Editor’s Note: The Okefenokee is once again under threat of development, with the probability of ruining it ecologically forever more. There seems no more fitting time to visit her once again. -Nancy McCrary


Okefenokee Sunset, 2016 ©NancyMcCrary

Whoever has beheld the manifold charms of this paradise of woods and waters, comes away fascinated and spellbound. Its majestic pines and cypresses, its peaceful waterways, and lily-strewn prairies, together with the splendid wild creatures that inhabit them, should be safe-guarded from destruction for any purpose. The primeval Okefenokee is worthy of national preservation.

Francis Harper

In May of 1912 at the age of 25, Francis Harper was a junior member of a Cornell University biological team that entered the Okefenokee Swamp. There, the naturalist found all the biological treasures he expected, and something he came to treasure maybe just a little bit more. Harper met the swampers of the Okefenokee and began a career, which spanned more than five decades, capturing the “Cracker” culture.

His older brother, Roland M. Harper, began calling for the preservation of the swamp in 1908 and 1909. While his efforts where lost in the rush to log and make money in the swamp, they inspired a group of Cornell researchers, including the younger Harper, who explored the swamp for nearly three decades and began promoting efforts to preserve the Okefenokee as a biological preserve.Francis Harper, right, with Jean and Molly Harper at his camp on Chesser Island, July 23, 1931.

In the years to come, local groups, like the Waycross Okefinokee (as Harper and others insisted on spelling it) Society, rallied around a core group of scientists and naturalists. While they were not initially successful in persuading the state or federal government to protect the land, they fought against threats to the swamp including continuing pressures to log the Okefenokee. In 1929 a small group of naturalists, most of them from Atlanta, organized the Georgia Society of Naturalists which remained vigilant and played an important role in efforts to save the swamp. They lobbied on the state and national level, published articles in newspapers, and enlisted support from other conservation groups and individuals, including Daniel Hebard and his son Frederick V. Hebard who owned most of the Okefenokee.

In the meantime, Francis Harper continued visiting the swamp as often as his professional obligations allowed. He was paid to go south, visit the swamp, and collect specimens to take back north. But he also collected folklore – anecdotes, stories, songs, ballads – and shared those with people around the world. He kept detailed field notebooks, where he recorded not only what the swampers did and said, but how they said it, and how they lived. He became an insider, moving his family to a camp on Chesser Island in the Okefenokee in 1935-1936 while he built a cabin there.

South x Southeast’s Seventh Okefenokee Swamp, Cumberland Island, St. Marys, Georgia Workshop will be held September 20-24, 2023.

One of our most requested, the Okie/Cumberland Workshop will let you explore two of Earth’s most diverse eco-systems within an hour’s drive of each other –  both as pristine as they were thousands of years ago. Along with the second-oldest city in the United States of America, St. Marys – a true gem of historical architecture, waterfront, flora, and fauna.

Please join us for three days of boating, shooting, critiquing, and walking through history.

This year we are honored to have Peter Essick as our instructor. Please see his bio below.


Wednesday – St. Marys, Georgia

Arrive, settle in, and enjoy the day exploring the historic town of St. Marys, the second-oldest city in the U.S.A.

Once again we’re thankful for the hospitality and generosity of one of SxSE’s best supporters in the use of his beautiful home in Kingsland, just west of St. Marys. We call it The House, and it is where we will gather to view and critique images, enjoy social hours and meals, hang out by the pool and lake, talk photography, and set off for walks around the property.

It will also serve as a rendezvous point for our trips to the Okefenokee Swamp.

Wednesday Evening the House

Peter will give a presentation of his work, and we’ll enjoy a social hour followed by the Welcome Dinner. 

Thursday – Okefenokee Swamp

Sunrise is 7:14am – We leave the Boat Basin at 6:30am!

Heading out for sunrise on the prairie with setting full moon. Okefenokee, 2016 ©nmccrary


We’ll have breakfast biscuits, juice, and coffee dockside before floating up the pitch-dark canal pre-sunrise. Our experienced guides (who know the Okefenokee like the back of their hands) will point out alligators returning to roost, birds just awakening, and plants coming to life as the first light of dawn begins to break.


