Mac Stone is a conservation photographer and National Geographic Explorer specializing in imagery from the Everglades.
What started your interest in making the Everglades the subject matter of your photography?
I was always intrigued by the Everglades because it seemed incredibly wild—like the US version of the Amazon. In high school, just when I was really getting into photography, my dad took me on a camping and paddling trip in the Ten Thousand Islands within Everglades National Park. We had islands to ourselves and saw crocodiles, dolphins, alligators, eagles, stingrays and giant schools of fish. That week on the water made me realize how special subtropical wilderness is and honestly, I just wanted to explore as much of it as I could.
We know you do all you can to “get the shot” – do you have an interesting back story on an image to share?
During the winter, water levels drop throughout the Everglades and some years, the dry season lasts longer than usual. One particularly dry winter, I knew there was an area where dozens—if not hundreds—of alligators would be concentrated, trying to stay wet in an increasingly dry landscape. After hiking several miles, the last 50 feet were the worst. I needed to be close (very close) to make the image I had in mind, so with an accomplice, I slogged into a muddy pit with over 60 alligators (that I could count). Up to my thighs in a mix of decaying fish and putrid mud, I could feel gators wriggling under my feet as I reached the middle of the pile. The photograph came out as planned, but once I stood from my crouched position the gators stampeded. My heart nearly exploded. I don’t think I would do that again, but the image helps underscore the need for sending more freshwater south through the Everglades.