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Wipe Out! Grand Isle, LA

I got the chance to make the 2 hour drive south to Grand Isle, LA this past 4th of July. Grand Isle is a premier birding hotspot and barrier island in south east Louisiana. Reddish Egrets, Magnificent Frigate Birds, Boobys, and many other harder to find birds of the Gulf Coast can be seen on any normal visit to the island. The plan was to make a 1/2 mile paddle across the barataria pass shipping passage to Isle Grande Terre, a neighboring barrier island to Grand Isle. I would shoot birds and marine life along the way, then shoot landscapes and set up camp for the night. We made the 1/2 paddle with our kayaks loaded down with camping gear and 3 foot swells, dolphins, and shrimping boats all around us.

Walking the 3 mile stretch of beach presented some opportunities for landscapes anchored by wildflowers.

At this point the bugs and gnats were getting pretty hot, so we decided to set up camp on the beach as soon as possible. We set up the tent and hunkered down for the night with the sound of ships crossing the channel and dolphins hunting along the shore. I came back out once a couple of hours of night passed to shoot some tent scenes with the stars above. There were intermittent clouds but night photography was still pretty good overall. Before returning to the tent I realized that the tide was up the beach about 2 feet higher than when we went to sleep. The moon was just coming up so I knew we had at least another foot of tide to follow – it stopped about 2 feet from the tent door when it was at maximum. Yikes!

We had overcast skies in the morning, and we knew how to read the portents of heavy weather coming our way. We broke down the site and loaded down the boats to make the paddle back to the main island. The seas were about right at 3 feet like the day before and we took off across the passage. Here is where the kicker comes. On the way back we decided to make our landing on the beach side of Grand Isle, as opposed to going through the rock heavy lagoon that we left out of the day before (we had to get in and out of our boats to cross some of the jetties). Upon coming within 100 yards of the beach we realized that the 3 foot swells where transforming in to some pretty formidable breakers on shore. We checked our straps and started paddling hard to surf the breakers in. Normally this wouldn’t be such a crazy idea but our boats were loaded down with camping gear and we were pushing the capacity they could hold. Coming in fast on a big wave, we looked like we were in the clear until the swell coming back out to sea pulled our loaded down boats back with it and the breaker behind us caused the vessels to nose dive into the retreating swell we had rode in on. We were ok, we dragged our swamped boats and gear up onto the beach ready to go back home. There had been a close call though, apparently the dry bag that my camera gear was in wasn’t rolled tight enough! Water seeped through the rolled plastic and into the bottom of the bag. Luckily, nothing was seriously damaged but one of my lens’s auto focus system was not working. It took about a week for the lens to dry out before the electronics would respond to the camera. It was a close call, and when making trips with your expensive gear,  I cant recommend enough that triple checking is key. Although the dry bag was  closed, it wasn’t rolled tightly enough, and that gear could have been easily completely destroyed. Overall, it made for an exciting 4th of July and I am pretty satisfied with images I came back with. mtc…
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