of things that you don't get to see unless there's an over abundance of water.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I got out to take some pictures yesterday. The picture to the left is one. It was also the first time this year that I got out in my solo canoe. I have been out canoeing a couple times but that was in a tandem canoe. Don't I sound like I'm trying hard to be all cool by distinguishing the difference between a tandem and a solo canoe? Sweet. I'm definitely not, I just happen to have a solo canoe.

Anyway, it was good to get out again. Even though it wasn't all that warm it was sunny - and that makes a big difference. It was a little breezy too but if I found a place out of the wind but in the sun it was pretty warm.

The river (the Mississippi) was up and the current was moving a quite a bit. So it was hard to take photos from the canoe because when you put the paddle down long enough to pick up the camera you were not where you need to be to take a decent picture. So I landed the canoe on a backwater island (a sidenote: since the water was high it almost covered the islands and you had to paddle through some big trees that are usually up on shore to get to dry land). After having lunch on the trunk of a fallen down tree I took off on foot on the island to see what I could see. Later in the summer the islands will be so overgrown with tall grass that walking will be much, much harder to walk, but for now it is clear...last year's grass has fallen down and this year's is short. I saw a pelican riding along on the current of the river. I have seen pelicans on the Mississippi before but they always catch me a little off guard - they seem like they don't belong...or maybe I should say that they seem like strangers from somewhere else, like Portugal or something. I also saw lots of beaver sign...but no beaver. I saw a few bald eagles flying overhead on the wind.

Though it wasn't when I was on the island I saw, from my canoe, a fox (he or she was on the railroad tracks near the water at the base of the bluff looking back up the bluff), a Canadian goose on it's nest, several muskrats, and all manner of ducks and geese on the water and flying around. I was paddling along when something near my canoe made a small wave. I thought it was a frog or something and didn't pay much attention to it...but then LOTS of other creatures started making waves. I couldn't see any of them so I'm guessing I stumbled upon a school of fish and when they swam off they made waves. Reminds me of the time last year when I was out canoeing and the carp were fighting each other (I presume it was the males fighting each other to breed with the females) and didn't pay any attention to me even when I paddled up right next to them. I was close enough to touch them...and I did. I just reached out and touched them. Strange.

Hunger finally pulled me off the river to the village of Cassville where no places were open for eating (the grocery store was even closed) so I had to get junk food (a Snickers bar, some sour octopi, and a Sun Drop to drink) for supper at the BP station there. Then I went up to Nelson Dewey State Park that has some nice views of the river. It is up on the bluffs near Cassville. There was a nice sunset to see. While I think that sunset pictures are cliche I admit I took a few. The sun set and I drove home.

I unloaded my canoe in the dark and went inside to look at my pictures (I have a digital camera) and see if I had any good ones.

High five,


Wednesday, April 2, 2008


The Joel Austin Images website is currently under construction.

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