What was one of your best experiences covering this story?
I had a great time photographing coastal areas all over the United States, but one of my most fun experiences was seeing turtle hatchlings on Padre Island, Texas. The National Park Service runs a program there where they incubate about 70 sea turtles and then release them into the Gulf of Mexico. The release is a hugely popular event, and about 300 people turned out at dawn to watch them make their way down the beach. The crowd had to keep a distance, but the park rangers were very nice and let me get close to the hatchlings. It was amazing.
What challenges did you face in the field?
One of my ideas for the story was to photograph surfers, since they're affected by the water quality. So I traveled to San Diego, California, and outfitted myself with a wet suit, boogie board, and an underwater housing for my digital camera. I went out with writer Joel Bourne and surf legend Skip Frye on a day when we got some of the largest swells of the year, which probably wasn't the best day for me to shoot. We swam out into a channel, and then a big wave hit me, tossing my camera into my face. This happened twice, and I had to go back to shore. That was it for the day. Skip and Joel had to take me to an emergency clinic where I got seven stitches under my eye. After that I waited a couple more days to go back into the ocean, but this time I brought an assistant to help me. I'd learned to have a little more caution and respect for the water.
Did you have any quirky moments during this assignment?
I was shooting pictures of a canal community in Palm Coast, Florida, in December when I met Rick and Paula Taylor (see page 79 of the July 2006 issue). They invited me into their boat for a drive around their neighborhood, and we ended up seeing these other boats lined up for a Christmas parade. They were all decked out in Christmas trees and lights, and everyone was having a good time talking with friends and drinking cocktails. It was a lot of fun to watch, especially since we were celebrating Christmas in 70°F (21°C) temperatures