Lake Mattamuskeet and the Bald Cypress Series

I enjoy talking to people at in-person events about my work.  Since I'm not planning any more festival events this year, I thought I would write about the experience of creating this series.   As a believer in lifelong learning, I planned a winter trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  The Outer Banks are known as a popular summer vacation destination.  Why on earth would I go in the dead of winter when the average low is 36 degrees? 

Left:  Bald Cypress Sextet 

The purpose of my trip was to attend a long-exposure photography workshop.  If you are unfamiliar with the term, a long-exposure is one where a slow shutter speed acts to blur clouds or smooth waves, for example. Since I was traveling from the west coast, I traveled a day ahead of time to ensure I would be there in advance of the workshop.  The image below was captured at sunrise on our first full workshop day.  

My early arrival meant I had almost a full day to shoot before the workshop.  I was fortunate to meet another early arrival who was familiar with the area.  She was gracious enough to let me ride along, and we visited several locations—including some of her favorite local restaurants!   

The day was overcast with occasional light rain since a storm was expected that evening.  Our last stops for the day were at the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge and Lake Mattamuskeet.   

The area is named for the Mattamuskeet Indians, also known as the Machapunga or Marimiskeet Indians.  Sadly, the last land sale which dissolved the reservation occurred in 1761, according to the Encyclopedia of North Carolina.  Mattamuskeet lake is North Carolina's largest natural lake.  While it averages two to three feet deep, it is 18 miles long and seven miles wide.  It comprises about 40,000 acres.  In addition to being home to bald eagles, largemouth bass, and ducks, it is also home to the bald cypress tree.

Above:  Bald Cypress Sextet

The bald cypress tree is the classic tree of southern swamps here in the United States.  In its native habitat, it displays a peculiar habit of raising conical "knees" from its roots.  I've heard that the bald cypress trees at Lake Mattamuskeet are the most frequently photographed trees in the state of North Carolina, and I can certainly understand why.  Due to the incoming storm, the conditions were perfect for a black-and-white image.  I loved the structure and detail of the trees and their strong reflections on the smooth water.  

Above:  Cypress Dreams

While there, I shot the trees in various groups with single and multiple exposures.  Cypress Dreams is a four-shot in-camera multiple exposures.  You don't see multiple exposures all that often.  Not only is it unique, but it also gives an ethereal or dreamy feel to the image.  This shot was handheld, so I needed to be steady and carefully align each exposure in the viewfinder.  This image has received several awards, including a commendation from the prestigious  International Garden Photographer of the Year (IGPOTY) Black and White Project 16.  I have to brag a little since I was the only United States-based photographer recognized this year.  

I hope that you have enjoyed this post and a bit of background on my first black-and-white series.  Click here to see the series.  Bald Cypress and Cypress Reflections were featured in the 8th issue of Circle Quarterly Art Review Magazine.  You can see the full issue below.

Just in case your travel plans include the Outer Banks, here are a few of my favorite spots to eat.  If you didn’t know, I’m a bit of a foodie.

  • Grits Grill in Nags Head – Authentic down-home Southern cooking -- tasty and budget-friendly.  The shrimp and grits topped with bacon, green onions and gravy were delicious.  This was my favorite breakfast while I was there. 
  • O'Neal's Sea Harvest – Seafood is big business in the area. In addition to the restaurant, O'Neal's is a supplier to countless restaurants in the area. Be sure to check their hours since the first time we went they were closed.  We went back later in the week, and I'm glad we did.  This is a popular lunch spot. 
  • Stripers Bar and Grille – This is where I had my introduction to She Crab or Cream of Crab soup.  Yes, it is very rich, but oh so tasty.  The food was delicious, they have beautiful location on the water, and offer a more upscale dining experience.