I’ve been fortunate enough to see two oceans and a few seas. I’ve been on the Pacific coast of North America, both in the Los Angeles area, and in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I’ve experienced the Atlantic from both sides of the ocean. In the Americas, from NYC and Myrtle Beach, on the Jersey Shore, in eastern Florida and from Rio de Janeiro which is situated along the beautiful Guanabara Bay — one of the most beautiful bays I’ve ever seen. From the opposite side, I’ve seen the Atlantic Ocean from the western shores of Ireland and from Wales. I’ve cruised in the Caribbean, endured a sleepless night of rough seas aboard a ferry boat on the North Sea, and woke at 5am on a chilly May morning to go swim in the Mediterranean with a friend before we caught a 7am bus from Nice to Paris. I’ve crossed the Straits of Gibraltar to get to Morocco and saw another part of the Mediterranean while sunning on the Costa del Sol.
But the body of water that I’m most familiar with, the one that I swear I can smell its saltiness as soon as the plane wheels touch the ground, is the Gulf of Mexico. I don’t care about visiting most of Florida. You can have the craziness of the BeeLine and the theme parks in Orlando. After a short time, endless miles of orange groves don’t seem very different from endless fields of corn and soy beans. I’m a bit too old for the party life of South Beach. And, I’ve never stayed in Key West long enough to see the sunset from Mallory Square. But the Gulf Coast, from about Port Charlotte south to the start of Alligator Alley, is the area where my soul feels at home. Perhaps I was a Calusa Indian — one of the shell people — in another life.
I have spent numerous hours walking beaches in this part of the world, exploring the marine life that lives on and near the shore. I did this for years before I owned a camera. Since I started photographing, I’ve been even more aware of the life that lives between the waves and the mainland. As you start noticing the lives of the creatures you realize which ones can be found in the morning, which ones show themselves in the evenings. You notice how all are connected. In the years following the hurricanes of the early to mid 2000′s, I’ve seen different cycles of marine life, an abundance of some species in some seasons, a dearth of others. A healthy beach is sometimes measured by growing populations of creatures. When I started visiting this area of Florida 15 years ago, I rarely saw a Florida Fighting Conch and I wouldn’t have known an olive snail if there had been any to see. But, as I learned several months ago while taking a guided beach walk, both of these species, which used to be plentiful but grew scarce beginning in the 70′s, are making a comeback. I didn’t need the conservation guide to tell me that there were new populations — they seemed to be everywhere I looked.
World Oceans Day is celebrated annually, recognizing the interdependency of the oceans with the rest of life on earth. Think about what your life would be like if we didn’t have our oceans. Think how much better our lives could be if we learned more about our oceans and the life forms that inhabit them. Think about how we can deal with pollution, with areas of the oceans that are made up of miles of junk, like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Think about how can we fish the oceans sustainably.
Below are some of my favorite photographs from my favorite body of salt water: the Gulf of Mexico.