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  Field Notes From

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On Assignment
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From Photographer

Robert Clark

On Assignment

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From Author

Joel Achenbach

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Robert Clark (top), and Joel Achenbach


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Dinosaurs Come Alive

Field Notes From Photographer
Robert Clark
Best Worst Quirkiest

    I spent about ten days in the town of Surin in Thailand—that was definitely the best part of the assignment. There was an elephant festival going on, and I'd never been around elephants before. In addition to giving tourists rides on the animals, the festival organizers stage an elephant banquet where they feed the animals fruit and palm leaves. We got a chance to watch the elephants running, but we never did get to see them playing elephant soccer, which they have reportedly been trained to do as well.
    The most fascinating thing to observe was the relationship between elephant and mahout (trainer); it's a complex one that evolves from the time both are very young.
    Thailand is an amazing part of the world. The people were great—very welcoming and friendly. It was just a really fun trip.

    Photographing alligators was the worst part, but not because of the gators. I was so focused on what I was doing that I didn't notice I was standing on a hill of fire ants. The fire-ant "field general" releases a pheromone that instructs all the individual fire ants to bite at the same time, so I had about 150 bites all over my ankles. When I looked down at the white canvas hiking boots I was wearing, they were covered with fire ants. Both boots had turned completely black, but the black was moving.

    Before the trip I was thinking, Oh my gosh, I have to go back to Argentina—it's going to be really expensive. I've been there many times before, and it's always been pretty costly, but on this occasion the Argentinean economy had just collapsed and I didn't have to spend much money at all.
    That's one of the most fascinating aspects of this job—returning to a place you've visited in the past and seeing how radically it (or its economy) has changed in the course of a few short years.

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