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Into The Cypress Swamps

A quest for wilderness

A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. That’s probably what’s driving internet users to upload and share almost two billion photographs per day on social media. You name it, and chances are that we've seen it on Facebook. Unfortunately, that also applies to landscape photography. Images from destinations that were once exotic are now commonplace, and it almost seems that there are no places left on this planet that have not yet been photographed to death. Or are there? That was exactly the question we asked ourselves two years ago, and you'll be pleased to know that our answer was: yes, there are still some spectacular spots to be found - you just have to put in a little more effort.

Interestingly, you don't have to travel to some war-torn country in the Middle East to get to those original locations, as we found some in the United States: the swamps of Louisiana and Texas. We are excited to invite you to join the world's first cypress swamps photo tour.

Miles and miles of wilderness, and no other photographers in sight.

Louisiana and Texas

The Atchafalaya Basin is the largest wetland and swamp in the United States, and one of the places that we will visit on this trip. Located in south central Louisiana, it is a combination of wetlands and river delta area where the Atchafalaya River and the Gulf of Mexico converge. Best known for its iconic cypress-tupelo swamps, at 260,000 acres (110,000 ha), this block of forest represents the largest remaining contiguous tract of coastal cypress in the US. And it's those awesome cypress trees that this trip is all about.

We will also visit several locations in the world's largest cypress forest in Texas. Apart from the obvious cypress trees we will also get the opportunity to photograph some of the local birdlife, such as the photogenic great egret. Another reason to bring a telelens on this trip is that since 1965 the area has had hundreds of alleged Bigfoot sightings according to the North American Wood Ape Conservancy (NAWAC), as reported in the Travel Channel 2006 documentary Bigfoot.

We won't have to tell you how beautiful these swamps are - all you have to do is look at the pictures in this document. But your question probably is: how come there are so few photographs of these swamps around? Well, that's because of that extra effort we mentioned earlier. There are no roads in the swamps and you can't hike there: you have to use a kayak. This simple fact is what saved this place from turning into the next Iceland. On most days we will be the only kayaks around and we'll have the entire place to ourselves.

We made a small video impression of this tour. Please check it out by clicking the button above.

260,000 acres of pure magic

Mindset

For those of you who have traveled with us before: this is a completely different kind of trip. We will be on the water for at least 8 hours a day, actively paddling. You don't need to be a trained athlete, but you need to like the physical activity. The more you paddle, the more places you will be able to visit and photograph - it's as simple as that. In terms of the weather: we're approaching winter so the days are getting shorter and colder. We have experienced hot t-shirt days as well as freezing days on the same trip, so you have to be prepared for both. We've had rain, sun and fog, sometimes all on the same day. But one thing is for sure: we're gonna go out regardless of the weather, unless it's raining cats and dogs.

This is not a tour where we will move as a group, as we would most likely be in each others way. Because of this, you will very likely be paddling by yourself at times, also in the dark. Therefore it will help if you are a bit adventurous. We have discovered great smartphone apps to help you find your way back to our launch spots, and we will provide you with a map of the area. But we will not always be around to help you. Paddling by yourself (or in a small group) will actually be one of the things that you will appreciate most. Gliding in silence through the magical landscape is something that you will always remember. Even if you do not take a single photograph, just being where you are will leave you speechless.

Also, most of the locations are underdeveloped in terms of tourism, and therefore don't have a lot to offer in terms of accommodation and food. We have put in a lot of effort to get you the best there is or even better, but don't expect anything fancy. You will enjoy this tour most if you have a flexible mindset.

Winner in the Wildlife Photographer Of The Year Awards.

Kayaks and logistics

A kayak is essential for getting around. Most people don't have one, so we will take care of that. We will rent a kayak for you, paddles and a life vest, as well as a kayak carrier. This is all included in the tour fee.

For logistical reasons and for maximum flexibility, we have decided that everyone drives their own car. This means that you can return to base whenever you feel like it, or that you can go to the location earlier. Car rental is not included in the tour fee, so you can choose a car to your liking.

If you travel by yourself, you won't need to get a car with a roof rack, as the kayak carrier provided will be very simple. But if you want to mount two kayaks on top of your roof, you need to make sure your car is fitted with a roof rack, so the provided kayak carriers can be mounted on that. You will receive detailed instructions for this later. A car can have no more than 2 people in it, as the kayak carriers hold a maximum of 2 kayaks.

Another thing to consider is that you have to be able to lift your kayak unto the roof of your car. The average kayak weighs around 66lbs. (30kg), and the higher the roof of your car, the more difficult it will be to lift it up there. Most of the time there will be someone around to help you, but there may not be. For this reason, it's not a bad idea to share a vehicle with someone else and paddle together. Please let us know if you would like to team up with another guest.

Once we're at the location, we will give you detailed instructions on how to get in and out of a kayak, and other do's and don'ts.

