What was your best experience in the field covering this story?
Even though I’m originally from New Orleans, I went to places on this assignment that I had never been to before, including the Jolly Inn, which is famous for its Cajun dancing. I went on a Sunday night when a lot of the regulars show up, and immediately everyone treated me like family. One woman even walked up to me and said, “Honey, have you danced tonight yet?” I said, “No, ma’am.” And she replied, “Well, before you leave make sure that one of us dances with you.” So I did the Cajun polka before I left. The following week I came back with some of my family, and someone dedicated a song to my mom. We all had a great time.
What was your worst experience in the field covering this story?
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been diverting fresh water and silt from the Mississippi River to try to create a toe hold for marsh to grow on. I’d already photographed this from the air, but I needed some ground pictures as well. So I took an airboat out to a couple of acres of mud they’d created.
Grass was growing, and pelicans were hanging out. It was great. I felt like a pig in the mud, running around taking all these pictures. A biologist, Sean Mickal, and I decided to get a little closer to the pelicans. He started walking, and suddenly he sank down in the mud up to his knees. I began taking photos of him, but the next thing I knew I’d sunk down to my hips. I had no idea what I was going to do, stuck out there with three cameras and a big ol’ lens around my neck. Eventually I took off my gear, laid it on top of the mud, and started to pull myself out using my elbows. Luckily, it worked. Looking back, the whole situation was pretty amusing. But I’ve learned my lesson about walking in places where I might get swallowed up.
What was your quirkiest experience in the field covering this story?
The community of Grand Bayou, which is southeast of New Orleans toward the mouth of the Mississippi River, is completely surrounded by water. So the only mode of transportation to get from house to house is by boat. There’s even a little yellow school boat, which also serves as the church boat. The local assistant pastor is the driver.