From the moment the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico made headlines, Reuters has provided extensive coverage. Below are accounts from six of our photographers who have been sent at various times to document the story.
Covering the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster as a still photographer for Reuters has brought unique challenges. Although the volume of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico is huge, relatively small patches of oil have landed along coastal Louisiana. It’s like a monster who hides most of the time and lashes out quickly, withholding its full strength. But it has been important to show that oil is in fact having an ecological impact here, and to find areas with visible proof.
On Thursday May 20, I accompanied a Reuters TV crew, correspondent Mathew Bigg and Maura Wood of the National Wildlife Federation on a boat, looking for heavy concentrations of oil in an area at the very southern tip of Louisiana. We headed for an area which had just begun being inundated with oil from the Deepwater Horizon leak. After hours of searching, a broken propeller, and an unexpected lunch aboard a work barge, we had found the spot. As Wood prepared to take a sample of the water to check its toxicity, I suited up in chest waders and slowly got into the murky water, one camera and lens stuffed into my waiters. Maneuvering in the soft lagoon floor was tricky; I sank down as I tried to walk and was concerned I might loose my balance and get myself and camera wet. So I held onto the drifting boat long enough to get into position, cautiously letting go so I could have both hands free to shoot. Wood leaned over to get samples and I was able to shoot it from from the perspective of the oily water.
The last task of the day was washing oil from the hull of the boat, at the request of owner/captain Carey O’Neil. We wanted to avoid going through decontamination, so I scrubbed the sides in the water with Dawn.
The first thing I realized upon arriving in Mobile, Alabama as a part of Reuters’ coverage of the BP oil spill is that Alabama has a lot of coastline on the Gulf. Whenever I was in one place, I was always thinking “what if there’s something going on somewhere else?” Twice I flew out over the Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana coastline, once with the environmental group Mobile Baykeepers and once with the US Army National Guard. From that vantage I could really see just how long a shoreline was at risk. Oil booms surrounded some of the barrier islands and portions of the coast, but at times their placement seemed random. Forecasts of the path of the oil changed constantly and dramatically; one day the oil was projected to hit Alabama within the next 48 hours, the next morning it was projected to head west towards Louisiana.