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Field Notes
Doubilet
Photograph by Mark Thiessen
David Doubilet

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

I wanted to photograph a stargazer, a half-foot-long fish, hiding in the black volcanic sand of Indonesia's Lembeh Strait. So one of the guys I was working with rounded up some cardinalfish and chased them by it. Suddenly the stargazer erupted from the sand. It had a mouth like a carved Halloween pumpkin (see pages 98-99), and it just inhaled the fish. Then the stargazer disappeared back into the sand, all in one lightning-flash motion. It was extraordinary.

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

Sometimes I bring several cameras on a dive, and I'll keep them at a little makeshift camp on the ocean floor with other equipment. That way I can take what I need for certain periods of time and then come back and exchange it. However, remembering where I made camp wasn't always easy. Lembeh Strait is a bald, gray paradise of nothing with few landmarks. The water is also murky, so sometimes I found myself swimming in circles for 20 or 30 minutes before I located my cameras. That was incredibly frustrating.

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

I accidentally brushed up against a corallimorph, a venomous creature that lives on coral. And it stung me, right through my Lycra wetsuit. So for the next three weeks I was covered with these infected bumps that itched and itched. I was like a child with chicken pox. Nobody wanted to look at me because I looked as if I had caught some form of leprosy. At times I wished I could sit in a bathtub full of oatmeal, except there's no oatmeal in Indonesia. After that I wore a rubber suit with a real barrier, even though the water was warm as blood.