Friday, February 14, 2014

Thursday 2/13/14 pluff mud

Cole's Island Creek;SC

     People often ask me for advice on taking photographs.  My standard response is that there are four basic rules.  1 – Remember your camera.  2 – Remember to put the memory card in your camera.  3.  Remember to have a charged battery with you.  4.  Show up.  Well, today I can add a fifth rule to the list.  Avoid plough mud.

     Plough mud is the area of land that the tide expands over in the tidal estuaries.  Twice a day it is covered with incoming sea water, and twice a day it is exposed to the air to dry.  Sometimes these areas are sandy, but other times they are a gooey, sticky muck that has developed from years of decomposing marine life and plant matter.  It has a bit of a pungent, decaying sea life smell to it, and it is a brown so deep in color that it appears black.

     I have never been in quick-sand, but plough mud has to be pretty close to it.  Often you see a shot alongside the water that you want to get – but you need just a little bit more angle to catch the light coming over the water.  The photograph above for example.  So you gingerly step out onto the mud, and it seems to hold just fine.  Another step, another step and it is still holding.  Just another few feet and the shot will be great.

     No sooner do you start shooting the shots than you get this sinking feeling – literally you get a sinking feeling.  Well, no big deal, you are just going to be there a few seconds.  The next thing you know the mud is above your ankles and you need to extract yourself.  So you pull the foot furthest from the bank out of the mud, and off comes your shoe, buried about six inches in the mud.  But by putting all your weight on the other foot to try to get some leverage, that foot is eight inches in the mud.  Camera wildly swinging about your neck, you are hesitant to get your pants dirty, but you notice they already have a four inch ring of mud at the base.

     So you try to get on one knee and extract the other foot, which is now ten inches deep.  Your foot finally slips out of the shoe and you promptly fall over on your shoulder, grabbing wildly at the camera so the lens doesn't smash on the ground.  So now you have two shoes buried in the mud and you are still five steps from solid ground.  Crawling seems the only option, and of course you have to catch your balance, so the hand not protecting the camera is now covered in plough mud up to the elbow.  Finally you make the bank, and find out why the marsh grass is named Spartina Grass – it is named after the Spartans of ancient because it is so tough.  

     So now you are covered in mud that is hovering just above freezing, but your camera is safely on land.  Now you just need a branch or a board to crawl out on to get your shoes back out of the mud.  For a moment you think maybe you will just come back later and get them, but then you remember the tide is coming back in.  An internal debate rages about the relative value of the shoes, but you realize that you have a long way to walk back through the woods to get to another pair of shoes.  So now the piling of branches and boards ensues – you get the picture.  Or maybe you don't get the picture - depends on if you actually took the shot before you fully realized your predicament. 

     Suffice it to say that avoiding plough mud, regardless of the potential of the shot, is another rule for the photographer that wants a career consisting of more than one photograph.  Or a good rule for anyone who doesn't have an unlimited supply of shoes.

     Well, it has been years since I have used a dial-up connection - photographs are painfully slow.  By Sunday I will be back where I can get reliable internet, but will do my best to keep posting in the meanwhile.  The moon is almost full, so maybe the extra high tides will allow me a good shot or two.

Have a great Friday !!

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