January marked the fifth month of our year-long "One World" sailing adventure sponsored by Nikon. There were 9 of us on board -- the captain and two crew, a cook, a guide, three photo contest winners and me ("the professional") -- bearing south in a three-masted schooner about 7 miles off the coast of Ecuador. We were feeling pretty good, having bagged several hundred remarkable captures of a golden sun, and then a thumbnail moon setting one after the other on a teal and purple sea, and now we were plowing through furrows of phosphorescent waves with a mantle of diamonds spangling the sky over our heads. The captain was determined to round The Horn while the summer seas remained favorable.
Gradually the stars clouded over, rain fell lightly, steadily, then soon enough in sheets and we were pitched by heavy winds. The main sail was set but she started diving bows-under and in the crook of an 18-foot swell a wall of salt water hit me square in the chest, prying my arms from the mast. Washed overboard I was churned like a cork until I lost consciousness.
At dawn I found myself mildly bruised and beached on the sandy shore of a black lagoon teeming with so much colorful life I thought surely I had died and gone to heaven. Barely thinking I dove back into the brine as an unworldly golden sea creature darted by. I raised my D3, still strapped with its underwater housing to my belt, squeezed the shutter and surfaced to check the monitor, seeing I'd fired too late to capture the creature's head but astounded at the image that did appear. There are no words for moments like this, I thought, when nothing goes according to our plans but we feel strangely more fortunate than we could have hoped for.
Back on terra firma, safe and secure in my dry studio surrounded by the bounty of my many adventures, I am still most strongly drawn to this one image. And now words do come, three especially, bubbling irrepressibly heavenward like the dying confession of some repentant pirate: A Fish Tale. (Taken at an airport aquarium.)