I like to photograph osprey in a place called Tomahawk Creek Flooding. It's a mysterious, pensive place. There are a lot of dead trees standing and floating in the water. The day starts with a fog filled morning of shapes and sounds on the edge of awareness. Imagination fills in the details.

Osprey in flight, Tomahawk Creek Flooding, Michigan.

As the sun rises the fog slowly burns off and I can see the beavers, osprey, eagles, loons, jumping fish, ducks and deer that the mist hid. The osprey like to nest in the dead trees surrounded by water. In the early morning light I see both osprey and swallows mating. I make impressionistic motion blur images that reflect the essence of the morning, capturing shapes and themes, letting imagination fill in the rest. My mind is filled with the magic of life beginning and life continuing.

Mating Tree Swallows, Tomahawk Creek Flooding, Michigan.

During the day I shoot video, trying to capture interactions of osprey on nest. Paddling the kayak, I glide low on the water between the grey skeletons of trees. Views open and close in the gaps between trees and floating logs. I struggle to control the video and the kayak at the same time.

At the end of a very long but good day I come off the water, sunburned and hungry, wanting nothing more than to grab a quick bite to eat and to curl up in a sleeping bag. In my rush I almost miss a spectacular sunset.

Sunset, Tomahawk Creek Flooding, Michigan. The cloud in the center of the image had almost a creamy texture to it.

The sun is actually down already when I make the image above. All of the color comes from light reflected off the clouds at the horizon.

I make a couple of very quick images of the sunset. The black flies are the worse that I have ever seen. There must be a hatch coming off the water at that very moment. I've heard that sometimes certain animals, especially caribou on the tundra, can be driven insane by the torment of the black flies. I believe it. I suppress an almost overwhelming urge to run and escape.

But as I look at the light I tell myself that whatever discomfort there is it will only last for a little while and that if I'm going to make an image I needed to do it right. I force myself to get the correct equipment out of my camera bag, and to slow down.

I make a panorama image using a long focal length to isolate the most intense color. The sunset covers maybe 60 degrees of the sky and in addition to the color along the horizon there are faint streaks of pink rays reaching up.

Sunset, Tomahawk Creek Flooding, Michigan. Panorama isolating the most intense light along the horizon.

By the time I finish the last panorama the black flies are everywhere, including my ears, eyes and nose. I am actually concerned that they might show up in the photo. I finish the last image, put my gear away and run into the truck. I get my composure back, grab my sleeping bag and a tarp and walk in-land to call it a day. Away from the water it isn't nearly as bad. I pull my head into the bag like a turtle and hide any exposed skin and then nod off.

In the end I'm glad that I stuck it out to make the image. The bugs are long gone, but the images are here to stay.

Charles St. Charles

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