Southwest Louisiana doesn’t have hills, or mountains, or waterfalls. It’s flat…very flat. But in that flatness lies some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.
I’ve always loved to travel. Some of the best, most cherished memories I have are of family trips out west. Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Washington, Oregon…we hit them all. It wasn’t till I was older, though, that I began to appreciate the beauty of their majestic landscapes. For years I worked under the assumption that I would have to travel out-of-state and west-northwest to see nature and it’s surroundings. It wasn’t until recent times that I discovered what was in my proverbial “back yard”.
When you are young, one of your first instincts is to escape the place you grew up…to spread ones wings and fly, thinking that the grass will be greener the further away you go. It’s an arrogant way of thinking…and it’s one everyone has to some degree. Now, I look around and realize that…to use an already overused quote, “there’s no place like home”.
Over the past several months, I’ve been opening my eyes to the beauty and majesty of the area which I grew up around, and still live. Small little road trips to get reacquainted with my surroundings. Along the way, I discovered something. I discovered that after 42 years on this earth, I’ve never really “seen” my part of the country.
“There’s more than one way home. Ain’t no right way, ain’t no wrong. What ever road you might be on, you find your own way ’cause there’s more than one way home…” – Keb’ Mo’.
My dad has always tried to encourage me to see the beauty of the land and it’s surroundings no matter where we were. From the snow-covered peak of a mountain, the rolling water of a stream, even the flat swamp land that surrounds us here. It’s the latter that I always had trouble “getting”.
One of my recent little road trips took me about 30 minutes away to an old wooden bridge called Lorraine Bridge. It’s one of the very few surviving wooden bridges left in the state. It seems like everyone and their uncle have photographed this bridge for every reason under the sun…weddings, engagements, senior portraits, family portraits, etc. I figured I’d have a go at it…at the very least going out there would get me away from the computer screen for a bit and, hey, any chance to shoot is a chance to shoot!! So, off I went. On the way, I kept thinking, “Why are you doing this? Everyone has already done it! Don’t chase cliché’s!!” The second I stepped out of the car and looked around, I began to see what my father has always encouraged me to see. We truly live in one of the most beautiful parts of this country…if we just look.
Another “back yard” excursion I recently took was with my dad, the day after Christmas (which happens to be my and my wife’s birthday). Dad and I decided to load up and drive down to Little Chenier, Louisiana. Little Chenier is one of the spots I remember going to, with him, when I was little. Again, I never realized how beautiful it is down there until I was older. The road to Little Chenier is lined with ancient oak trees that have out-lived (for the most part) hurricanes, disease, people, and litter. Each one bearing different scars. Each one telling its life story in a silent filibuster. There were random camps consisting of old houses and camper trailers used for either hunting, fishing, or just living. It’s primitive, simple living…and that, in itself, is a beautiful thing!!! Along the way we would get out of the truck and shoot, but mostly we just drove and looked. Once again, I could see what I never even tried to see before…the soul of this land around me. It was a fun day. We could have taken more photos than we did, but I think being together and both appreciating our surroundings was better than any photograph either of us could have taken.
I never tell him enough, just how much I appreciate all he’s tried to teach me…no matter how hard I fought against it. I’m as hard-headed as he is. And, if that makes me even more like him…i’m grateful for it.
This past weekend, my wife and I took a little back yard road trip down Highway 82 to Abbeville, Louisiana. Again, one of those roads and places I never truly appreciated until recently.
We loaded up and set out around 10am and headed south. We had a great time just traveling. We stopped at one spot on the road to shoot…but much like the recent trip with my father, we mostly drove and looked and, just enjoyed being together. Again, I was amazed at the beauty of Southwest Louisiana and wondered to myself why it took so long to appreciate it.
We finally made it to Abbeville. It is a cute little town deep in the heart of “Cajun Country”. In lieu of a plan, we just parked the car on the main drag and just started to look around and shoot.
Small towns are awesome. The old architecture, old signs, a town square…there’s tons to see, if you look.
We started in the center and worked our way out. A little city park gave us a chance to get a little creative with the center fountain, some buildings and a distant spire of an old Catholic cathedral.
Once again, I discovered the beauty of something I would have never considered. I was a peace (with the one exception being my lack of understanding of the town’s traffic circle…but I recovered from that quickly).
After spending some time in the little park, we decided to locate that spire and see the building it was attached to. It was a gorgeous old Cathedral called St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church. We pulled up and parked out front and began taking photos of this old, beautiful building. Shortly after we started, an old cajun man approached us. My first thought was, “are we breaking some kind of religious law?” After all, we’re Methodist. This was different turf!! Well, as the old man got closer, he started telling us that we should go inside and photograph. He said it was ok and welcomed and assured us they were used to it. So, we entered. It was breathtaking and well worth it!!! However, we both felt a little uncomfortable clicking away as about a dozen or so parishioners were in quiet prayer, so we kept it short.
This day trip was a blast. Yes, it led to some cool photographs, but in the end, it was more about just being together and discovering that we don’t need to take long, expensive trips to see the beauty and soul of nature and it’s surroundings. It can be found in our back yard, so to speak. And, once again, I thank my dad for trying to teach me that lesson for all these years. -Brice
PS- After we left Abbeville, we drove into Lafayette, Louisiana to get some fresh produce at “Fresh Pickin’s” and some breathtaking steaks at “Fresh Market”. Those steaks were, to quote one of our modern philosophers, “freakin’ sweet”!!!