As a musician, Moby needs no introduction: millions of albums sold, songs in films and commercials, and those black, chunky glasses. But on the occasion of his ninth studio album, he’s coming out as a photographer too. Destroyed, a book of photographs that accompanies the album of the same title out this month, takes us on tour with the eclectic star across places, spaces, and continents. The images are spare, stark, and vibrant, set in airports, airplanes, hotels, corridors, and concert arenas. The latter, taken from Moby’s on-stage point of view, are the only ones filled with the presence of others in this gallery that points to the “strangeness of touring.”
Before a recent talk at National Geographic headquarters, Moby stopped to chat with Pop Omnivore. He’s taken pictures for 35 years—as long as he’s been making music—and credits a photographer uncle with introducing him to the craft. He says he doesn’t know which he would choose if he were forced to live without sight or sound, but his musings at the end of a long evening might have offered a clue. Said the artist: “I hope to be making music until the day I die."
You’ve taken pictures since you were ten. Do you think audio or visual is a more potent form of expression?
The methodology of creating music is so very different for me than the methodology behind creating a photograph. Photography’s really quick; it’s spontaneous and immediate. For me, taking pictures is documenting, and making music is a long, creative process. From start to finish a song can take me a year, two years, and there are so many different components to it. I’m always working on every last little aspect of it.
What subjects intrigue you as a photographer?
I love what empty spaces say about people. My favorite thing to take pictures of: completely neutral, empty spaces. I’m so much more interested in an empty chair than in a chair with a person sitting in it. Aesthetically I like the simplicity and purity, like just simple angles. But it’s almost like aesthetic forensics where you take a picture of an empty space. On the one hand there’s a simple beauty to it, but it’s also trying to understand us as a species through the things we’ve created.
Your book, Destroyed, takes us on tour with you, to cities around the world, through empty spaces and airports and concert venues. It made me wonder: Where do you feel most at home?
British Airways international business class has an upper deck that’s my favorite place on the planet. I’m not trying to be a shill for British Airways but they have these flat beds that are sort of private. They have five windows and flying from London to Los Angeles—I’m pretty happy up there. Because you look out the window & it’s just this beautiful simple skyscape for 11 hours. For better or worse that’s where I feel most at home.
If you had to live without sight or sound, which one would you choose?
Wow, it’s the single hardest question I’ve been asked, and I don’t know. I truly don’t know.
Maybe we can relate it back to the first question about different modes of expression. Is there a way to describe the relationship between music and photography?
Music is ineffable. Music has no form whatsoever—all it is is air moving just a little bit differently. It’s the only art form that you can’t touch. You can touch a CD, an iPod, but music technically doesn’t exist. Once it hits your ear, you have a reaction to it, and it’s gone. Sometimes we think that’s a song about trucks, or forests, or that’s a song about a girl named Jenny, but it’s still just air moving a little bit differently. And photography—most visual arts are much more formal, etymologically in the true sense of the word, like pertaining to a specific form. It’s almost like left brain/right brain. But when they work together, especially film and music, boy it’s just perfect.
Bedouin woman, south of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; by Jodi Cobb, whose photos were featured in the October, 1987 National Geographic article, "Women of Saudi Arabia."
While photographing the recent revolt in Libya Lynsey Addario was captured and later released, along with three other journalists; their story was recounted in the New York Times. Addario discussed the benefits and drawbacks of being a woman photographer in places of conflict in the Times "Lens" blog."If a woman wants to be a war photographer, she should. It's important. Women offer a different perspective. We have access to women on a different level than men have, just as male photographers have a different relationship with the men they're covering." Addario recently contributed powerful photographs of Afghan women in a National Geographic feature article, Veiled Rebellion. View her photo gallery and the up-close and personal look behind the veil.
Snow! Whenever the weatherman puts the word out, most of us jump into action: getting the firewood and extra groceries in, pulling out shovels, sleds and microscope ... ah, what? Yes, microscope. Well, that’s just what W. A. Bentley did almost 145 years ago. When the flakes started flying Bentley, was quite literally, in his element.
