MIDWAY ISLANDSLate last summer, President Barack Obama went to Midway Atoll, halfway between California and China in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Why? Because he’d just announced the expansion of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, a marine reserve encompassing several islands off Hawaii, including Midway. He wanted to help show off the remarkable wildlife he'd just helped protect.
National Geographic photographer and explorer Brian Skerry, who has spent a career taking extraordinary pictures of the oceans, was there. So was I—but Skerry was the lucky one: He got a chance to swim with the president.
I came as part of this month's magazine assignment, Sea of Change, which uses the centennial of the National Park Service in 2016 as a chance to look toward protecting special ecosystems in America's waters. I was there also as part of a documentary film, Sea of Hope, essentially about the same thing. So I had dual roles: I was there to photograph an interview being done with the president for National Geographic magazine and as a character in the film.