The Piscene Rainforest: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail 45

Take a Moment to Listen to William Bartram’s Travels regarding the Broad and Oconee River:


Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee…

Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee comprise a Piscine Rainforest of sorts, wherein the diversity of terrain, from mountains, to hills, to plains, to coast, and the continual warmth of the waters have contrived to provide habitat for a diversity of fish that rivals the diversity of trees in the rainforests of the Amazon.

Turquoise Darters…

The deep slow moving waters of the Oconee by the Botanical Gardens in Athens Georgia contrasted with the rapids and shoals of the Broad allow for very different habitats for very different types of fish. Here is possibly the best picture I have of a Turquoise Darter, captured for a photograph out of a creek in Georgia. I took pictures of the fish for my Senior Portfolio in college, and the Turquoise Darter was the first fish I caught.


Turquoise Darter from Georgia Creek in Madison County.

Turquoise Darter from Georgia Creek in Madison County.

The Seasons of the River…

The seasons on the river are amazing. In my years of hiking the Botanical Gardens I have managed to capture the Oconee River in all the different Seasons.

November, the leaves have changed colors, but have yet to fall from the trees, and the brilliant blue skies overhead are reflected on the water.

Oconee at Botanical Gardens, November. From Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Oconee at Botanical Gardens, November. From Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail.

A Possible Perception

of the Oconee in November…

Oconee in November Possible Perception, built from the image above it.

Oconee in November Possible Perception, built from the image above it.

February, with no leaves on the trees at all, and the chill of the air is reflected in the water’s surface.

Oconee in February, Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Oconee in February, Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail.


April, where everything is beginning to bud and blossom, and this giant poplar on the river’s edge hangs over a river run red and muddy from all the spring’s rains.

Oconee in April, from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Oconee in April, from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

Finally, May, the river is still full and muddy-red from the rain, but the trees have grown lush and green, hanging over the waters, with a deep promise of summer.

Oconee in May, from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Oconee in May, from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail.

The Broad River, so called from it lying flat and wide in the land as you can see from the picture below, I haven’t had the pleasure of exploring through the seasons. However, I have had the pleasure of Kayaking down the river, my camera tied to the kayak bow in a dry-bag.

Broad, Flat and Wide, from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Broad, Flat and Wide, from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail.

While I didn’t capture any pyramidal hills of crawfish homes, or golden fish flying like lightening from the crawfish, I did capture the sunbeams dancing on the rushing water like miniature bolts of lightening.

Sun Dance on Broad River. from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Sun Dance on Broad River. from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail.

The rapids were at once fun and scary to run in the kayak. Below is a picture of one rapid, the sky reflected blue off the not-quite-transparent waters.

Broad River Rapids from Beth's Travels on the Bertram Trail

Broad River Rapids from Beth’s Travels on the Bertram Trail

And from that image, a Possible Perception of the Broad, below.

Possible Perception of the Broad River, from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Possible Perception of the Broad River, from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail.

*Opening Stanza of Reading from song “The Slacks” by Trip Shakespeare. 

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The Journey to Augusta: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail 44

Take a moment to listen to Bartram’s description of his Journey to Augusta:


Love Locks on the Savannah River

Love Locks on the Savannah River

A Massive Lake with Rain Predicted…

Rick and I set off for a weekend in Augusta, with rain predicted. We took his camper and found a beautiful campsite right on a massive lake, about 40 minutes outside of Augusta at Mistletoe State Park.  The first day we spent setting up camp and cooking dinner.


Rain on the Lake

Cataracts Ahead!

Saturday morning we took off for the Savannah Cataracts Park in North Augusta. To my dismay, things had changed a bit since Bartram wrote about the 4 to 5 foot falls. A dam was in place at the head of the cataracts, and between the mainland and the river there was a canal, so the river’s edge was actually along an island.

Crossing over at the head of the canal, Rick and I saw a sign that he and I at least were on the right track, a series of locks about a metal fence with lover’s names scratched into them. We didn’t have a lock of our own to leave, but having each other, I didn’t feel we needed to leave one.


