Way Beyond The Garden

The Floating Photographer

Couple weeks back, I checked in from eastern Oregon while I was out there on assignment. You can now read the story I was chasing, and better yet, hear it. I love recording natural sound as much as I do talking to people; it doesn't get any better for me when I get to do both.

But I admit, radio can only take you so far when the subject is the visual arts. So be sure to check out the underworld world of Mary Edwards, part biologist, part artist, and yes, part fish.

Mary and I spent a day in dry suits on the Lostine River outside Joseph, OR. It was salmon spawning time and she wanted to shoot some big ones. In the radio story, she finds a slightly beat-up male about 4 years old. The light was dim — he was under a big log, and she doesn't use a flash — but a few liquid rays filtered through his tail.

Chinook salmon tail

This guy was probably 3' long with an 18" body depth. Mary almost had to touch him before I could discern his shape, he was so thoroughly camouflaged by his clean, clear and oh so cold environment. photo credit: Mary Edwards hide caption

toggle caption photo credit: Mary Edwards

She snapped a whole bunch of other pix that day, but I'm now going take up some mega bandwidth on this page to feature a whopping photograph from her trip to Alaska last year. It's a hell of a pix, and hers is a hell of a tale.



  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/94397297/94396096" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

To hear it, all you gotta do is CLICK.

composite photo of bears and trout

Is seeing believing? Guess it depends on what you want to believe. This seemingly impossible shot of underwater fish and above the water bears might be possible, but is way beyond the pay grade of Mary Edwards' camera. Instead, she stitched these two images together in post-production, images she indeed captured in the same Alaskan river within the same hour. photo credit: Mary Edwards hide caption

toggle caption photo credit: Mary Edwards



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

All in all an interesting story about a subject that is close to the hearts of many in the Pacific Northwest. Restoration of the streams that Mary Edwards is treading through has cost millions. A discussion about her technique to avoid disruption of the spawning process or beds of eggs that rest in the river, seems to have been lacking. The objective eye can easily see the incongruity of her passion to record and the potential for the disruption of her subjects spawning grounds. As a photographer myself, I am often avoiding areas that are not intended for humans, or where human presence can do harm to the environment and habitat i am trying to capture. It is a detail that I found lacking in the story that was otherwise I found inspiring.

Sent by John Granen | 10:42 AM | 9-9-2008

Thanks for bringing the subject up, John. Longer than she's been an underwater photographer, Mary Edwards' life work has been the research and field work necessary to protect fish in the wild. As mentioned in the story, she is a fisheries research biologist for the Nez Perce tribe. She has a keen eye and can spot a redd at a considerable distance and knows more than most where and where not to tread. Perhaps we can involve Mary herself in the discussion after she returns from this week's field work counting redds along the Columbia River; it's a record year!

Sent by Ketzel Levine | 11:21 AM | 9-9-2008

Talking fish at Talking Plants. That must have been a fun piece to do. Mary's photos are beautiful. The colors of the trout and salmon come through great in the slide show. It's impressive how clearly she gets her shots in that moving water, with that camera housing and those pudgy gloves. Great stuff.

Sent by burro | 12:09 AM | 9-10-2008

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from