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Alligators & Marshmallows

When I originally started this journey, when it was just an idea, I never thought I would meet an alligator up close.

I’ve always been kind of scared of them because I’ve seen how powerful their jaws were, how many teeth they had, and how prehistoric they look. I’ve even seen footage of giant alligators grabbing little children standing on the shore and dragging them into the water.

What a way to go!

So, when our boat captain said ”Please keep your hands inside the rails” I knew I would, but I couldn’t help looking down at the row of passengers and looking at all the little children sitting on their parent’s laps and visualizing them being chomped and bitten into pieces by the giant, thrashing alligator as it pulled them under the water to the screams of their helpless, horrified parents.

It all started months ago as a road trip down through the south with the intention of taking pictures of the “Forgotten America” – the one that has vanished and fallen into the shadows and ditches along the small backroads of the south. My old friend Chris went with me to share the driving duties. He had helped me out as an assistant on several shoots and adventures in the past.

We’d been driving for several days and had visited Nashville, Memphis (Yes, we took the tour of Graceland), and New Orleans in the 90-degree heat and daily afternoon downpours. We were holed up in a boutique motel on St. Charles Street in the French Quarter when a brochure in the motel office caught my eye – “Swamp Tours of Honey Island Swamp”.

I’d never seen a swamp before, except in the movie “Swamp Thing” and I thought I might want to, so the next day we drove out to the little town of Slidell, Louisiana, and booked passage on the afternoon boat.

There were probably twenty other folks on the boat, mainly families with children, and Chris and I sat in the back, next to the captain. I had explained in the office to him that I was a photographer and wanted to try and get some closeups of alligators if he could find them, and he said ‘Sure, no problem. You boys just get on the boat first and sit in the back next to where I sit. That way I can maneuver the boat close to the alligators so you can get a real closeup.”

The alligator in my photo posted here was about 14 feet long and was one of the biggest ones we saw. He struck me as a very beautiful creature, almost from another time, like he’d been around since before ‘man’ – almost prehistoric. He glided up silently because he knew our boat held food for him.

The captain of the boat had brought along a bag of marshmallows which he liberally threw out on the water. The gators liked them, knew they were coming when they heard our outboard and magically appeared from all over the swamp to scoop them up. He explained that they weren’t bad for them, being mostly air and they floated well. He passed the bag around and we all got to feed the ‘gators.

At this point, about eight really big gators were all very close to the boat and when the biggest one got within a foot or so of me I took the shot you see here. I took the photo with a Nikon Z7 with the Nikor 24-200 Zoom lens @ f7.1 at 1/800 of a second, ISO 320 as a large jpeg.

None of the children fell into the water that day, we returned safely to the dock and the ‘gators took their afternoon naps, waiting patiently for the next boat full of marshmallows.

If you find yourself down in that area I highly recommend the lovely folks at:

Dr. Paul Wagner’s HONEY ISLAND SWAMP TOURS. LLC, 41490 Crawford Landing, Slidell, LA. 70461 Tel: (985)641-1769

Just be sure and Keep Your hands inside the Railing!

Please be sure and visit my storefront at:

https://photoartpavilion.com/artist/harold-naideau/

Harold Naideau

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