Sailing Down The James River

A small pontoon boat arrives to take photographers to Jefferson's Reach at the James River.
A small pontoon boat arrives to take photographers to the Jefferson’s Reach portion of the James River.
Conservation efforts at the James River have made possible for hundreds of Bald Eagles and Ospreys to call the place home.
Conservation efforts at the James River have made possible for hundreds of Bald Eagles and Ospreys to call the place home.
While the James River is full of aquatic and bird life, the modern world is close enough to be part of the landscape.
While the James River is full of aquatic and bird life, the modern world is close enough to be part of the landscape.
Captain Mike Ostrander expertly guides and educates visitors on all aspects of the James River and the wildlife inhabiting the place.
Captain Mike Ostrander expertly guides and educates visitors on all aspects of the James River and the wildlife inhabiting the place.
The early morning hours along the James River are perhaps the best time to experience nature at its best.
The early morning hours along the James River are perhaps the best time to experience nature at its best.

Out of nowhere, magic. That is perhaps the best description of my recent trip to a place I barely knew existed less than a week ago. But all that changed thanks to a phone call from my photographer friend Mark, who during the course of our recent conversation, casually asked whether I would be interested in joining a group of local photographers during a Bald Eagle photography outing. Now, I am not a nature photographer by any stretch of the imagination, but the thought of observing Bald Eagles at their James River winter habitat while cruising down the river on an old pontoon boat before the sun even came out, was simply too much for me to resist. So, away I went at 4:00 AM to meet the group of photographers at the Deep Bottom Park boat ramp, which appropriately enough lies at the end of the Deep Bottom Road to the south-east of Richmond, Virginia.

Little did I know that by the end of this otherwise normal morning I was to experience one of the most magical spectacles nature has to offer anywhere in the world. It is far too easy for those of us who live in an urban environment where concrete and shopping malls rule the day, to forget that day after day, moment after moment, and in spite of mankind’s ingratitude towards it, nature continues to remind us of the simple beauty of our planet and the irreplaceable feeling of being alive. The pale, orange light of a morning sun, the gentle flow of a mighty river, and the first, hesitant sounds of nature’s first hours on a new day. And all under the watchful eye of ospreys and eagles sitting majestically above the tree tops waiting their turn to glide as in a choreographed dance in search of prey near the surface of the mighty river down below. Life begins and ends in rivers like the James. In between these two realities, a great spectacle always takes place. Battles are won and lost, the sun rises and the sun sets, there is silence and there is sound, and above all, there is life. I may never become a nature photographer, but this short trip down the James River surely made me understand why these photographers would not have it any other way.  It is indeed food for the soul.