April 2, 2008 Caddo Lake State Park near Uncertain, Texas
This is part of my weblog documenting my travels and photography. I am primarily a nature photographer, and you can see more of my work at http://www.leerentz.com.
On a recommendation from a fellow photographer, after the Bayou City Arts Festival in Houston I drove north to camp at Caddo Lake State Park along Big Cypress Bayou. I didn’t know what to expect here, but was thrilled with the setting—a bayou with Spanish Moss thickly draped upon old Baldcypress trees. The Old South come to life in a corner of northern Texas.
I was especially intrigued by all the old log cabins in this state park, and when I asked at the desk, the attendant confirmed that they were constructed by the CCC. I happened to know what the CCC was, but another visitor at the desk did not, so I gave him a three sentence synopsis of its history. Which I’ll also give you, or maybe I’ll make it a bit longer just for you, my dear reader. The CCC stands for the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was created in 1933 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. The CCC was a vital response to the devastating human toll of the Great Depression, during which family savings were wiped out, homes foreclosed on, and jobs lost in a grinding time of bare survival for many, many Americans. This program put young men to work in every state: planting trees, preventing soil erosion, and building the infrastructure for parks. The young men worked in well-disciplined crews for eight hours a day, five days a week, and earned wages of about $30 per week, of which $25 was to be sent home to help support their struggling families. Evenings were spent in educational classes and sports. The CCC ended in the early part of World War II as the nation’s priorities shifted from beating the Depression to winning the War. The “CCC boys” left a legacy of beautiful, rustic buildings in parks all over America—buildings that used logs and stones to create our shared sense of what a park building should look like. And what a fine tribute the buildings of Caddo Lake State Park are to the young people who built them in a tough era!
During my two days at Caddo Lake, I spent a lot of time photographing the old CCC cabins and pavilion—both in living digital color and on traditional black-and-white infrared film (which I have not yet developed but will soon). The infrared film turns foliage a ghostly white, lending a mystic atmosphere to the photograph, which I think is particularly suited to the historic structures. Infrared light is a different range of wavelengths than visible light, and it actually focuses at a different point, so I have to adjust the focus on each exposure. I also use a very deep red, nearly opaque filter for this film. I’ll post the results when I can.
I am also a casual birdwatcher, not too serious about it because intense concentration on birds would mean less concentration on photography. But I did note the following special birds in the Baldcypress swamp: Prothonotary Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Wood Duck, and Pileated Woodpecker.
This would be a great park for canoeing, and there are canoes for rent. Next time. Word has it that campers can canoe to a place and purchase a few pounds of cooked crawfish to bring back for supper. Sounds delicious.
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