Some day, C.C. Lockwood may run out of things to photograph in his adopted state. “Louisiana Wild” is the latest reason to be glad he hasn’t, yet.
The acclaimed nature photographer’s wandering eye isn’t limited to the state’s boundaries, but since arriving at LSU from Fort Smith, Arkansas, in the late 1960s, he has developed a special affinity for showcasing Louisiana. His interest has connected him with those in the nonprofit world dedicated to preserving its natural legacy, including Keith Ouchley, The Nature Conservancy’s state director. Lockwood was aware of TNC’s efforts to ensure, through buying or creating agreements with land-owners, that important habitats and beautiful vistas would remain.
That led Lockwood, who says he always has four or five book ideas buzzing around in his brain, to another one in early 2013. He wanted to go to each of the more than 60 Nature Conservancy sites across the state and take pictures. It didn’t take long for Ouchley to say yes, for LSU Press to agree to publish and for Lockwood to get started.
“I met with all their scientists, biologists, botanists,” Lockwood said. “They’ve got a lot of land.”
And it is all over the state.
Caddo Black Bayou, he noted, is a mile from the Texas and Arkansas borders. Lafitte Woods is in southern Jefferson Parish, along the coast. In between are grasslands and pine forests, cypress swamps, springs, lakes and all manner of flora and fauna.
Lockwood, 66, visited each one, some of them several times, over changing seasons in a quest for the perfect light, the most appealing color of foliage. He even went to some of the smallest, most obscure and least accessible. (Some of the properties are on private land and are not available to the public.) That included Schoolhouse Springs, a 30-acre tract in Jackson Parish.
“I was determined to go to all of them,” Lockwood said. “They said, ‘Don’t go there. They’ve got a cool little spring. We bought that for some rare cadis flies that are only known in a couple of places in Louisiana, which are not interesting photographically.’ But I said I’m going.”
So, armed with digital and paper maps, Lockwood and his wife, Sue, made the drive from their West Feliciana Parish home, then struggled on foot through a barricade of hurricane-felled trees until they broke through to their destination.
“We spent about four hours trying to find the spring, and it was just crystal clear water bubbling out of the ground,” he said. “You could just drink it. It’s beautiful.”
He took Sue along for many of the expeditions, and she helped him find some of his shots, including an osprey lunching on a sac-au-lait while perched on a tree at the Cypress Island Preserve at Lake Martin near Breaux Bridge. Sometimes, scientists accompany him, providing information. Lots of information.
“They know every single thing. It’s just unbelievable,” Lockwood said. “More has already come in and out of my brain since (beginning) this book.”
What has gone into the book are 220 photos, along with chapters in which Lockwood gives a very personal description of each place, his history with it and his visits to research the book. The photos include all manner of animal life — insects, otters, birds, baby deer and snakes — and plant life up close and panoramic views.
While at Lake Martin, his eye was drawn to beads of water atop an American lotus. Initially, his eye is drawn to the plant, but closer inspection produces a photo showing tiny life within the drop, an ecosystem in miniature. That made it into the book.
The other photos in “Louisiana Wild” (LSU Press, $48) show something much larger and a far more diverse, both the beauty of the state and efforts to maintain it. Those efforts include fire, which keeps the dwindling long-leaf pine forests healthy, and traps, used to study the Louisiana pine snake, North America’s rarest.
Lockwood’s tool — a camera — is his own contribution to the cause. In addition to what his photo quests contribute to preservation, Lockwood gets his own benefits.
“Keith Ouchley, says, ‘Any day in my knee boots is a good day,’ ” Lockwood said. “Same for me, but any day in a boat is good for me — canoe, houseboat, bateau or a big boat going out to … the oil rigs. That’s my motto.”