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Field Notes
Essick
Photograph by Rebecca Hale
Peter Essick

What was your best experience in the field covering this story?

I spent time at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on Maryland's Eastern Shore, taking pictures of the Canadian geese and snow geese that winter there. And every morning at sunrise I would get to see these big flocks of about 3,000 birds take off into a beautiful sky. It was an amazing sight.

What was your worst experience in the field covering this story?

The traffic in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., corridor is terrible, and I spent a lot of time sitting in it. I figured I drove more than 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers), and it illustrated to me firsthand one of the issues I covered in my story. The number of cars and miles each person is driving in the Chesapeake watershed is increasing. And that doesn't bode well for solving the bay's nitrogen pollution problem.

What was your quirkiest experience in the field covering this story?

I'd only shot a few pictures of the Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge in Maryland when a policeman told me I had to stop. He didn't want me photographing a potential terrorist target. I explained I was working on a story for National Geographic, but it didn't matter. He took me to the police station and made me give up my film. I had to talk to an anti-terrorism officer from the FBI and wait six weeks to get it back.

Soon after, I wanted to take an aerial of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. This time I asked Homeland Security for permission, but I was denied. It's funny that people take pictures of these bridges all the time while driving by in their cars and boats. But once you stop and pull out a tripod, then suddenly the circumstances change, and you need special permission.