Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Mayflies, Tennessee River near Guntersville, Alabama, summer 2000

Nikon FM, 50mm, f/1.4 lens set at f/3.5. Ilford Delta 400 film.

Never before had I seen so many insects in one place, even in an ant hill, and I hope to never see so many again.

It was an infestation of Biblical proportions -- though I've never read about Moses' encounter with a massive hatch of mayflies.

These photos were taken while I was working as a deckhand on the M/V Bearcat, a tow boat on the Tennessee River. Southwest of Chattanooga, near Guntersville, Ala., the river widens and gets more sluggish. And the mayflies hatch there in late spring or early summer.

This photo was taken through the screen window of the boat's galley. Each fly is about an inch long, with a body like an inchworm and wings like parchment. Singly, they make good trout bait, and an imitation mayfly is a classic dry fly for trout. En masse, however, they make for a nightmarish experience.

When I struggled through the airborne mass of flies to where the radar equipment was, the captain (Capt. Milton, an old-style Cajun) pointed to the radar screen. He had it zoomed out as far as it would go, so that it showed a half-mile radius around the boat, and the entire screen was "greened-out" as if there was a tremendous thunderstorm settling down on us. There were so many flies that the radar couldn't see the river.

The flies stuck around for a week or so, then suddenly died within a day. When they died, they collected in piles on the boat, on the barges, and along the shore. They were up to three inches deep on parts of the boat (if I'm lyin', I'm dyin') and we had to shovel them off with an old snow shovel we found in the engine room. But before we could get them all off, they began to rot. They didn't dry up like a house fly or a dead wasp: They rotted and gave off the stench of putrid hamburger.

They did make for an interesting pattern on the window of a boat, I'll say that for them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


October 16, 2005. Late afternoon, Nikon D70s w/ 18-70 mm lens, at about 50 mm. First weekend with the new digital camera. Got this one so I can keep using all my old Nikon glass from the 28-30 year old Nikon FM.

I've done a number of these pieces lately -- meaning "in recent years" -- but just now decided to let the images name themselves. So here you go: Ben is gone.

Who's Ben? Darned if I know. But someone misses him, or at least noticed that he's not around.

Ben, if you read this, go home.