For 2-3 hours, we’ll shoot the sunrise, the prolific wildlife, the cypress trunks, black water, did I mention the alligators? We’ll watch as the water lilies, no-wet’ems and other beautiful flowers open with the sun, and as the water fowl begin to stretch their wings and start the day.

 Thursday PM- Return to the Swamp for Sunset and Moonrise

Returning to the boat basin @9:30am, we’ll break for the day before meeting at 3pm to head back to the swamp for sunset and moonrise.

Around 4:00pm, a cook-out will be served dockside before we float out to meet the sunset at 7:23 and the rise of the waxing gibbous moon. We’ll experience an entirely different view from the morning. You won’t believe you’re in the same place!


Friday, Cumberland Island All-Day Visit

Known for its pristine beaches, wild horses, and historical architecture, Cumberland is a gem  on the East Coast

Our ferry leaves at 9am from the St. Marys Dock for a 30 minute ride to Cumberland Island, returning to the dock on the  afternoon ferry at 4:45.

On board the Cumberland Queen heading for the island, October, 2021 ©nmccrary


During our day on Cumberland we’ll enjoy private vans and tour guides who will take us to Plum Orchard Mansion, the Settlement, Cumberland Island Wharf, First African Baptist Church, and anywhere else we choose and time allows.

We will provide brown-bag lunches, snacks, and bottled water for an all-day affair on one of the most magical islands in the world.

Saturday – Free Form Day!

Resurrection Ferns, St. Marys, Ga. 2018 ©nmccrary


Want to return to the Swamp?

Catch the Ferry to Cumberland for a few shots you might have missed?

Head down the highway to the Alligator Farm in Jacksonville? Now, there’s a treat.

Or, hang around the House reviewing images and shooting in St. Marys?

Saturday is your day, fill it however you want! The House will be open for your convenience.

Saturday afternoon at 4pm we’ll meet for a group critique of our work at the theatre room in the House before our Farewell Dinner.

What previous workshop participants are saying….

As a participant in the South x Southeast Photography workshop experience with Peter Essick, I appreciated the opportunity to explore being among trees and moving water.  That was a new way of seeing in the area we photographed.  The group dynamics were lively and supportive.

I felt the support of Peter and that we had time in most settings to take “more time” to explore a different angle or advantage of light.

I particularly liked the learning aspect about Cumberland and the Okefenokee.

Great all round experience.

Thank you Nancy for your organizational skills and gathering a congenial group of fellow photographers. —Wanda Hopkins


I have been on several trips with Nancy McCrary and they never disappoint. She always engages photographers who are helpful and willing to share their knowledge.  Her attention to detail with regard to accomodations, meals, daily outings, and other logistics is thorough and she attracts talented and considerate photographers.  Nancy herself is a wonderful artist and very accessible.  Her workshops appeal to any level of photographer.  There are always professionals who attend, but if you’ve only just begun she encourages everyone to share knowledge.  The groups she leads are supportive and I learn something new every time.  After having photographed full-time for a decade, I rarely attend workshops anymore.  That being said, I always love going to ones Nancy organizes since they are always in beautiful places and so much fun.  –Lynne Buchanan


In October 2021 I participated in a photography workshop organized by Nancy McCrary, director and founder of SxSE.  The workshop was led by a well known Atlanta photographer Peter Essick. 

It was a very fulfilling experience.  Nancy McCrary showed off her fantastic organizational skills.  The photo excursions on St. Mary’s, Cumberland Island, and to the Okefenokee Swamp were great adventures and a paradise for us photographers. I met many interesting people and had a chance to learn more about Nancy and her wonderful ways of interacting with people.  She provided camaraderie, great food, and wonderful places to photograph. Peter Essick shared readily his photographic knowledge and offered constructive criticism.  The workshop was a unique experience that I would love to repeat. –Malgorzata Florkowska

SxSE Provides:


Wednesday’s meet-and-greet wine and cheese at The House

Wednesday’s Welcome Dinner at The House

Thursday’s Breakfast at the Swamp, and Dinner at the swamp, plus a postprandial social hour of wine and dessert on the boat while we watch the sun set and the moon rise

Friday’s Lunch, Snacks, and Beverages on Cumberland Island 

Saturday’s Social Hour during the Group Reviews at The House

Saturday’s Farewell Dinner at The House

Transportation and Fees:

Private boat rides through the Okefenokee, with tour guides, for Thursday morning sunrise, and Thursday evening sunset

Ferry to Cumberland Island Friday morning, return Friday Afternoon.

