A night on Morris Island, South Carolina

January 22, 2015  •  2 Comments

Rolling over to peer out of my sleeping bag, I was met with this scene...

Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach.

Don't wanna waste all your time reading this and head straight to the gallery? Click here for the Morris Island Gallery, and then Click here for all the South Carolina Galleries, or, you can click on any photo to be taken to its place in the gallery.

I was 'this close' to heading to Roan Mountain for a couple days, but the warm-ish weather of the mountains really lead me away.  It would have been an awesome winter scene, had it not been in the mid-40s for the highs.

I was in a rush to plan something new, and I decided on spending the night on Morris Island.  It's located near the city of Charleston and Folley Island in South Carolina's lowcountry.  Morris Island is a pretty cool place, and using local blogs and The Photographers Ephemeris, I attempted to pre-visualize some photos from the island.  There is a pretty awesome lighthouse off of the coast a little ways, which is really an awesome addition to any scene!

I was kind of nervous to set out to Morris, mostly because it is somewhat hard to find any up to date info from people's recent visits.  It is a popular island for kayakers and boaters, but mostly in the summer.  I also felt that even though camping is 'not permitted',  the DNR(Department of Natural Resources, or cops) would be scarce.  That said, I was really itching to try something new!

Here is how to get there...

First, I am about as lame as possible when it comes to bringing food.  I could have brought my camp stove and some really tasty goodies, but in my haste to get ready for the trip, here is what I ate during my stay:  Note, mix it up a little with both PB&Jelly AND PB&Honey sandwiches.  The honey variety sure makes a great breakfast!

Here is a map of the journey.  You follow Folly River out to Morris Island.  

map to morris islandkayak morris island It's a bit of a haul... not only to drive there from my house, but then to kayak to Morris.  I got to the Folly Beach boat landing right around 3pm,  and made it to Morris Island just before sundown.  This sorta left me with zero contingency time.  Had I needed to head back for any reason, I would have been doing so in the dark, and I heard that after dark all the sharks come out and eat any kayakers on the water so I decided to stay.

I was a little concerned with where to put my tent on this side of Morris Island.  The areas above the high tide line sure looked like they had recently been under water, and nothing on the south end of the island has very high elevation.  I found a spot right on the corner that looked like it would be fine for the night.  I was about to set up my tent when I recalled a challenge from a Clif Bar I ate on the way in:

Here is my bivouac spot!  I even made sure to lay out my beach towel!   I realized that it was gonna be a little chilly at night.. but what the heck.  camping morris islandcamping morris island

Before heading to sleep, I made sure to grab a few photos as the sun went down.  These were taken literally just after I pulled the kayak up to the shore, I was really cutting it close!

Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach. I really enjoy the earth shadow behind the lighthouse here...

Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach. Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach. I was really surprised at how well the Pentax K3 + 60-250 DA* tracked birds in fading light, unfortunaly photographing fast moving birds is a place where I really need to improve.

Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach. Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach. I put the kayak right here to block the wind from getting to me while I was sleeping.

Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach. As the sun went down, Orion came out and was in perfect position above Morris Lighthouse.  There was still a little bit of glow lighting up the lighthouse, making it stand out just a touch.

Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach.

As darkness set in, the sky REALLY filled up with stars.  The lights from Charleston sure do eliminate some in the northern part of the sky, but fortunately I was looking south, so it didn't interfere too much.

Here is a long bulb exposure taken after all the stars came out.  The lighthouse is lit up by the city of Charleston.  I didn't photograph it, but you can see the Arther Ravanel Jr. Bridge waaaaay off in the distance from Morris Island.

Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach. I went for a little stroll while I was taking the above photo, and I really enjoyed how some of the bright stars reflected off of the wet sand.  This type of photography is really pushing the capabilities of my camera/lens combo.  A fast lens would be much better suited, but that didn't stop me from trying!

Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach. Once the star(planet?) on the left got high enough above the haze, it started to really strongly reflect off of the water. (sorry my logo is in the way)

Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach.