Wilson A. “Snowflake” Bentley of Jericho, Vermont (1865-1931) was a farmer and highly regarded amateur meteorologist who photographed snow—or more precisely—photographed thousands of individual snow crystals. Drawn by their beauty and seemingly endless variety, he isolated and captured them in simple, stark photographs. He created his first successful image “photomicrograph” of a single snow crystal on January 15, 1885. He was only 19 years of age, and after much trial and error, he had pioneered a technique using a bellows camera attached to a compound microscope. Young Bentley spent countless hours outdoors or in a cold dark woodshed on the farm. He captured individual snow crystals on cloth of black velvet and got them to his microscope-camera set up while still perfectly intact. The creamy matte of the velvet proved the perfect backdrop to showcase the beauty and feather-like qualities of the snow crystals.
See some of the earliest photographs of snowflakes and read more after the jump.
Many Glacier, Glacier National Park, Montana; photo by David Boyer
Winter solstice in the northern hemisphere arrives Tuesday, December 21, when the earth's axis at the North Pole is tilted farthest away from the sun. It is the shortest day of the year. Enjoy the peaceful side of winter with these wilderness photo galleries. Happy holidays!
Note: The first photo in the Oulanka gallery is available as a poster; click here for more information.
Forgive us for bragging, but we're number one and number two. National Geographic photographers placed first and second in this year’s Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year competition Congratulations to Mark Leong and Brian Skerry!
The award is a brand new one for the 46-year-old Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, which is sponsored by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine. The category calls for a sequence of six pictures that tell a memorable story about animal behavior or about an issue affecting animals.
Mark Leong’s photos from our story, "Asia's Wildlife Trade," took first place. The story, published in January, covers the illegal international animal trade and its victims. The article has been credited with helping to prompt changes in enforcement of anti-smuggling laws in Malaysia.
Runner-up was Brian Skerry, for a portfolio based on several stories he did for the magazine, including one on global fisheries.
The photo editor for both stories was Kathy Moran.
Bison once played a similar role on the North American prairie. In 1806 William Clark wrote: “I assended to the high Country and from an eminance I had a view of...a greater number of buffalow than I had ever seen before at one time. I must have seen near 20,000 of those animals feeding on this plain.” When Clark journeyed west with Meriwether Lewis, tens of millions of bison lived on the grasslands, shaping vegetation, dispersing seeds, coexisting with burrowing owls and prairie dogs. By the late 1800s bison had been hunted nearly to extinction.
Fortunately, many other migratory spectacles survive. This month the world of migrations comes to life on the pages of our magazine, on the National Geographic Channel, and at nationalgeographic.com. Our photographers and writers spent two years on the project. They were astonished and inspired by the determination and grace of these animals. I am sure you will be too.
Photograph courtesy Klaus Nigge
To photograph whooping
cranes on the swampy breeding grounds in Wood Buffalo National Park,
photographer Klaus Nigge sat in his one-meter-square blind for six days and
nights. He hardly moved and barely slept—but the payoff was worth the cramped
muscles and exhaustion. He caught on film a predatory interaction that few have
ever witnessed. “It was one of my best photographic sessions ever,” he says.
Writer Jenny S. Holland interviews Klaus to get the story behind his photographs.
Silhouetted in the Andaman Sea, an elephant takes a morning dip in the warm waters. Photo: Cesare Naldi
Rajan, a 60-year-old elephant born in captivity on the mainland of India, learned to swim nearly 40 years ago, when he arrived in the Andaman Islands—a remote archipelago in the Bay of Bengal—to work for logging companies. For three decades, he and about 200 other elephants hauled felled trees through the jungle. To get from island to island, they were taught to swim—that’s how Rajan developed his love of the sea. During this time he developed another love: Rani, a female elephant and co-worker, was his “wife” until about 15 years ago, when she died of snakebite.
“Wasserstiefel” © 1986, Roman Signer, Courtesy Hauser & Wirth; Photo by Marek Rogowiec
In a recent e-mail interview, Signer gave away his secrets.
