Day: May 11, 2022

New Orleans For The Zablotsky Photography/Cultural Workshop

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Driving from my Tentrr campsite in Buccaneer State Park headed for New Orleans, the skies opened up and it poured sheets of rain. I pulled over at a Louisiana Welcome Center to wait it out. I was to meet Mark at the Airport where he was meeting Terry, who was coming in on the red-eye from California. Now was going to be late, but safety comes first. 

Gulf shore at Buccaneer State Park
A quiet section of Buccaneer State Park

I was coming for Mark’s one-week photography workshop in and around New Orleans. I have been on two other workshops with Mark, and I always learn a lot. He knows New Orleans because he spent two years here for a Periodontics residency at LSU. It is also Jazz Week, so I’m sure there will be big crowds. Big cities are not my thing, but I’m sure Mark will find some great shoots, and it will be interesting to see how he works. This is also going to be culinary tour because the foods of New Orleans are unique.

Fortunately, things worked out as Terry’s flight was delayed due to the thunderstorms. We met at Camellia Grill for lunch, a popular place for hamburgers, omelets and other goodies along with excellent service. The food was good and the service great. Sitting outside on a perfect day, we had a good view of streetcars going by while people continued to line up to get into this New Orleans classic. Terry made it about 45 minutes later.

We loaded all our luggage and photography equipment into Mark’s Honda Pilot, then drove to the airport where I left my truck in long-term parking for $14/day. It costs $40/day in the French Quarter and it is not secure. Well, the Wyndham has a garage, and it is all valet parking.

We checked into the Wyndham French Quarter Hotel and chilled for a few hours, then drove to Harbor Seafood and Bar out near the airport. I was now becoming familiar with I10 and 610, although I was glad I wasn’t driving. There are some very confusing exits and on-ramps to I10 going underneath the highway, turn left, turn right. In heavy traffic, it is wild!

At Harbor Seafood and Oyster Bar, there was a line out the door. A simple restaurant, it can seat a lot of people. Mark used to come here with his fellow residents one or two times a week. It is an interesting menu. I was all set to order the “Swamp Platter” with gator tail, turtle soup, crawfish tails, fried frog legs, crawfish etoufee and cajun alligator sausage. Now you won’t get that everywhere!

We decided to order for the table, so we got crawfish, steamed shrimp, oysters on the half shell, hush puppies and a soft shell crab Po Boy. The three of us couldn’t eat it all. It was quite a table of food!

Buccaneer State Park

Saturday, April 30, 2022

I got up early, fixed some coffee and listened to some birds not far away. Although I couldn’t tell what they were, they sounded big. Looking at Google Maps, I saw a big lake or inlet next door. There was also a creek close to my camp. No wonder there were mosquitoes. I drove out of the park, turned right and followed South Railroad Avenue going behind my camp site. There was a train track on the other side of the road. 

The Gulf from South Beach Blvd.

As I slowed down to look at the big estuary, a man got out of his car in front of me. I pulled over behind him, thinking I would take pictures of some egrets or something similar, but there were none. The man started rigging up a fishing rod, so I walked up and asked what he was going to fish for. 

In his mid-sixties, he put a Hula Popper on as he told me he came here every morning for an hour’s fishing while his wife slept. He said he sometimes caught sea trout, flounder, largemouth bass and drum. “OK”, I thought to myself. “I think I’ll hang around and watch.”

This guy was a pro. He had a Daiwa rod and a Japanese reel, braided line and a tippet he tied onto a loop at the end of the line. As we talked, he must have thrown one of two lures  200 times, and never got caught in the grass once. He could throw that thing a long way with a two-handed grip with the lure dangling 2.5 feet below the end of the rod. He knew the currents and the wind, so he threw it past and left of a point. The current would carry the lure right past the point. It was pretty-much high tide, his favorite time to fish.

Fish began jumping to our left and further out. I suggested he needed a boat. “Ahh, I used to have one, but now I’m too old and sore to pull it out. I sold it last year.”  The jumping fish were bait fish trying to escape some predator. Sea gulls cried above, swooping down to capture some. 

Finally, we introduced ourselves. Stephan Champagne (pronounced with Creole accent). He was born and raised in New Orleans, but traveled a lot with business. He worked with the railroad for years, and said this is still a busy line carrying all sorts of goods – whatever someone wanted to have shipped. He worked in Newport News for a while, installing a system for ship building that was a big success. 

Finally he got a hit – a good one. He had switched to some 2.5” topwater crawler he gave me the name of, but I no longer remember. It was a very nice trout. He quickly dispatched it with a knife to the spinal cord and threw it into a cooler. “Dinner”, he said with a smile. He said he preferred topwater lures. “It’s just more fun.” 

After a few more casts, he looked at his watch. His wife would be getting up, so he started packing up, and we said our goodbyes. I enjoyed my morning with Stephan, and I think he liked having some company. I liked his stories as well as watching an expert fish. He talked about his 40’ mahgany trawler he bought and restored. He and his wife enjoyed traveling in it for about 7 years before he got tired of throwing money at it.

I stood looking at this pretty piece of water, imagining a nice fishing kayak, maybe one you power with your feet. Maybe I could get to the other side where all the fish seemed to be. Then again, maybe Stephan was right. Drive up, throw lures for an hour in the early morning, watch the gulls and maybe take a nice fish home for dinner.

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