Some photographers will do anything to get a shot: get in a shark's face, take organ-squashing G-forces, dangle from a cliff or wade through floodwaters
Mud, Sweat, and Fears
Photo: Pete McBride
McBride used a Tokina 10–17mm f/3.5–4.5 AT-X fisheye zoom on a Nikon D300 to capture this tense moment at 1/50 sec at f/6.3, ISO 800.
If Ed Stafford, the first person to walk the entire length of the Amazon River, looks apprehensive in this photo, it’s for good reason, notes Peter McBride, assigned to cover part of the trek for Men’s Journal. “We had come to a flooded section of the forest,” he says. “We started wading across it, hoping to find dry ground just ahead, but we ended up wading for some five to six hours. Ed wanted to find dry ground because there are plenty of unknowns in the water—snakes, candiru, electric eels—and it’s also slow going, as the water is inky black, and you can’t see what you are crossing—logs, snags, and so on. Many of the logs are very spiky and sharp—good shin crackers—so it isn’t a comfortable place to go for a stroll. It was powerfully beautiful, the silence, the feel, but also kind of like walking through the darkest swamp of your worst childhood nightmare.”
The party also had to flee a swarm of Amazonian wasps. “We suffered one sting—not too bad but a bit nerve wracking,” McBride says. “Fortunately, we ran into no hostile locals, and no pit viper encounters.”
Not long after this picture was taken, when a 7-foot-long electric eel swam between McBride’s legs. “These eels have enough voltage to knock you unconscious, leading you to fall face down and drown. If I knew it was there, I might have panicked, which might have led it to zapping me.”
By the way, the aforementioned candiru is a bloodsucking vampire fish, which, according to Amazonian lore, can swim up a person’s, um, urinary tract and lodge itself in the urethra with its sharp spines. This has been for the most part debunked, although it still gives one pause.