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Tips and techniques

NATURE’S VIEW: Still waters and golden light

By February 14, 2017No Comments

Story and photography by Jim Clark

For a few years now I have taken my workshop attendees to explore Taylor Landing, an isolated historical boat landing located along Maryland’s lower eastern shore. With the scenic vista of Johnson Bay and the tranquility of a morning shoot, the landing has become a favorite.

A small bay that opens into the much larger Chincoteague Bay, Johnson Bay borders along the western shore of the coastal barrier island of Assateague. The water is protected on three sides, and, weather permitting, it can become very still and flat, with nary a ripple to be seen.

Autumn Morning @ Johnson Bay 11192016 Taylor Landing MD (c) Jim Clark_13

Pre-sunrise moment on Johnson Bay, Taylor Landing, Maryland. © Jim Clark

Taylor Landing offers more than a spectacular sunrise moment. The abundant activity of birds (bald eagles, ibis and other water birds, for example), weathered buildings, boat docks and pilings, and other reminders of a once bustling fishing port all make for a singular experience.

Even the watermen who still use the landing to work the waters for crabs and oysters have become part of the photographic experience. As they load and unload their catch of the day, they are more than happy to have their photographs taken and even offer up advice on how to solve the world’s problems — whether you need it or not. It becomes an exercise in not only nature photography, but in capturing a true cultural identity and sense of place.

On a November morning last year, I went to photograph at the landing. Upon my arrival I was greeted with a stillness and calm I had never experienced there. For several hours, the waters remained glass smooth, and the morning’s silence was punctuated only by the calls of wild turkeys in the loblolly forest skirting the bay.

Johnson Bay on a November morning just before sunrise , Taylor Landing, Maryland. © Jim Clark

Johnson Bay on a November morning just before sunrise, Taylor Landing, Maryland. © Jim Clark

As the morning light took over the night, the music of birds on the wing broke the silence. A pair of bald eagles screamed as they soared overhead. A cacophony of hundreds of herring gulls filtered through the air as they winged across the bay to their favorite morning feeding locations. Cackling flocks of Canada and snow geese took flight.

Gold light adorns Johnson Bay after sunrise, Taylor Landing, Maryland. © Jim Clark

Gold light adorns Johnson Bay after sunrise, Taylor Landing, Maryland. © Jim Clark

I decided to set up at one spot that I’ve wanted to photograph for a long time. The scene presented itself with an assortment of pilings, decks, jetties and piers silhouetted against the changing tones of blue, red and gold. I used a 70-200mm telephoto zoom to photograph the morning. Eventually, I switched to an 80-400mm telephoto zoom to isolate even more on distant subjects.

That morning proved to me that no matter how many times you photograph a location, there will always be something different and unique the next time you visit.

A past NANPA president and former contributing editor for Outdoor Photographer, Jim Clark is a nature photography instructor for the Chincoteague Bay Field Station, Wallops Island, Virginia. The author/photographer of six books, Jim is particularly proud of two children’s books he did with his son Carson. Jim was also a major contributor to the book Coal Country. Jim’s website is, his blog,, and you can visit him on Facebook.