Nixon Creek Paddle

Since visiting this beautiful place last year with the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, I’ve been wanting to get back to it for a more leisurely (and solitary) visit. The first trip was valuable to introduce me to the area and to make it clear that I had to paddle early in the season since the plants and water lilies were so thick it was difficult to get through. Very tiring.


Looking in the archives, I don’t see I took any photos on that trip, so these are all from this year. And it isn’t often I get moody clouds when I kayak, so I’m glad that I stopped for these in the early part of the day.


Because as you can see, the clouds broke up and eventually we had bluebird skies. But I shot when there were still some clouds around and I think they add so much to the pictures. The light is a little harsh, but the shots make me happy anyway.

These are the boulders around the bend in the shot above. It’s the only place these glacial erratics are and I just love paddling through them. You can hold yourself here by getting the boat stuck on one that’s mostly submerged, or just holding onto one against the bit of current. Either way it’s worth stopping and taking it all in. The hills and rocks, the trees and dragonflies. There are even a few orchids tucked away in the plants on the banks. The light was too terrible and they were too far away for pictures, but I loved seeing them in their bright pink glory.

Here’s an idea of what I mean by the sheer number of plants. It makes for a steadying influence on the kayak for photos, but really hard to paddle though when the open water closes over.


I didn’t do a lot of hanging around for birds, but there were a few herons that were cooperative. This first one was a ways away so to get closer I used a technique I’d heard talked about on a bird photography video – zig-zag your way to the bird. So I did; paddling back and forth across the front of the heron where it could easily see me. Seems by not heading directly for it, it didn’t see me as much of a threat and so didn’t fly away. I could get close enough for a shot like this without a ton of cropping. When I made my getaway is when it decided to fly. Strange since I was moving away from it, but in a straight line so maybe that was it. The trajectory rather than the direction. Still, the light wasn’t too awful so I’m glad I tried the zig-zag stealth approach. I will try to remember it for other bird encounters.

I didn’t need it at all for this one! I was making my way with some speed back to the boat launch when it landed very close to where I was paddling. I wasn’t going to bother because who needs another shot of a GBH? But then I figured if it wasn’t afraid to get so close voluntarily I would take advantage of its boldness. I missed the fishing attempts, but when the breeze blew up the back of its little crest – bonus! And isn’t the light gorgeous? Just enough to bring some texture and glow.


For both heron shots I blurred the background further using a very cool technique in Photoshop. It had been a while since I had need for it, so I used the tutorial I published a few months back. Amazingly, it worked perfectly. Sometimes it’s easy to gloss over or even leave out an important step when you do these kinds of things. Good to know I didn’t, although I did get on the phone with another photographer to walk him through it and as a result I’ve added some clarifying points. Nice to have it worked through and improved.

So that was my second trip to Nixon Creek. I didn’t make it to Nixon lake which you can paddle straight into by going through a culvert under a road. The plants just got too thick. Earlier in June would have made things easier, but I didn’t get a chance. Maybe next year.


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