The room darkens, and Stephanie Sinclair’s photographs flash on the screen. For months she has been photographing members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the FLDS. Its members are known to most of us because they believe in polygamy, but Stephanie’s photographs tell a deeper, broader story. They are able to do so because FLDS members trust her.
We've covered a lot of water since our last field dispatch from artificial reefs. We left fisheries biologists using ROVs to estimate fish biomass on artificial reefs off the Pensacola coast and drove west across a still battered Gulf Coast. Hurricane damage was still evident in every direction. We rolled into Lake Charles, Louisiana, late in the evening, bleary-eyed and shaking from an overdose of Starbucks and Redbull. We met our fixers Darrell and Cher Walker (True Blue Watersports), repacked the gear for a few days in the Gulf, and loaded our Sport Fisherman in the dark. Captain Keith Monroe and first mate Eric Larson pulled us off the docks at 2 a.m., and we headed into the Gulf of Mexico. Daybreak gave us a view of a forest of platforms stretching to the horizon–some manned, some not. The water closer to the coast was mud brown, useless for photography, so we pressed deep into the Gulf looking for clear water.
The November issue of National Geographic magazine features a moving photograph of chimpanzees watching as one of their own is wheeled to her burial. Since it was published, the picture and story have gone viral, turning up on websites and TV shows and in newspapers around the world. For readers who’d like to know more, here’s what I learned when I interviewed the photographer, Monica Szczupider.
On September 23, 2008, Dorothy, a female chimpanzee in her late 40s, died of congestive heart failure. A maternal and beloved figure, Dorothy had spent eight years at Cameroon’s Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center, which houses and rehabilitates chimps victimized by habitat loss and the illegal African bushmeat trade.
Dr. David Obura measures a new table coral growing amidst fields of dead coral at Kanton Island in the Phoenix Islands. Photograph by Brian Skerry.
I have been diving for eight days in the Phoenix Islands and have seen a range of situations underwater. Much of what I’ve seen has been severe stress on these remote ecosystems. Many of the coral reef habitats I have dived on have undergone bleaching events in recent years and are now just beginning to show signs of new life. It is actually a testimony to the overall good health of these reefs prior to the bleaching that they are able to rebound at all. So in terms of the future, these places should continue to rebuild and return to their once lush state.
Bobby Model passed away this week. I am incredibly sad and will miss him terribly. I kept hoping he'd recover and be back, with a shy smile, talking about photography and his next adventure. He made the lives of everyone he touched richer.
He was a valued colleague and friend to all of us at National Geographic and will be deeply missed. Our thoughts are with his family.
September 13, 2009–After nearly six days of sailing we reached Nikumaroro Island around 10 a.m. today. The tiny spec of land turned into a deserted tropical island clustered with palm trees the closer we approached. I had planned to use the days in transit to unpack and assemble all of my photo equipment, but the rough seas didn’t allow for this. So, I spent the first several hours today doing this along with charging batteries and prepping my dive gear. I was able to get everything ready in time for a dive in the early afternoon.
I dove on the leeward side of Nikumaroro and from the moment I jumped in, two things were evident. First there seemed to be a lot of fish. Second, the corals here were in rough shape. As I mentioned in my previous post, coral scientist David Obura was here in 2005 and recorded substantial coral bleaching and dead corals due to warming sea temperatures. Our hope was that in the four years since, new coral growth had taken place, however we saw very little of this.
I ended up spending about three hours in the water today, making two dives and concentrated mostly on photographing fish. There were some huge schools of surgeonfish in the surf zone, where I often love to work. The crashing waves create backlighting that can make for a beautiful picture, provided you can hold your position and not get slammed into a rock or coral head!
Nikumaroro Islands is the place that many believe Amelia Earhart landed on her historic attempt of a round the world flight. So, while fish were foremost in my thoughts today, I must admit that somewhere in the back of my mind I secretly desired to swim over an underwater ridge to find the wreckage of a Lockheed Electra lying amongst the coral. Didn’t happen though. I did swim amongst the wreckage of a ship that grounded here, but no aircraft debris today.
