Heart of Louisiana: Nature's miracles through John Snell's lens

Heart of Louisiana: Nature through John Snell's lens

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Until he started anchoring the FOX 8 Morning News this week, John Snell has filled many of his early morning hours with trips to the lakefront, the bayous and marshes to capture some of Louisiana's most beautiful sunrises with his camera.

He's passionate about nature photography. And on the eve of his morning schedule change, Dave McNamara tagged along with John to see the guy behind the lens at work. We are treated to sunrise in the Bayou Sauvage Wildlife refuge, in the Heart of louisiana.

"I woke up at three this morning, which will be my wake-up call," Snell said. "I turned into my father - when I'm on vacation I go to bed at a quarter to nine. It's crazy."

It's an hour before sunrise. The boardwalk at the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife refuge in Eastern New Orleans looks out over the marsh with a clear view of the eastern sky.

"Maybe we'll get lucky and there will be enough haze, and you will get that nice orange ball," Snell said. "But more than likely, it will be pretty bright."

Snell spends a lot of his time off behind the camera, looking for those amazing, picture-perfect moments in nature.

"And then there are times when you think, this won't be much, and it's just, it's like God lit up the clouds for you. And sometimes it's two or three minutes," he said.

While waiting for sunrise, a nature photographer is always looking. That's how you spot a distant alligator swimming by, or a family of ducks.

"We have a little dragonfly convention here in front of us," Snell says, shutter clicking.

And almost on cue, the birds take flight.

"It's luck," Snell said. "It's where preparation meets opportunity. When it's not the shot you came for, that's usually when it's something special."

For a moment, it looked like our sunrise would be hidden by clouds on the eastern horizon. Then we get a surprise.

"If you told me a minute, 30 seconds before that it would look like that, it looked like a dud," Snell said. "There was just enough cloud cover that it obscured it, and he gave us that nice orange ball that you rarely see. About five minutes from now, it's going to pop out of the top of that cloud and give us another effect.

"I call this two sunrises because it's about to happen all over again - here it comes, here it comes!  You would think we were out in nature - and we are - but we're also within literally 45 seconds of civilization.

"This is a special place. This is 20 some-odd thousand acres of Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge. It is the largest refuge within the city limits of a major American city. We've been out here for an hour and a half you and I, alone. I think a lot of people don't even know about it. It is a treasure, a hidden treasure right before our eyes."

And whether you only snap pictures with your smartphone or own a higher-end camera, sometimes it's nice to schedule an early-morning wake-up call and spend an hour watching - and photographing - how nature starts a new day.

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