This morning I woke up at 5:00 a.m. and headed out to the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve in hopes of finding Venus' Fly Traps in the 9300 acre preserve. When I arrived, the sun was just rising up and a beautiful mist had settled over one of the pocosins that I've spent a lot of time exploring in the past. I was tempted to head straight for the pitcher plants and start shooting but decided to stick to my original plan and began looking for sphagnum filled sandy ditches as outlined in Porcher and Raynor's "Guide to the Wildflowers of South Carolina." After about twenty minutes and a little prayer I noticed an unfamiliar patch of white flowers about ten feet from where I was standing. Thinking that they were Carolina Grass-of-Parnassus, I walked over and was amazed to see about 20-30 Venus' Fly Traps at the base of the long stalked flowers. By discovering the fly traps I fulfilled a life-long dream of witnessing these amazing plants in the wild. After my initial euphoria wore of I began to wonder exactly how I might photograph such an iconic and much publicized species. This is where the ethics part came in.
Venus' Fly Traps are a very small species of plant. The specimens that I encountered were only about 3-5 inches high (without the flower) and scattered among wire grass and other plants. The group consisted of a dense center population that radiated outwards with surrounding smaller individuals. As a result, this all made photographing any of the plants very difficult. I have been fortunate enough to discover several 'rare' species in the field and each time the event has been accompanied by a sense of anxiety due to the pressure to make a great image and not destroy the population at the same time. After studying the group of fly traps for some time I decided that it might be very difficult to make any kind of special photo unless I was willing to risk damaging some of the surrounding plants –which I was not– so instead I decided to focus on some of the smaller, outlying plants. As a nature photographer, it is often very easy to get caught up in the moment and lose sight of what it is that you actually photographing. However, no photographic opportunity justifies the destruction of a particular subject. In the end, I am happy with my images and I feel elated to have finally seen such an amazing plant in a place that it has grown for millions of years.