The Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) is a multi-year project by National Geographic photographer James Balog that aims to make show climate change in action through time-lapse imagery of glaciers. Balog has 27 Nikon D200 DSLRs pointed at 18 glaciers around the world snapping 8,000 photographs each year while powered by solar panels. His custom-designed rigs — created through months of trial and error — also include heavy duty tripods, waterproof cases, and wind-proof anchors. He has also created a documentary film about his project titled Chasing Ice. Read more…
The Photo Society has published an interesting article in which Kent Kobersteen, the Director of Photography at National Geographic magazine from 1987 to 2005, shares thoughts on what he looks for in photographers:
[The required] attributes are intellect, passion, maturity and drive.
Reading this, you may say “What about the photography?” Of course any person under consideration must be a great photographer. The National Geographic needs photography that is strong aesthetically and has a sophisticated use of color, photography that is poetic, journalistic, memorable, and comes from unique and intuitive seeing. But, that’s obvious, that’s a given.
All four of these attributes – intellect, passion, maturity, drive — ARE about the photography.
Kobersteen also states that he would choose “a photographer whose eye was not the best, but who worked very hard, rather than the person with the best eye in the world, and who was lazy.”
National Geographic photographers get to do the coolest things. In this video, photographer Carsten Peter takes us along with him on a journey into Son Doong, the world’s largest cave located in Vietnam. The biggest chamber in the cave is over 3 miles long and more than four times taller than the Statue of Liberty.
Ever wonder how the photographs found on the pages of National Geographic come together? Here’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes video showing how the images of the 1992 cover story titled “The Sense Of Sight” — photographed by Joe McNally — were shot, edited, and arranged. McNally writes,
And changes. Man, is that an understatement. High res digital cameras have replaced film cameras. Hard drives store pictures, not little yellow boxes. Kodak’s stopped making carousel projectors. Photographers go to the magazine far less often, given digital transmission. Ties and jackets are seen less frequently.
But, the main mission, over time, has remained. Tell a good story in pictures. The major components–photographer, picture editor, designer, magazine editor–are all still in place, and the interplay among them is ongoing and largely unchanged.
The next time you pick up an issue of National Geographic and are tempted to flippantly flip through the images, consider these crazy facts: the 40 page/40 picture story took roughly a year to create from idea to completion and required 1200 rolls of film shot during 6 months of field work!
One just doesn’t walk in off the street to get a job at National Geographic anymore. That was almost half a century ago when there were many more magazines being published that used good photojournalism. And the number of really fine photographers was not nearly as high as I believe it is today. So it’s much tougher to do what I did so long ago. But not impossible.
[...] I would never tell anyone you can’t get there from here, regarding getting to photograph for National Geographic. But, if that’s what you want, you have to want it really bad and dedicate yourself to developing your eye and photographic abilities to the very best you can, and then try to do even better than that. Don’t worry about being better than anybody you know personally or whose work you admire. Simply try to be better tomorrow than you were yesterday. You are not so much in competition with others as you are with yourself. Be your own toughest critic.
Ever wonder what National Geographic photographers go through to get the beautiful shots that appear in the yellow-bordered magazine? The Photo Society — an interesting new website created by the magazine’s Photographer’s Advisory Board — recently surveyed 45 Nat Geo photographers about hazards they’ve encountered while on assignment. All the incidences were then counted up and turned into a fascinating table showing how “glamorous” the photographers’ lives are. You can also read short vignettes of these experiences here.
‘Life In A Day‘ is a historic crowdsourced documentary film that shows what the world was like on a single day: July 24, 2010. People in 140 countries around the world captured snippets from their lives on that day and submitted 80,000 video clips to YouTube. Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald and executive producer Ridley Scott then edited those 4,500 hours of footage into a 95 minute long feature film. After debuting at Sundance and being streamed on YouTube earlier this year, the film is now free to watch. Enjoy.
If you think you can’t compete as a photographer because you’re past a certain age, think again. Here’s a fantastic quote by National Geographic Editor-in-Chief Chris Johns from an interview he gave back in 2005:
There are a lot of exciting photographers out there. Our new director of photography, David Griffin, and assistant director Susan Smith are making a much stronger push than we have in the past to identify young, emerging talent. They’re not necessarily age-specific either. Often photographers start to find their traction in their 50s.
Johns also says that photography’s transition to digital has also helped photographers develop more quality; getting feedback is easier than ever, and many of the prohibitive costs are no more.