Savannah River Cataracts

Occasional Break in the Brush…

With the rain threatening, we took a slow stroll down the island, between the river and the canal, slow because I kept stopping to take pictures. Often the riverside was steep and covered with trees and impenetrable vines and brush, completely obscuring the river and its cataracts. Every now and then there would be a break in the brush, and I would clamor down in my inappropriate shoes to get a shot of the river.


Tree Overhanging the Savannah

It was on one of these visits that Rick found the Appleseed bugs, a favorite insect of mine since childhood. Playing in the creeks of Greene County on my father’s farm in Penfield, I would capture these shiny black creatures, so resembling apple seeds, and shake them up in my hands, to be rewarded with the sweet scent of apples. Rick discovered a whole family reunion of Appleseed bugs, swarming in still water close to the bank. I photographed them at relative rest, and then had Rick jump on a floating dock, which shook the anchor chain right beside the Appleseed bugs, and then photographed them moving in high gear.


The Scent of Apples….


Appleseed Bugs in High Gear

Savannah Cataracts Possible Perception

I took the following picture on another treacherous descent to the river, with the spring leaves just out on this young tree, and the ripples in the water caused by the famous cataracts of the Savannah. Working with the image I created a Possible Perception from it, Savannah Cataracts Possible Perception.


The Photograph


Savannah Cataracts Possible Perception

Savannah Cataracts Possible Perception

The Metropolis Of Georgia!

But what about Augusta? The very metropolis of Georgia itself? The afternoon brought us to the city, and it brought the rain. We took a wet walk along the South Carolina side of the city, finding a wetland pond, and then driving to get closer to the river. It was here, on the South Carolina side, that I could really see this fine, navigable river, the one capable of supporting ships up to thirty tons. However, no ships were in sight, only pleasure boat docks, all the people being safe and dry indoors on this rainy Saturday. The riverside was quiet and peaceful in the rain, and the water silky in my camera lens, peppered with raindrops.


Deep and Wide, Peppered with Raindrops

The River Walk

Crossing back over, Rick and I had an early dinner and then climbed down the river walk in Augusta proper. From the top I was able to see the skyline of Augusta, this Georgia Metropolis, and photograph it. Cars are now the main mode of transportation in Augusta, the river lay silent and still in the soft rain.


River Walk

Below is the Possible Perception of Bartram’s Metropolis of Georgia, his prophecy from long before the crossing of railroads in Atlanta was conceived.

The Photograph

The Photograph

Possible Perception of the Metropolis of Georgia

Possible Perception of the Metropolis of Georgia

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Alligator Swarm Possible Perception

Facing down Mama Gator….

To photograph the picture for Alligator Swarm I had first to face down Mama Gator. I stood on the small watercraft with my camera pointed in her direction, and as she slid through the weeds towards me, I calmly snapped her picture. I don’t know if she experienced that as me blinking, that eye in my camera, or as me shooting in her general direction, but she choose that moment to dive beneath our small craft, to the collective gasps of my mother and my aunt.

Mama Gator by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Mama Gator by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Our guide has said Mama Gator had slammed up against the boat before, but this time she simply disappeared beneath the black waters, not to be seen again.  This left me free to take pictures of her offspring, who were all about us, as we had literally pulled the boat up into the alligator nest of young hatchlings.

I needed a swarm of alligators….

Since I was writing about the Alligator Swarm experienced by William Bartram in his Travels, I needed a swarm of alligators. However, I was lucky enough to have only my encounter with Mama Gator and not having lived through an actual alligator swarm. Thus I took one of my images of Baby Alligators and created a Possible Perception that imitated a swarm of alligators.


This is the original image of the Baby Alligator.  Although this wasn’t the closest picture of a baby alligator I got, I liked that it showed most of the alligator’s body, and I liked the patterns made by the floating vegetation and browning weeds around him.  I also liked the blackness of the water revealed by his motion.