I had two 'pre-visualized' photos that I wanted to take during my stay here  The next photo is one of those two.  If you are new to photography, or not-familiar with the term, it is worth looking into.  Previsualizing your image before you take it is you imagining the final print.  I feel like previsualizing a photo really makes it your own, you made it from start to finish.  Sure, it's great to happen to catch something cool, but planning for a photo by knowing when and how the scene will look will almost always look and feel better in the end.

For me, knowing that I would be looking out to sea at a lighthouse with nothing behind it, and that the direction that I was looking would cause straight, diagonal star trails is all part of the previsualization of my photograph.  Basically, I knew what this was going to look like before I took it.  Now, there are other factors.  Had there been too many clouds in the sky, we wouldn't even be talking about this right now...  But, another part of the visualization process is planning.  I knew that the weather would  be favorable, giving me the highest percentage of capturing what I wanted.

I mounted the 60-250, found a spot behind a bush to protect the camera from the wind, and let it shoot.  While this photo was being taken, I was laying down in my sleeping bag just looking up at all the stars...

Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach. Whether my finished product is awesome or not really doesn't matter.  It was pretty much exactly what I had anticipated shooting, with the exception being the way the stars 'fade' as they rise away from the horizon, but I really like it! 

Below, you can see Folly Beach.  I would imagine that in the summer, the lights would be a lot brighter than they are now.  Beach towns can be ghost towns this time of year.

Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach. After sleeping for a little while, I woke up at 3am and noticed that the tide had receded waaaaay out.  I went on a little seashell hunt!  I found many sand dollars(although most got tossed into the ocean since they were alive).  I did find lots of the snail shells, even one with a snail still in it!  And while I didn't get any photos during this time, I did spot the sunken sail boat on the shore.  It really isn't much more than a few pieces anymore, and it isn't a 100 year-old sailing ship, it is much more current, as some of the pieces remaining were plastic.

The next morning, as I opened my eyes and peeked my head out of my sleeping bag, I saw a very nice sunrise starting to take place.  I began again with the 60-250.  After taking a 30 second test exposure, I stopped the aperture way down, did a little math, and took a two-minute exposure, and here is the result.  I really like how the lighthouse silhouette stands out against the soft, colorful sky.

Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach. As the sky got brighter, I zoomed out and experimented with some different exposure values and shutter/iso speeds.

Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach. I really love the big dark lines in the waves.

Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach. But I also love the water when it looks smoother...

Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach.

By now the pink in the sky was really starting to come out.  I found some tall grass to mix up the compositions.

Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach. Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach. Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach. As the sun started to get a little closer to coming up over the horizon, I again mounted the telephoto and just waited for sunrise...

Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach. Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach.

I had to run down the beach a little ways to get into position for the next set of photos, on the way I spotted this, and it was alive!

Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach. Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach. Below are the second set of 'previsualized' photos that I had planned on taking.  I knew that this lighthouse had been turned off long ago, so I wanted to be in position for the sun to rise right behind it, taking the old light's place.  I am really happy with the results.  Also, I really love the 'lean' that this lighthouse has.  Even though my camera has an electronic level, I found myself second guessing it in lightroom, only to find that the photos were straight all along...

Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach. Morris Island LightMorris Island LightImages taken on an overnight kayak trip to Morris Island in January. Images of Morris Island, Morris Island Lighthouse, seastars, seashells, and the Atlantic Ocean. Morris Island is located near folley beach.

After watching that gorgous sunrise, i walked around looking for things to bring back to my wife.  Here is some of the bounty.  There are a bunch of sand dollars out there!  

I really thought about bringing this home to her but thought she might not fully appreciate the gesture...

By now it was time for me to go.  I took the below photo of the kayak all loaded up and ready to roll thinking I was going to have fun heading back.  The only problem, is that I was about to head in against the tide, meaning I had two hours of paddling up the river!  There were times when the current was strong enough to make me feel like I could walk faster than I was paddling, it was rough!  That is why I ended up taking a shortcut on the way home!  Oh well, I made it.  I'll have more South Carolina images to share soon!

Thanks for looking!

 


Comments

Seth Fowlkes(non-registered)
Absolutely stunning! Looks like quite the relaxing trip with beauty everywhere.
Dave Kingma(non-registered)
It looks like your adventure was well worth it! Lots of favorites in this collection!
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