Many photographers bristle at the quote from Ansel Adams, “A good photograph is knowing where to stand” but I find it to be true more often than not. Fortune presented me with a great opportunity for a photo and I blew it because I just wasn’t in the right spot. It is not everyday that you find yourself all alone on top of a crushed-rock levee in the middle the swollen Morganza Watershed and come across what remains of a burning house. But, there I was and I missed the shot because my feet were just not cooperating. Later, I did happen to frame the shot the way I would have liked with my iPhone but that just goes to show that all the fancy camera gear in the world can’t make up for geography.
I had left my camera battery charger in a hotel room in New Orleans a few weeks ago so I was being kind of careful with how I used what was left of my battery. It has also been infernally hot. As a result, I have not been getting out and taking the photos I would have liked of all this high water. So, after a new charger arrived in the mail I headed out on Sunday and drove for about 6 hours through much of the effected area. It was still hot but the pictures where out there and I wanted to try to get some.
I didn’t get any photos of National Guard troops frantically sandbagging a hospital or shots of flooded houses. But, I did get to spend some time on the back roads of upper-Acadiana, soaking up the mood that is hanging over that threatened place as it seems to slowly let out its breath. The river is receding in small increments, the worst is likely behind us and, barring some new catastrophe, wide-spread disaster has apparently been avoided. That said, you can see the effect of 8 million cubic feet of water sweeping past a place every second. Everything is sodden and out of step. Rabbits, cows, turtles, alligators, fire ants—everything is up and out of its normal habitat. This is familiar Louisiana in summer, just crammed onto the narrow green line of high ground that separates rivers and swamps, that tries to beat back the advances of nature with the actions of cranes and dredges.
I went out yesterday without any specific destination in mind other than to go as far as the blacktop would take me and then try to go further. What I found was an ancient church, an armored personnel carrier stuffed with sandbags, dead fish and the remains of a house that had burned through the previous night. If only I had taken the old sage of photography’s advice and known where to stand. And maybe have brought along my 50mm lens. Oh well, think of this as a story in pictures of the high water south of the Morganza Spillway and north of Highway 190 (also known as the road to Opelousas).