One of the two portfolios that won Marsel the overall title Travel Photographer Of The Year 2015.

Swamp photography

Most of our photography will be done either handheld from the kayak, or while standing in the water. As a landscape photographer you're used to using a tripod whenever possible, but in the swamp that's not always as easy as you may think. More often than not, the water is simply too deep to be able to put your tripod in there, or the bottom is so muddy that your tripod simply sinks in too much. And chances are that once you've found a good spot for your tripod, it's not the perfect spot for your composition. This is why you will take most of your shots handheld, just like the majority of the images in this document.

But sometimes the water is shallow, and you could actually go out and set up your tripod. If you would like to do that, then you will need to get yourself a pair of waders. They don't need to be fancy, just make sure they're nice and high. To slide out of a kayak into chest deep water without donating all your gear to the swamp gods, and to get back in again, requires a certain technique that we will show you once we are there. We will send you a detailed packing list later.

Most of the days we will rise very early to be out on the water well before sunrise. It will still be dark, so you need to bring a good headlight to see where you're going. We will stay out on the water for as long as we like, mostly depending on the conditions. We've been out as short as two hours and as long as eight. After the morning session we will drive back to base where we will have lunch, and where we'll do image reviews or just relax. Second half of the afternoon we will go out again until just after sunset. Then we'll drive back to base again to have dinner.

The scenery and the silence are therapeutic

Accommodation & food

The first night in Houston we will stay in a comfortable hotel near the airport. We will start the tour with a welcome dinner at one of our favourite restaurants.

The next day we will pick up our kayaks and drive to our first shooting location in Texas. The level of accommodation and food in this region is very undeveloped. This means that there are no hotels or guesthouses large enough to hold our entire group, and that most of what's available is beyond basic. That is why we have invested a lot of time in scouting for accommodation, and we've been able to select several well appointed cabins as well as a larger house, to use as a base for our kayak adventures. Depending on the amount of single and double rooms booked for this tour, you will be appointed either a cabin or a room in the large house. We have selected a few places in the area where we can have lunch or dinner, but please do not expect much.

After 4 nights in Texas, we will drive to Louisiana. Here we will stay in a convenient hotel that has several restaurants. It will be quite a change from the small scaled accommodation in Texas, but it solves a lot practical issues (like food) and other creature comforts. There is also a conference room that we will use for image reviews, and you can use it as your private 'office' during the day, to work on your images.

On our last day we'll have an early morning shoot, and after that we'll drive straight back to Houston. After returning your kayaks there, you can either fly back home from Houston in the evening, or take a flight the next day (hotel in Houston is not included in the tour fee).

Photography is done from your kayak or while standing in the water.

Details

Tour dates 2019:

7 - 16 November 2019 - FULL

Tour leaders: Marsel van Oosten and Daniella Sibbing

Fee 5,250 USD (single supplement 850 USD) from Houston, USA

Deposit: 1,500 USD

Group size: 8 participants

Photography level: all experience levels (non-photographing partners will also enjoy this tour)

Fitness level: moderate

It's not the dorsal fin of a Stegosaurus, but part of the tree - the so-called Cypress knees.

Reservations

This is a unique tour, so we expect it to fill very fast. If you're interested, please don't hesitate and make a reservation now.

Standing up in kayak is probably not a good idea, but it can be done.
The first Cypress Swamps photo tour in the world

What's included

  • kayak rental, paddles and life vest
  • kayak carrier for your car
  • kayak instructions
  • all accommodation
  • all meals and drinks
  • all park fees & kayak launch fees
  • daily briefings
  • photographic instructions
  • in the field tips & tricks
  • image reviews
  • loads of fun
Ever wondered why they call it the Blue Hour?

And what's not

  • airfares
  • car rental
  • roof rack (we can rent you one, if you do not have one)
  • gasoline
  • waders
  • personal items
  • insurances and visa
  • tips and gratuities
This could be a location from Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.

Sworn to secrecy

It's pretty amazing that so few photographers have visited these jaw-dropping locations, and we would very much like to keep it that way. For this reason we ask each participant to not share any of the locations that we will visit on this trip. On numerous occasions we have seen how social media and websites such as 500px.com can turn a quiet, unspoilt location into a place crawling with photographers in less than a year. We want to prevent that from happening to these locations at all cost.

From the moment you will post your first images from this trip on the internet, you will start receiving emails from people who want to know where you took your shots and what the exact locations are. Please don't tell them. As a matter of fact, we are so serious about this, that we will let you sign a non-disclosure agreement, wherein you promise to not share any location information from this trip with other people. If you don't want to sign this agreement, then you can not join this tour.

We hope that you have enjoyed reading through this online brochure and that you'll join us in the swamps. We'd love to show you around!

All photographs ©Marsel van Oosten & Daniella Sibbing, squiver.com

Created By
Marsel van Oosten
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Credits:

All photographs ©Marsel van Oosten and Daniella Sibbing

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