Two Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Shellfish)

New Jersey held its limited six-day Atlantic Coast oyster-harvest season this week, on an eight-acre oyster bed called Fitney Bit, at the mouth of the Mullica River near the Great Bay.
I went out in a small boat with a biologist for the state Division of Fish and Wildlife and Inquirer staff writer Amy S. Rosenberg for a story on the short season. We weren't even sure we'd find any fishermen as we set out from Port Republic. It was sunny, but very cold and windy. None of the baymen had been out the day before, and the biologist wasn't sure if anyone would be fishing on this day either. There was no way to check ahead of time, we just had to to out and look for ourselves, and hope we'd get lucky.

Heading out through some salt marshes toward the bay, it looked to me like open sea. All I could see ahead was water, and the skyline of Atlantic City on the horizon far off to the south. Hard to believe we would end up after about 15 minutes next to two fisherman scraping the bottom only eight feet below their workboat.

It was a unique photo experience. They were anchored over the oyster bed, so we had to approach them, and we couldn't get too close because of the wind, and our not wanting to interfere with their work. We certainly couldn't board their boat.

It was like hiking up a mountain to take a picture of an somebody inside an exhibit case. You walk around them, shoot with side, back and front light, then say "now what?"

I tried framing them with parts of our boat, shooting them really tight, crooked horizons, silhouettes, but it still felt as if I was photographing a display.

So Amy shouted questions and them, they shouted back, and the we would circle back toward them, only to drift away again.

In between, I'd shoot as they worked, trying to to make the photos appear intimate.

Then we left.