A year on 'The Trace': Local photographers help document the historic route


Photo by: All Parkway photographs by Bob or Pat Boisseau/Sherwood Photography


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Bob and Pat Boisseau of Sherwood Photography in Columbus.

Bob and Pat Boisseau of Sherwood Photography in Columbus.
Photo by: Jan Swoope/Dispatch Staff









Jan Swoope



In their careers, Bob and Pat Boisseau of Sherwood Photography in Columbus have photographed hundreds, if not thousands, of weddings, senior portraits, children, family reunions and just about everything else in between. This past year, however, they took on an assignment of a different kind when they became official photographers of the Natchez Trace Parkway. Their mission? To travel the 444-mile recreational road that touches three states -- Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee -- and capture images of scenic spots, wildlife and people enjoying themselves. The photographs could end up in brochures, billboards, on social media or in other promotional material, as well as in Parkway visitor centers. Their time frame? One year. 


The Boisseaus were selected for the project after going through a rigorous process.  


"It was very involved. There were a lot of t's to cross and i's to dot; you're dealing with the federal government," said Bob. The Parkway is maintained by the National Park Service, which is under the U.S. Department of the Interior.  


While continuing their full-time photography studio, the Boisseaus took, at their best estimate, between 50 to 100 excursions to explore the Parkway, section by section. It runs from Natchez to near Nashville, Tennessee. Armed with several different cameras and an assortment of lenses, the husband and wife team set out to capture people interacting with the environment and other shots that show the beauty of "The Trace." 


"What some people would think of as work became a great delight to us," said Bob. 


Pat added, "We had a really wonderful time. It's the most fun we've had in years. We're very outdoor people." 


Pat's forte, Bob said, was approaching people caught in the act of having fun. Bob primarily concentrated on scenic shots.  


Part of their commission was to photograph animals. That was sometimes easier said than done, since some animals are more active after dark. 


"We 'chased' deer, geese, turkeys ... " Pat said. "We had hunted and hunted for deer, and one evening, right at dusk, this deer came out and posed for us." Other moments stand out in memory, such as spotting a fire and calling it in. The Boisseaus had passed by campers at the location about 20 miles north of Tupelo earlier in the day. When they came back later to catch the area in different light, they saw fire had broken out, involving grass, a fence section and tree.  


In the course of the year, there were rare birds, seasonal colors, a winter's trek in light snow. There were people to meet, like Memorial Day revelers, horseback riders and cyclists from Texas on an organized bike ride.  


Bob found one of the most interesting points of photographing the Parkway to be the double-arched bridge that spans Birdsong Hollow at milepost 438 near Franklin, Tennessee. It carries Trace travelers 1,648 feet across a valley and Tennessee Highway 96.  


Pat particularly enjoyed the northern half of the route, where deciduous trees are most likely to put on a show in autumn. 


"But every part of it has its own appeal," she said. And each new season renders even sections already traveled a different experience each time out. 


Exploring the Parkway is a great way to get in a vacation and not spend a lot of money, Pat added. The road that roughly follows the historic travel corridor used by American Indians, "Kaintucks," European settlers, traders, soldiers and even future presidents is preserved for all, with recreational and educational highlights all along the way. 


"It's a treasure many people don't seem to realize we have," said Pat.


Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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