Alligator Swarm 6065 by Beth Thompson: Possible Perception Series

This is the Alligator Swarm Possible Perception I created from the original. The black water outlines a center star shape created by the floating vegetation. The baby alligator’s body is almost a deep blue, possibly from being wet and reflecting the sky. The drying weeds create a chain around the star shape that the body of the alligator crosses.

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Tulip Tree Possible Perception

A Lifetime in Athens, GA….

I have lived in Athens all my life, but I never explored Bishop Park until I moved into a condo right across the street. At first, Bishop Park seemed like little more than some tennis courts, basketball courts, a pool and a playground. It was for the team-sports inclined, or for moms with kids, not for the solitary landscape photographer that I am.
Yet I began to take walks through Bishop Park. And I began to discover its charms. While there is plenty there for the sports-inclined, I also discovered so much for the nature-inclined too. A grove of ancient holly bushes, dark and mysterious grows there. A weeping cedar tree, of the likes of which I have never seen has a home there. A grove of crept myrtle flourishes there, which I have never caught blooming but am continually fascinated by the smooth bark on their limbs.

The Bradford Pear in March….


One March, I decided to photograph the Bradford Pear Trees in the parking lot, which were in full bloom. Exploring further with my camera I soon came across a cherry tree in full blossom. But I wasn’t amazed, awed, and stunned until I discovered this Tulip Tree, reaching for the heavens with its limbs, covered in these stunning pink blossoms against a blue sky. I think it was then that I realized that Bishop Park, in addition to all else I have mentioned about it, also houses an arboretum of the most amazing trees.

Amazing Kaleidoscopes by Japanese Photographer/ Architect….

May found me at my computer, doing research on kaleidoscopic photographs online. I found amazing city-scapes by a Japanese photographer/architect, Palla, and immediately challenged myself to recreate his technique. While I may have failed at that, I quickly discovered a new technique of my own for creating abstract photographs from my work. I began with a city scene, driving across a bridge in Charleston while visiting a friend. Then I moved on to work with the new technique and my own subject matter, landscapes and nature.
Tulip Tree Possible Perception was the first highly successful piece of the new series, and made the cut when I prepared my portfolio for The Atlanta Celebrates Photography Portfolio Review the following October. At the encouragement of the museum curators and New York City gallery owners who viewed my portfolio, I plunged into the new series, which now contains more than 60 pieces.

Here is the image I took that resulted in Tulip Tree, of a Saucer Magnolia in full bloom.


And here is Tulip Tree Possible Perception.

Tulip Tree Possible Perception 6003 by Beth Thompson (actually a saucer magnolia)

Tulip Tree Possible Perception 6003 by Beth Thompson (actually a saucer magnolia)

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Idealized Tree


Idealized Tree

I recently had a conversation with someone who wants a large image of a tree to go over her dining table, in black and white. I hope she checks my website, because this image immediately came to mind as a possible work of art to meet her needs.

Achieving Perfect Symmetry…

Taken at Bishop Park, I cropped out part of the image and then mirrored the image. This created a tree that is perfectly symmetrical. No such tree actually exists in nature, they are all so wonderfully asymmetrical. But I like the dream of perfection, of symmetry, there is something comforting about perfect symmetry, something that comforts me.

Perfect Objects….

Its sort of like Plato’s idea that there exists, for every object, and perfect and idealized object out there somewhere. While I don’t actually agree with this philosophy, I think diversity is actually the true ideal, I really like playing with the idea that for every actual tree there is an idealized version that exists on another plane.

Perfection Now!

But then again, doesn’t that put the pressure on? To live up to the idealized tree, or worse, the idealized Beth that exists on another plane? Where as embracing uniqueness, diversity, differences, allows me to be myself, to relax into imperfection, and stop striving to be so perfect, to live up to the idealized Beth on that other plane of reality, and realize that this tree, this person, this time, is perfect exactly the way it is.

Not sure I would have said all that had I not been playing around with Plato and his ideals, now would I?


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