Officially I was in Charleston last month to attend a two day photography conference. Unofficially I was there because it makes a nice stop when driving between Tampa, FL & Greenville, SC – where our kids are – and because I’ve been wanting to photograph Charleston’s low country for some time.

First stop was Edisto Beach at sunset. Great afterglow.

Crazy but it was not the most beautiful scene of the day. As I was driving toward the beach during the golden hour, fog and light fell on the low country marshes in an indescribably beautiful way. There was no safe place to pull over to photograph, but the scene is one I’ll never forget.

The next morning I skipped the conference’s keynote address so I could photograph the Angel Tree. Whether 400-500 or 1500 years old (experts disagree), it’s unquestionably a very old and beautiful live oak on Johns Island, just outside of Charleston. Some say it’s the oldest living tree east of the Rockies.

Angel Tree, Johns Island, South Carolina

Its sprawling limbs and gnarly trunk resemble something a movie producer would create, but it comes with a caveat: it’s not photographer friendly. If you want a photograph similar to this, be prepared to spend time in Photoshop removing people and large white signs cautioning visitors not to climb on the tree or sit on its limbs. There are also tripod restrictions. But, despite these obstacles (and some might say protections), it’s still worth a visit. This live oak is Mother Nature at its finest.

Just down the road from the Angel Tree is an Anglican church and cemetery with beautiful camellias and Spanish moss.

Camilla in bloom
Spanish moss in the low country is like Mississippi’s Kudzu – it’s everywhere

When driving over the bridge back to the mainland, there’s a great view of the low country marshes, but again, no place to pull over and photograph. I turned around and found a road leading under the bridge to a boat ramp.

Here’s my first photograph of the marshes. I would like to be in that yellow kayak.

It was in this area that I spent the next half hour or so stalking a blue egret as it hunted its breakfast. Click the Download button below to watch a short animation of this.

I’ve included this image in case you didn’t click download 🙂
and breakfast

There is a unique charm to Charleston’s low country which I haven’t experienced elsewhere. Author Pat Conroy described it this way:

Charleston has a landscape that encourages intimacy and partisanship. I have heard it said that an inoculation to the sights and smells of the Carolina low country is an almost irreversible antidote to the charms of other landscapes, other alien geographies. You can be moved profoundly by other vistas, by other oceans, by soaring mountain ranges, but you can never be seduced. You can even forsake the lowcountry, renounce it for other climates, but you can never completely escape the sensuous, semitropical pull of Charleston and her marshes. – The Lords of Discipline

Seduced. I can’t think of a better word to describe it. I was seduced by the low country and as a consequence missed the morning session of my conference.

Seduction connotes something powerful and tantalizing, something that keeps pulling you back. Will I attend another conference? Probably. Will I make a greater effort to return and spend more time photographing Charleston’s low country? You bet.

What do you see when you look at the Angel Tree? Know what I see? I see those long outstretched arms motioning me to come back … Will you join me sometime?

Thanks for following my blog.

Instagram: @maryricephoto

“Move over, Boulder”


… because Greenville, South Carolina is now the top affordable city for nature enthusiasts.  So says Tuesday in an article titled “Move Over, Boulder: 10 Cities Where Outdoor Lovers Can Actually Afford to Live.”

The article notes Falls Park in downtown Greenville and the Swamp Rabbit Trail as Greenville’s “treasures,” and then mentions the Nantahala National Forest and the “oft overlooked” Congaree National Park within a one or two hour drive.  I’m not sure why it didn’t also highlight the Smoky Mountains, but Greenville is certainly replete with options for hikers, bikers, kayakers, paddle boarders, equestrians and fishermen.  We know because our daughter goes to college there.

So, this past weekend when Don and I were down that way for a visit, we stopped in Dupont Forest, just 45 minutes north of Greenville.  It’s where the first Hunger Games movie was filmed.  You can take a Hunger Games tour complete with archery instruction, or just do as we did, hike the trails and enjoy the scenery.  There are six waterfalls, two lakes, and an iconic covered bridge.  We only scratched the surface, but from what we saw, it’s beautiful.


So next time you’re looking for outdoor adventure or beautiful scenery, consider Greenville, South Carolina. And as you leave, be sure to stop by a grocery for snacks and fill up your tank with gas. Why? Because there’s no food tax, gas is cheap, and there’s a good chance you’ll want to take … the scenic way home.

Happy travels.