Tomorrow I am planning an early morning dive on the windward side of the island where I hope the reef will have fared better from the stressing event of four years ago. —Brian Skerry
The journey I was embarking upon would take me from my home to Boston’s Logan Airport to Fiji, where I would board a ship and sail for the Phoenix Islands. From start to finish I would be away about 25 days. On the way to the airport we stopped to pick up Dr. Greg Stone, the expedition leader and force behind the Phoenix Islands being designated as the world’s largest marine protected area.
The currents in Key Largo felt like underwater trade winds that just did not want to quit. The wrecks are deep and need light brought down to them to illuminate large areas on these iron reefs. If I were shooting a very small area I could use dual strobes mounted on the housing but our goal was to create an atmosphere of an underwater studio with generator powered HMI lights on150 foot long cables, a Nuytco prototype submarine LED, handheld HIDs and strobes on photoeyes. 150 pounds of cable and lights were ferried 115 feet down the line to the wreck in a pumping knot and a half current … in the dark.
Underwater photographer David Doubilet in his studio, prepping and packing for an assignment
Hi everyone. This is an invite to join me on an assignment that will take our team on an unusual underwater road trip along the continental shelf of the eastern and southern United States. The assignment actually started with a short few days underwater in late May in Florida, but now we kick off the major stretch of work that will find us in southern coastal waters moving around in planes, trains, and automobiles ... and of course dive boats.
The latest news on Doctor Danger (July 6):
Intestines? Who needs ‘em? Despite losing about 2/3 of his in surgery after a car stunt gone bad, Doc Danger is on the mend and ready to work.
“People get hurt on the job every day. This was my day.”
It was during his latest suicide car jump: The car he was driving, a little too fast, crashed into the stack of cars as planned, but then flew past its mark and fell 80 feet to the ground. Unfortunately, on the landing his body slid beneath his seatbelt in a way that severely damaged his insides. As the strap dug into him, “I felt more pain than I ever had in my life,” he recalls. Fortunately, a surgical team was able to put him back together, but first they had to remove a large section of his intestines. “I’m still learning how my new body works—some things just don’t go through me the way they used to,” he says. “But I’ve had my whisky drink, and so far so good.”
Doc says he’s overwhelmed by the response to his accident from family, friends, fans, and strangers. “You go through life thinking people don’t give a damn, but they do, in a big way. It’s an amazing thing.”
Though he’ll hand over the keys to the suicide jump car, at least for now, “I’ll go right back to doing my fire stunts,” he says. “I’m disappointed—I like crashing the car. You’re never quite as alive as when you’re near death.” But it’s time to heal, and maybe time to put other priorities on top, he says.
Meanwhile, if you’re lucky, he might just show you his scar.
—Jennifer S. Holland
Congratulations! The Your Shot special issue hit newsstands today (June 30). We may have done the editing, writing and design, but you took the pictures—101 of our favorite photographs submitted by readers since Your Shot debuted in March 2006.
How did we pick the pics we picked? There's no magic formula. Personally, I'm drawn to images that make me feel something, be it joy, sorrow, suprise or wonder. So that's how I structured the issue: four chapters, four emotions. The selection process took months, but for photo editor Susan Welchman and I, it was worth every moment. These two videos explain why:
1. Susan and I describe why we love editing Your Shot.
Highlights from the July issue of National Geographic: the lost city of Angkor, manta rays in the Maldives, Garrison Keillor goes to the state fair, the fire and ice of the New Zealand park where Lord of the Rings was filmed, giant telescopes; and Serbs look to the future.
Russian Orthodox Church, April 2009
Moscow at Night, August 2008
Siberian Oil, June 2008
In the April issue of National Geographic appears a story by photographer Gerd Ludwig on the re-emergence of the Russian Orthodox Church. This is the third of a trilogy of stories that have run recently by Gerd covering various contemporary issues in Russia. I had a chance to catch up with Gerd in his home in Los Angeles to discuss his work.
