I was inspired by David Guttenfelder’s “Ninety Days in Ninety Seconds”. If you have ever wondered what it is like to be a photographer working on a story like this Spanish shipwreck in Panama, here is thirty days in sixty seconds. You can read the full story on National Geographic here.
A few moons ago I found myself working on a fascinating project in Panama documenting Fritz Hanselmann and his team of underwater archaeologists excavating a 17th century shipwreck. We were looking for ships belonging to the legendary English pirate Captain Henry Morgan. Morgan was on his way to sack Panama City when a storm sank five of his ships at the mouth of the Chagres River – these were the ships we were searching for – but Panama had other plans for the team. Instead of finding Morgan’s ships, we discovered a merchant ship laden with swords, bolts of cloth and other goods.
I was on the project for nearly 30 days – and out of the 30 days – had exactly two where the water was clear enough to shoot. The shipwreck was located very close to the mouth of the Chagres river, and every time it rained, the visibility underwater went to just about zero. Photographically, the project was a great exercise in patience and persistence – gearing up day after day, to be greeted with water that I couldn’t see the end of my arm in.
The great team of researchers made the days fly by, and in the end the currents worked out in my favor for just enough time to capture what needed to be captured.