Guest Post/Photography by Greg Wagner
Gregory Wagner is a landscape, wildlife, travel, sports, and commercial photographer and blogger based in Fort Myers, Florida.
Everything happens for a reason
As I innocently boarded the plane for a flight from southern California to Dallas last October I had no idea what was in store for me, let alone the impact and importance of my chance introduction to my seat-mates would be. For whatever reason my luck (or bad luck) in being assigned the dreaded middle seat was in full swing and this flight was no different, as “Seat 22B” was clearly printed on my boarding pass. My future friends were already seated when I arrived, a very nice middle-aged couple who instantly offered up their window seat so that they could sit side by side. Once my camera bag was properly stowed in the overhead, my laptop case was placed under the seat in front of me, my seat belt was securely fastened and my tray table and seat back were in their upright and locked positions, I struck up a conversation with the typical, “so where are you folks going today?” followed by “vacation or business?”.
Chance meeting of landscape photographers
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Lai, a Chinese couple now living in southern California, were on their way to the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Charles is an accomplished, respected, successful and highly decorated photographer who often conducts instructional landscape photography workshops. The Lais were on their way to teach one of their workshops that upcoming weekend. As a photographer myself, though not as accomplished, respected, successful or nearly has highly decorated as Mr. Lai, the common ground and friendship was instantaneous. Mr. and Mrs. Lai traded seats so that Charles (www.photolai.com) and I could be sitting side by side. Once we were in the air we fired up our laptop computers and began showing each other our work.
Introduction to Caddo Lake
Some of the most inspirational photographs shown by Charles were those he took at an almost magical place known as Caddo Lake (www.caddo-lake.net), the largest natural lake of fresh water in the south. Situated about 30 miles northwest of Shreveport, Louisiana, Caddo Lake covers almost 27,000 acres and straddles the Texas/Louisiana state line about 30 miles northwest of Shreveport, LA. Knowing I would be driving from my home in Fort Myers, Florida to my mother’s house in central Kansas for Thanksgiving, I immediately made the decision to photograph Caddo Lake either on my way to or from mom’s house.
The week after Thanksgiving
Before I left Florida I contacted John Winn of Caddo Outback Tours (www.caddolaketours) to set up private boat tours for Monday afternoon and early Tuesday morning. John was great, both on the phone and as my personal tour guide. Having been born and raised in the area he knows Caddo Lake like the back of his hand. Because one of John’s specialties is photography tours (he’s guided hundreds of them) he knew exactly where to go based on the time of day and knows the difference between the wants and needs of a serious photographer and what I refer to as “a guy with a camera”.
My one night at Caddo Lake was spent at the Shady Glade Resort (www.shadygladeresort.com) in the town of Uncertain, Texas. The Shady Glade has a few one-room cabins to go along with the typical mom-and-pop motel layout. I chose to stay in one of the reasonably priced cabins near the lake and next door to the convenience store and restaurant. It was only about a ten minute drive from my cabin to where I had to meet John Winn for my early morning boat tour.
I suppose it would be appropriate to quote Forrest Gump’s “life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get” but, once again, I’m a firm believer in “everything happens for a reason”. And meeting Charles Lai and his wife was meant to be….by design, if you will. I had never even heard of Caddo Lake before I met the Lais. And as I was shaking my personal guide John Winn’s hand before hitting the road for Florida he said to me, “Greg, you’ll be back. I know you will”. John, I think you’re right.
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