Photographer Tyrone Turner photographed the March 2009 coverage on energy efficiency and produced a striking set of images using a thermal camera. I had a chance to ask him about the challenges of the assignment.
The international jury of the 52nd annual World
Press Photo Contest have selected a black-and-white image by American
photographer Anthony Suau as World Press Photo of the Year 2008. The
picture shows an armed officer of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department
moving through a home in Cleveland, Ohio, following eviction as a result of
mortgage foreclosure. Officers have to ensure that the house is clear of
weapons, and that the residents have moved out. The
winning photograph, taken in March 2008, is part of a story commissioned by Time
magazine. The story as a whole won Second Prize in the Daily Life category of
Jury chair MaryAnne Golon said: “The strength of the picture is in its opposites. It’s a double entendre. It looks like a classic conflict photograph, but it is simply the eviction of people from a house following foreclosure. Now war in its classic sense is coming into people’s houses because they can’t pay their mortgages.
Follow this link to view the rest of this years World Press photo contest winners.
"It’s rare for a day to go by in which the president of the United States is not seen in multiple newspaper and magazine photographs. The “clack” of shutters and the accompanying burst of light from camera flashes is part of every public event involving the chief executive. The first photograph of a U.S. president was taken on this week in 1849 — when James K. Polk, America’s 11th president, posed for his picture just before the end of his term in office. The photographer was Matthew Brady, whose extensive coverage of the Civil War would later make him famous. Today, 173,000 Americans make their living as photographers." —U.S. Census Bureau
Daguerreotype by Matthew B. Brady, February 14, 1849
In the early 1990s, photographer David Alan Harvey worked on a profile of the famous American painter Andrew Wyeth for National Geographic magazine. Wyeth passed away last month and so I’ve asked David to recount his experience on the assignment.
David Griffin: National Geographic rarely does living biographies, why do you think Wyeth was seen as an exception and worthy of coverage by NGM?
David Alan Harvey: I think Andrew Wyeth represents in an artistic way a real Americana. His painted "fantasies" are probably the dreams of many Americans. So many Americans feel tied to rural roots, whether they actually grew up on the farm or not. On top of that, his work is quite comprehensible and he was indeed a living legend.
DG: How long was the assignment?
DAH: I had very few shooting days due to the elusiveness of Wyeth himself. He loved to play cat and mouse. He tested my resolve, because he denied most photographers access to his life. I think I was on that assignment for six weeks. I mostly waited. It took all of my ability and patience and "public relations" skills to make this story work. I only shot 35 rolls of black & white film. This story was literally "one picture at a time."
DG: What was Wyeth like to work with? Was he easy to approach?
DAH: Andy was a prankster. Like a young boy. He always wanted to throw me off track, and see if I could pick up on it. For him the whole process was a game. But I liked him. I can be pretty playful myself!
DG: At one point you met Helga, his famous model. How did Andrew and she interact?
DAH: I never thought in a million years I would see Helga, much less photograph her. I only shot three frames of her with Andy. He "gave" me the picture that was in the magazine. So there was no real way for me to know how they interacted. Since he painted about a hundred nudes of her, I would imagine they interacted just fine.
DG: What was your favorite image from the coverage, and why is it so?
DAH: I liked the shot of Andy coming through the window. THAT was Andy. He was out on the roof just walking around dangerously. Again, like an errant child. When he came back through the window, I was there. One frame. Literally.
DG: Earlier you mentioned shooting this in B&W, what was the thinking behind this decision?
DAH: I convinced the editor to go with black & white for one simple reason: I knew the coverage would be mostly Wyeth paintings on the page. I felt that my saturated Kodachrome look would just be garish up against his monochromatic paintings. My suggestion to the Editor was that if we went B&W that the Wyeth paintings would jump out and our photographs would stand on their own as well without conflicting with his work. I got the go-ahead for B&W in about 15 seconds.
