Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Photographing Carolina Bays

Last year I began making photographs in one of the most unique and biologically rich preserves in South Carolina: The Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve in Horry County, near Conway, SC. This is a very long name for a sprawling 9300 preserve that is packed with orchids, irises and a variety of other rare and extremely photogenic plant and animal species including the world famous Venus' Fly Trap. The LOBHP contains several 'Carolina Bays' which are mysterious elliptical depressions that range from three acres to over a mile in length.

Carolina Bays were really not discovered until 1933 when an aerial photographic survey was conducted over the Carolinas and Georgia. Two University of Oklahoma professors –Doctors Melton and Schriever– observed the images and were the first to really document the number of bays. Although they range from New Jersey to Florida, the bays are primarily found in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. Because of the unique elliptical shape of the bays and the fact that they are all rimmed with sand banks on their southeastern edges, many scientists believe that they were formed by asteroids. Others researchers tend to believe that erosion led to their creation.

When I visit the bays I try to arrive as early as possible to beat the harsh sun and wind that makes photographing the many orchids and pitcher-plants extremely difficult. Early morning is also a great time to spot animals as the preserves are brimming with wildlife including black bears, bobcats and abundant bird-life. LOBHP is mainly composed of dense evergreen shrub bogs (known as pocosins) and long leaf pine savannas. These moist, open areas are easier to access for photography and I have spent many visits in an area smaller than an acre.

I will be visiting the preserve again in a few days and am really looking forward to exploring deeper into the pocosins and surrounding ecotones in hope of photographing venus-fly traps. The preserve can be intimidating if you don't know where you're going (and I really don't) so a lot of looking around is required. However, I never go home without a few really nice images and each time I visit I am able to zero-in of where the best places to explore are. I'll let you know what turns up!



Ted M. said...

Love the picture of the pitcher plants - I would love to see something like that.

clay bolt said...


It is so incredible. We have a couple of different different species of pitcher plants where I live but they are very isolated into small "cataract bogs" or fens. At this particular preserve it can be pitchers as far as the eye can see.