Lone CypressSingle Bald Cypress tree on the north shore of Lake Moultrie near St. Stephen, SC.
Are you using all of the resources available to you when designing a photograph? Are you certain? All the things you need to design and capture an image are not necessarily contained in your camera bag. Take the image above for example. I had an image like this in my head for months. I had seen similar images by other photographers and I wanted to capture one like that for myself. But from where? I knew that cypress trees grow in standing water in swampy areas but all I had seen were grouped together by the dozens or hundreds. No single tree standing out by itself to give me the clean, simple composition that I wanted. Then one day I was poking around in Google Earth.
If you’re not familiar, Google Earth is a satellite image based map program that “Lets you fly to any location on earth” to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, and more. Want to visit Walt Disney World? It’s there. Lake Tahoe? It’s there. New York, London, Milan? It’s all there. Even the northeast shore of Lake Moultrie! So, while I poked around aimlessly, I began to wonder if I could see a level of detail that would let me pick out a single tree. Turns out you can and rather easily I might add! So I simply zoomed into Bonneau Beach, a place I was somewhat familiar with, and began scanning along the lakeshore. I needed to find a tree or trees that looked promising, that looked like they were somewhat easily accessible, and that also let me look in the correct direction to get some decent sky color at sunrise or sunset. You can see the location where I captured the image above in the screen capture below. The lone tree is one of those in the area indicated by the arrow and it’s easily accessible from the adjacent Amos Lee Gourdine boat landing just north of the arrow.
Once I arrived at the location the photography was rather simple. After a short walk through the woods to the water’s edge to survey the scene and pick out “The Tree,” my 100-400mm zoom at 100mm let me reach out just enough to isolate that tree from the others. A very slow shutter speed of 13 sec. at f32 helps to soften the surface of the water. It was then just a matter of waiting on the color from the setting sun.
So, next time you have an image in mind but are unsure of the best location, give Google Earth a try. If nothing else it's a lot of fun and it’ll save you a ton of drive time!
Google Earth ScreenshotThis screenshot from Google Earth shows the location where the above photograph was taken.