Last month my wife and I spent a number of weeks in the eastern portion of South Carolina with Garden City Beach acting as our home base. In the summer the Grand Strand area of the state is a renowned ‘sun and sand’ destination. In February, with temperatures often hovering in the 35 to 55 degree Fahrenheit range many days (2-13 degrees Celsius) – sun and sand isn’t on most people’s minds! I spent some time at Murrells Inlet photographing pelicans and other birds, and my wife and I did some exploration south of Myrtle Beach during our stay.
Within about a two hour drive of Myrtle Beach there are some interesting places to visit and this article shares a few images from four specific locations: historic Charleston, Beider Forest, Brookgreen Gardens, and the Center for Birds of Prey.
While I have visited Brookgreen Gardens in the past I spent quite a bit more time there during this visit, specifically focusing on landscape image opportunities. The affordable admission fee of $15 allows for repeat visits for 7 days which allowed us to spend more in-depth time exploring different areas of the grounds.
There are over 1,400 pieces of sculpture on display throughout the grounds and in the various buildings at Brookgreen Gardens. Staffed by dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers the facility provides visitors with a wide range of photographic opportunities. Landscape image opportunities are plentiful at Brookgreen Gardens…
Incorporating some of the brick structures and walkways can add a period feel to photographs.
If you love the appearance of stately oaks adorned with Spanish moss, Brookgreen Gardens has some beautiful examples.
We spent a few hours at Beider Forest which is located in Four Holes Swamp in the Harleyville area of South Carolina.
It is an eerily silent place during the winter months. My wife and I strolled along the entire 1.75 mile (2.8 km) length of the boardwalk, stopping at the various information signs and reading through the laminated reference material we borrowed at the information centre. After Hurricane Hugo ripped through the area on September 21, 1989 much of the boardwalk had to be rebuilt. At various times of the year tours of Beider Forest can be arranged including experiencing the swamp from the surface of the water while in kayaks and canoes.
We learned that swamps are not the insect-ridden, smelly, muddy places we thought they were.
The water in a swamp flows much of the time so mosquitos tend to avoid laying their eggs in these locations. Rather than having muddy bottoms like marshes, swamps tend to have bottoms made of hard-packed sand. And, frequent flooding tends to cleanse the swamp by washing debris away.
While at Beider Forest I was lucky enough to get some useable images of a ruby crowned kinglet. My wife spotted him in a tree less than 10 feet (3m) away while we were sitting in the Goodson Lake observation tower. Luckily my 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom has a comparatively short minimum focusing distance and I was able to capture about a half dozen images as the tiny bird flitted constantly from branch to branch for a minute or two before he flew off.
Just north of Charleston you’ll find the Center for Birds of Prey. This is another informative and educational place to visit.
There are 15 display buildings at the facility, 12 of which are currently housing almost 60 species of birds of prey. The bird collection has specimens from North American, South American, Africa and Asia so there is an interesting selection to view. The two buildings in the above image contain the owl exhibits.
Well-informed volunteers conduct tours of part of the facility and provide information about various species of birds.
A flying demonstration is done with a small selection of birds including a vulture, hawk, falcon, kite and an owl.
The birds are equipped with radio trackers which are sometimes needed to locate the birds since they are flying completely free of any enclosures during the demonstration.
Since the birds are flying in the open their licensed handlers needed to keep an eye out for wild red-tailed hawks and bald eagles which have been known to swoop down to try to attack the birds used in the demonstrations.
Photographing the captive birds is a bit of a challenge since it is not possible to get right up to the mesh of the enclosures. Unless the birds are at the right distance it is difficult not to have some residual effects of the mesh appear in images.
One of the last things we did during our recent trip to South Carolina was visit the historic area of Charleston.
We took about 3 hours and did a leisurely walking tour of the area which allowed my wife to experience the various gardens and stately mansions up close, while affording me more image opportunities.
Unfortunately it clouded over during our brief time in Charleston, but at least we were able to complete our walking tour before it began to rain.
I loved not only the grandeur of the architecture, but also all of the wonderful, historic details that can be photographed.
The next time you visit the eastern portion of South Carolina from Myrtle Beach south to Charleston be sure to set aside some time to explore some of the sights situated away from the beaches, and take advantage of the many opportunities to capture some images. There is a such a wide variety of subject matter that most photographers will find something of interest.
Article and all images Copyright Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication of any kind, or adaptation is allowed without written consent.