Private vans, and tour guides, for 7 hours on Cumberland Island.

Entry Fee to the Okefenokee Swamp

Entry Fee to Cumberland Island

Nosh and Beverages at the House

You Provide:

Transportation to and from St. Mary’s, Georgia

Meals: Any meals not listed above. 

Lodging:  There are 2 hotels in St. Marys: Cumberland Inn and Suites and The Riverview Hotel. I’d be tempted to try The Riverview for the ambiance and location, but The Cumberland Inn is more modern. However, there are lovely B&Bs in St Marys, charming homes on VRBO,  and chain hotels with good ratings just up the road in Kingsland – close to the House ( and home of the Naval Submarine Base ). And there’s always the Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island – please let us know if you’re staying there so we can visit you! If we can be of assistance, please let us know. And, if you’d like to share a home or a room please let us know and we’ll be glad to extend your query to the others.

Alcohol: Outside of social hours provided by SxSE alcohol will not be provided.


Peter Essick

Peter Essick is a photographer, editor, author, speaker, instructor, and drone pilot with 30 years of experience working for National Geographic Magazine. He specializes in nature and environmental themes. Named one of the forty most influential nature photographers in the world by Outdoor Photography Magazine UK, Essick has been influenced by many noted American landscape photographers from Carleton Watkins to Robert Adams. His goal is to make photographs that move beyond documentation to reveal in careful compositions the human impact of development as well as the enduring power of the land.

Essick is the author of three books of his photographs, The Ansel Adams Wilderness, Our Beautiful, Fragile World and Fernbank Forest. He has photographed stories for National Geographic on many environmental issues including climate change, high-tech trash, nuclear waste and freshwater. After 30 years travelling the world as an editorial photographer, Essick decided to focus his work on a more personal documentation of the environmental and cultural changes in his hometown of Atlanta.

 Essick’s photographs are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, the Booth Western Art Museum and many other private collections. He is represented by Spalding Nix Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia.

Logistics and Critique:

Nancy McCrary

Nancy McCrary is the Editor and Publisher of South x Southeast Photomagazine, founded in 2011. In 2015 Nancy began South x Southeast Workshops and remains the director. She is the director of South x Southeast Gallery, began in 2017 and exhibiting the work of emerging and established photographers throughout the world. She was co-director of SlowExposures Photography Festival for 8 years. Before South x Southeast Nancy had a career in niche publishing with positions are managing editor and marketing director for several magazines. She has reviewed portfolios at PhotoNOLA, LOOK3, SlowExposures, Click! Photo Festival and for private clients. She practices photography but mostly enjoys encouraging, and exhibiting the work of others.





$2500 – by check

If paying by check, e nancy@sxsemagazine.com to register

$2595, if paying by credit or debit card. There is a 3.8% processing fee.

click Here to Register with a credit card.

Partner Rate: $850, payable by check. 

Questions? email nancy@sxsemagazine.com

Good Information:


With an average high of 84 and an average low of 70 September is a perfect time for the Georgia coast.

What to Bring:

Camera, batteries, tripod, hat, sunglasses, closed-toed shoes (Okefenokee requires these), layers of clothes to peel off as the day warms up, backpacks, sunscreen, bug repellent, and a good attitude!


Hurricane season on the southeast coast can be busy from July til November. We strongly suggest you purchase travel insurance to insure the cost of this workshop against last minute change of plans. I regularly use Allianz for all of our workshops – besides hurricanes this world we live in holds lots of surprises. 


Okefenokee Swamp – National Park Service Site


Okefenokee Swamp – Fish and Wildlife Site


Cumberland Island National Seashore – National Park Service Site


Cumberland Island Horses Wikipedia Site


St Marys, Georgia Wikipedia site


Look forward to seeing you on the Coast soon!

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