DG: When you approached this, was your aesthetic choices for this shoot influenced by his painting style?
DAH: I had been influenced by Andrew Wyeth long before I ever knew I would shoot a story on him. I knew my work would blend with his no matter what I was thinking.
DG: You are an artist, did you feel a connection?
DAH: Absolutely. The only reason I could put up with Andy was because I could identify with him. I think he felt the same.
DG: Do you feel Wyeth recognized, acknowledged photography as an art form? Did he have any views on this?
DAH: He did not talk about photography. But I brought him a print of mine as a gift, and when I came back a few weeks later it was hanging in his living room. He was also friends with Henri Cartier-Bresson, who was the only other photographer who ever spent any amount of time with Andy.
DG: What was the strangest moment during your time with him?
DAH: The moment when he seated me next to Helga for Thanksgiving dinner. She was in disguise. In costume. I had no idea the woman next to me was Helga. Andy loved this joke. I guess she liked talking to me, so a few days later she showed up for the picture in the studio. I guess it always pays to be nice with whomever you are sitting at dinner whether you know who they are or not!
DG: Do you know how he reacted to the publishing of the story?
DAH: I never saw Andy again after the story. I heard the family was pleased.
DG: Was your later work (or life) influenced by Wyeth?
DAH: My life is always influenced by the people I meet. Both the well known and the unknown. What I loved about Andy was that he thought about nothing else but painting. His wife Betsy ran the "business." Without Betsy, Andy would probably not have sold a single painting. I saw the blend of art and commerce with this team. No one person can do both. But, it was Andy's freestyle way of living and playing and being very serious at the same time that both influenced and reinforced my overall life philosophy.
Now, here’s the best. Witnesses fled except one man, who stopped, called an ambulance, and made sure Bobby got to the best hospital. “He saved his life,” his mother, Anne Young, said. Bobby Model, veteran of many mountaineering expeditions, embarked on the longest expedition of his life. After a month, still in a coma, he was flown to New York City for surgery, then to Denver’s Craig Hospital for rehabilitation. His family is his center of gravity, of course; his sister says it’s a gift to be there for the person you love. But Bobby’s big heart touched many, and many reached out in return. Schoolchildren in his hometown of Cody, Wyoming, sent cards. A blog for climbers posted a thousand messages. Friends flew in to visit, surrounding him with love.
“Sometimes I have to kick myself when I take my life for granted,” Bobby once wrote. “I’ve been fortunate to witness so many amazing human moments.” Now, Bobby’s drive propels him from one amazing moment to the next. “You see it in his eyes,” his mother said. “He is figuring it out.” He gets around in a wheelchair, talks, and laughs. He snaps with a point-and-shoot in his right hand, and, because his left hand lacks strength, the staff at Craig will rig a bigger, heavier camera on his wheelchair. The expedition continues. There is far to go. “But he is so much with us now,” Anne Young added. “He shows a sense of humor and sweetness that is pure Bobby.”
Recently, he wrote his friends:
OK, everybody you can stop crying for me now. Thanks, though.
Photo: Rich Clarkson
Last month I proffered that due to both digital capture and digital delivery of images, the playing field for great photography is being leveled. So how can a professional photographer maintain an edge?
In a word: consistency.
I honestly believe that everyone has at least one great photograph in them, and the tools available today mean that the capture and distribution of that one great image dramatically increases the chance it will be seen by a broad audience.
But to be a professional, you need to be able to make more than just one great image—you have to make them all the time. Any publication dedicating resources to the creation of original photography needs to be assured that the photographers on assignment will come back with the goods.
Each type of publication has specific visual needs. Newspapers use workhorse photographers who can produce good images on very tight deadlines. The news weeklies’ needs are similar but want work that is elevated aesthetically and can hold together over multiple pages. Monthly publications, such as National Geographic, hire photographers who specialize in long-form narrative or complex conceptualization.
