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Original Issue

Nature Calls

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Shooting Michael Phelps at the world-famous National Aquarium in his hometown of Baltimore seemed like a snap for photographer Simon Bruty. But the 2004 session didn’t exactly go swimmingly. First, Bruty forgot to bring the lens he was going to use. (“Never a good idea,” he says.) After scrambling to get the proper gear, another problem arose: The strobes Bruty had placed in the aquarium kept going off at random. Eventually he discovered the culprit. A turtle in the tank was nibbling on the cables. Then, when Phelps finally got into the tank, “He wouldn’t stay still,” says Bruty, whose assistant relayed the reason Phelps was so fidgety: He had to go to the bathroom. Luckily, the aquarium gave him permission to, shall we say, do as the tank’s denizens do. That led to one final problem. “Now the bloody fish didn’t want to come back in the frame,” says Bruty. In the end, they were lured with some food. “It was definitely traumatic for me,” says Bruty—but the result was worth it.

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