Art and Alyson Gullette are birders. They also enjoy SCUBA diving. Amazingly, the couple from Andover, Minnesota, had the chance to do both while submerged 20 feet below the surface of a crystal-clear Minnesota lake one day in June 2006. Art brought his digital camera along, but with the intent to photograph fish, not fowl.
Not many birds fly by at that depth, so when the bird above, a Common Loon, swam within a foot of Art's face mask, he was shocked. Dismayed, too, because his camera wasn't turned on. The bird swam away before he could react.
"Above or below the water, I learned a lesson that day: If I'm going to take a camera along, I'm going to turn it on," he said. (You can see Art decked out in his underwater birding garb, camera switched on, in the inset at right.)
Alyson told me the loon seemed very curious, because it swam back and circled them a few times. Art had his camera turned on by then, and managed to snap a few photos before the loon took off for good -- probably, like Art, in search of fish. Why else would any air-breathing creature be lurking under a lake?
Art was impressed with the loon's underwater agility and speed, and he likened the bird to a combination jet plane and penguin. "They're very streamlined," he said. "The water pressure pushes their feathers in like a second skin. They catch fish, and fish are pretty quick."
I was impressed with Art's photo, which he sent to our Photo of the Week contest. But when Editor Chuck Hagner saw it, he thought it would look great on our In sight page, and it does. You can see it there today, on the last page of our August 2007 issue. -- E.M.