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A North County San Diego Navy Veteran Returns to His First Love

From lens to lab and back again

Ed Marsh
Image Credits Ed Marsh: Vincent Knakal, All other Photography: Ed Marsh

Growing up in Colorado, Ed Marsh wanted to be a photographer. His father wrote for outdoor magazines and had a regular column in the Colorado Fishing and Hunting News. Marsh, himself, was an avid climber and had dreams of traveling the world, shooting images and writing articles about climbing and mountaineering. Following high school, however, Marsh did not have the money to pursue photography through college or art school. Instead, he joined the Navy with aspirations to attend the comprehensive photography school it operates in Pensacola, Florida. 

The school had a limited number of slots, so naturally, there was some waiting. When a spot eventually opened up, after Marsh completed boot camp in San Diego, he was off to Pensacola, where he learned to shoot all kinds of pictures, from aerial photography to movies.

Seaside Reef splash at sunset
Seaside Reef splash at sunset

Upon graduation, Marsh’s first assignment was at U.S. Naval Base Guam, where he was stationed for three years in the late 1970s. “I spent most of my time in helicopters—sometimes hanging out the door,” Marsh, who is now 65, laughs. “We were searching for submarines, but also doing general surveillance. There was always a Russian trawler off Guam. We’d see what antennas were being used, try to get a shot inside an open hatch.” Guam is situated along what is known as “Typhoon Alley,” and Marsh also took survey photos following the most intense storms.

After Guam, Marsh was again stationed in San Diego, and when he left the Navy after five years of service, his next move was to use his veteran benefits in the form of the G.I. Bill to attend UC San Diego. He never lost his interest in photography, but he also has a scientific bent, and thinking of career options, he chose to study biochemistry. He was lucky enough to make a connection with Paul Saltman, one of the university’s top scientists at the time. “He really mentored me. He gave me a place in his lab. I only have a bachelor’s degree, but because of what I knew from working with him, it was really much more than that,” Marsh recalls fondly. 

Sculpture Borrego Springs
Sculpture Borrego Springs

His work resulted in a 30-year career in the biotech field, where Marsh specializes in proteins and, working on the operations and manufacturing side, he has been responsible for producing various genes and enzymes used in genomic research and antibody detection kits.

Throughout his adult life, Marsh continued to move about the country. His wife, Lisa, is a captain for GoJet Airlines, and their careers took them to Maine and then Michigan. Lisa, though, was born and bred in San Diego, and they both knew they would eventually return, which took place for good in 2011, when Marsh assumed leadership of a small biotech company.

Del Mar Fair 2022
Del Mar Fair 2022

The couple now lives in Cardiff with their two teenage sons, and Marsh, who is semi-retired from the biotech world, has returned to his first love: photography. Though no longer able to climb the way he once did, he has expanded his subject matter to include local human interest stories, “the obscure and little-known worlds that are all around us,” he explains. He mentions a story he recently wrote for Encinitas Magazine on Timekeepers, home to a third-generation horologist in Encinitas who was trained by his father and grandfather in the art of timekeeping. “The store is a living example of our modern digital world colliding with a specialized, age-old field of refinement and artistry,” says Marsh, who approaches his photography and journalism with all the enthusiasm he originally felt, only with a lifetime of experience that helps him to see the world through his own refined lens.

Mario Mane of Timekeepers in Encinitas, taken for an Encinitas Magazine article
Mario Mane of Timekeepers in Encinitas, taken for an Encinitas Magazine article


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