The Boy and the Red Pail

I first learned of the Measure A: Agua Hedionda Specific Plan through a conversation during a kayak fishing adventure on the very waters that ripple upon the land in debate. The chat with a fellow lagoon enthusiast ended with both our hands thrown in the air amid the realization that we couldn’t stop the proposed development even if we tried.

Unknowingly at that moment, I would later take the photo that became the imagery behind Carlsbad’s most passionate and determined voice—ultimately proving that we the people of the Carlsbad community can make a difference.

This is the story behind The Boy and the Red Pail photo

In November 2015, a mother of a friend whom I had grown up with on the shores of the Agua Hedionda lagoon contacted me asking if I had seen the recent news segments regarding the proposed lagoon development. She expressed her distaste for the art renderings she saw in these stories, which she felt portrayed the lagoon’s current amenities incorrectly. She asked if I could video the lagoon being enjoyed, which would then be supplied to local news channels as an accurate documentation of current lagoon use.

At this point my research was ongoing. I had signed the citizen referendum, but was still undecided. I felt I needed more time and information before I could make an educated vote, but agreed that the news clips portrayed the lagoon incorrectly.

I was introduced to Citizens for North County, a group of volunteers spearheading a movement against the proposed development who further explained that the clips would be submitted to local news channels to more accurately portray the lagoon. I agreed to help.

With camera in hand, I visited the lagoon the following day and explored the north coast shoreline. I entered near the former Snug Harbor Marina and walked southeast until sunset. I witnessed a local habitat animated with kayaks, fishermen, leash-less dogs, neighbors in conversation and even a pug-riding paddleboard. The lagoon was alive with leisure and recreation—I captured it all.

I felt an overwhelming warmth of love, pride and joy among those whom I shared the lagoon with that fall evening. As the sky dimmed from a fiery orange to a star-lit black, I returned home energized. I decided that I would return to the lagoon first thing the following morning to continue my documentation.

The lagoon, under thundering clouds and within a windy chill, greeted me and my family early the next morning. My two year old son Henry scampered along the sand while my wife Susanna tended to our newborn daughter Stella. Henry searched for critters and collected shells while kayakers floated within the rising tide.

Henry had his eye on a the top of a wind-blown bluff above the shoreline and soon attempted his ascent. He quickly lost his footing and slid back to the base. He picked himself up and continued on his knees—eventually finding his way to the zenith of his adventure. To his surprise, a lonely red pail awaited atop the bluff.

Barefoot and with eyes still adjusting to the awakening morning sun, Henry stood atop the bluff overlooking the lagoon and the distant strawberry fields. The encroached-on Encina Power Plant looms momentarily in the background. h_slideHenry’s favorite flannel, faded and tattered, fit snug around his stocky frame and his strawberry blond hair blew across his eyes.

Between gazes, Henry dipped his fingers into the red pail where he found wet sand abandoned by the child whom last played with this forgotten toy. I witnessed my son play on the shore of the lagoon much like my mother witnessed me at that very spot decades prior. My hands shook with excitement as the found pail, my first born child and the significance of the surrounding elements embraced my son in a composition that could not be staged even if I tried. I snapped a series of photos and video in an unbelievable frenzy. Uncertain of where this photo would end up, I anticipated it’s historic relevance.

The video of Henry and the red pail, as well as video captured during the previous evening was submitted to Citizens of North County as a donation. No payment was accepted and because I felt an endorsement would be premature due to my ongoing research, I requested all photo credit to remain anonymous.

My submitted clips never found airtime on local news. Besides a video edited by Citizens for North County concluding with a short clip of Henry and the red pail, these clips were for the most part unused. I decided that I would consider using the photo of Henry within an annual Carlsbad Local’s Calendar, a local business sponsored wall calendar I produce each year. I contacted committed 2016 calendar sponsors and explained the story behind the photo, as well as the potential connection to the growing No on A movement. Because there was not a 100% consensus on supporting the use of the photo among calendar sponsors, I decided to remove it.

Shortly after Citizens for North County contacted me and asked to use the photo as their main campaign branding. Originally my chosen means to share the photo with the public was through the calendar, but I later realized that the photo always belonged with the lagoon and the citizens attempting to save it. I gladly granted permission and proudly watched The Boy and the Red Pail imagery evolve to what it represents today—a wholehearted love for Carlsbad and a passionate community determined to protect it.

-Bryan Snyder


Click HERE to read how I voted!

4 Responses to “The Boy and the Red Pail”

  1. 1 Don Burton Mar 4th, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    Bravo. Couldn’t think of a better or more appropriate symbol of what this fight was all about. What will be our legacy? What do we want to leave our children?

  2. 2 Julie Mar 5th, 2016 at 12:00 am

    Thank you, Bryan Snyder ! From the first time I saw the video, I wondered who that kid was. The antithesis of the girl in the pristine white dress. The guy who acts like every single kid I’ve ever taken to any beach in Carlsbad. Be your real self, Henry ! Throw that sand in the bucket! Dig those sand crabs! Surf ! Swim! (Paint? — if we’re lucky!) Any day that a kid that size does not get dirty is a wasted day.

  3. 3 Jan Neff-Sinclair Mar 5th, 2016 at 10:52 am

    This was a very touching story and demonstrates exactly why defeat of Measure A was so important. This unspoiled lagoon should remain as it is so that generations of families can enjoy one of the last unpaved areas of Southern California.

  4. 4 Jodi Mar 14th, 2016 at 11:24 pm


    Though I knew the story of how that incredible picture came to be created, your explanation was poetic. One hears the word “iconic” bandied about constantly, but your photo of Henry is indeed iconic! It was the inspiration for those of us who worked so hard on saving what is very dear to us, the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. Your generosity was a big reason we were able to succeed in our quest.

    Thank you Bryan!

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