Joe Mac Hudspeth, Jr., a patient observer of wildlife in its habitat, has a rare gift of stillness. It lets him capture the image of a mallard bobbing on water, of a wood stork kneeing through the shallows, of an alligator cruising on a deadly prowl.
In the wetlands of Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Texas he has taken these 150 full-color photographs. Stalking his quarry, he camouflages false cameras weeks in advance of a shoot so that animals grow accustomed both to his blind and to his lens and camera. When he settles in, he may spend entire mornings in near-freezing cold. The resulting images are crisp and glorious.
"Wetlands are vanishing quickly in this country and around the world," writes Rick Bass, in the foreword to this book, "but I have to believe in hope, and in the possibility that images as vivid and powerful as these will help remind us of our many blessings, and of the incumbent responsibilities not just to celebrate but to safeguard."
In the photographer's preface, Hudspeth details his sense of wonder at individual encounters with wildlife.
"The first morning back in the blind," he writes, "I watched the beaver dam come alive at 5:50 a.m. with at least twenty ducks arriving on cue and landing mere feet away. One actually came to rest on the top of my blind. The wood ducks fed and preened for the next hour and a half while I waited for enough sunlight to capture them on film. And capture them I did. That morning I took ten rolls of film, quite an accomplishment since I had only taken a total of three rolls of film the whole previous year."
With In the Southern Wild he shares the most striking shots from the untold hours he has spent in the hush of Southern wetland havens.
Joe Mac Hudspeth, Jr., lives in Brandon, Mississippi. His work has appeared in Nature Conservancy calendars, on state hunting licenses, on duck stamps, and in such magazines as Mississippi Outdoors, Louisiana Conservationist, Texas Parks & Wildlife, Birder's World, and Ducks Unlimited. In 1993 he was awarded the Roger Tory Peterson Institute for Natural History's Grand Prize for Wildlife.
Rick Bass is the author of The Hermit's Story, The Roadless Yaak: Reflections and Observations about One of Our Last Great Wilderness Areas, Oil Notes, The Watch, and other books of stories, novellas, and essays.