The day before Thanksgiving in 2005, Kathy Sartore, married to photographer Joel Sartore, learned she had breast cancer. “Cancer is a thief. It steals time,” Joel says. “But cancer can also be a blessing, an amazing experience that forces us to set things right. My work had made me a stranger to my three kids. With Kathy sick, I knew it was time to stay put for a while.” So Joel stayed close to home. He started photographing endangered species in his hometown zoo in Lincoln, Nebraska. Then he took his portable studio down the road to the Omaha Zoo. “My fascination with endangered species started when, as a child, I saw a picture of Martha, the last passenger pigeon,” Joel explains. “She died at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. Audubon described flocks flying at 60 miles an hour, darkening the skies for days at a time. And there she was, the last bird. I’ve never forgotten that.”
Kathy has beaten cancer, but Joel’s mission continues. So far, he’s documented more than 1,200 imperiled species. Among his photographs in this month’s story “Last One,” you’ll see a pygmy rabbit named Bryn. She died not long after the picture was made. Now the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit population is no more. Joel hopes his work will help prevent this from happening to other animals.
Since that monumental day in 2005, Joel has learned how to combine his passion for his family with his passion for photography. “Kathy’s cancer made me realize how little time any of us really has,” he says. Time, our most precious currency, is the most valuable thing we humans can spend.
Photo: Cole Sartore
I case you missed last weeks announcement of Nikon’s new flagship DSLR, the full frame D3X, here a few of the important stats.
For a full rundown on the camera, take a look at Rob Galbraith’s review.
The desert air at night is cold and clear. I’ve never seen a sky so bright. The stars and planets seem to pulsate. I’m hundreds of miles from a city, deep in the Namib, one of the oldest deserts in the world. The Bushmen, southern Africa’s oldest inhabitants, call this home.
Legend says that one dark night, a young Bushman girl, wanting to see better, threw fire embers in the sky. The embers became the stars and planets. Thrilled with the transformation and wanting to make it even better, she tossed different burning roots into the air and added color to the sky. This, say the Bushmen, is how the Milky Way was created.
I have my own story about the sky, one that precedes my experience in the Namib by more than three decades. I’m ten years old, perhaps even the same age as the mythical Bushman girl, and am sound asleep. My father lifts me from bed and carries me to a couch in front of our flickering black-and-white television. It’s three in the morning on February 20, 1962, and John Glenn is boarding the Mercury spacecraft. Soon an explosion of light and smoke erupts, and the rocket, burning like a hot ember, lifts him into the sky. “Godspeed, John Glenn,” radios fellow astronaut Scott Carpenter. The world waits and watches. Five hours and three orbits later, anxiety turns to elation when Glenn splashes down safely.
It’s a scene I will never forget, but the mission that stirred my imagination more than any other was Apollo 8 in December 1968, with its haunting photographs of Earth, made by the crew as they rounded the moon, the first humans ever to see its far side. There is our planet, beautiful, fragile, a mottled blue-and-white orb, floating in the blackness of space. The mission’s defining moment came on Christmas Eve, when in a live telecast from lunar orbit, the astronauts read the majestic words of Genesis to an enthralled audience on Earth.
This special edition of National Geographic celebrates the 40th anniversary of that mission. We also salute all the heroes who have ventured into space, and those on the ground who make such incredible journeys possible. May the dreams and aspirations of humanity always be as infinite as space itself.
I love the image above because it is a view that I have never seen before of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. It is in one of those images where I slap my head and say “how the heck did you see that?!” In the November issue of National Geographic, Jim Richardson has produced even more stunning images on a story on light pollution. And the truth is that these amazing photographs could not have been made to such a level of quality if it were not for digital photography.
The night sky in the small, rural Virginia community I call home is a big deal, but I didn’t realize how big until our local schools considered installing stadium lighting for nighttime sports. The controversy that erupted surprised me. I thought there’d be arguments about the cost of installing and maintaining lights—and there were. I just never expected the most intense debate to revolve around the potential light pollution of our famously dark skies. When the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors heard public comments on the issue, eight residents spoke in favor of the lights. Nine spoke against. Readers of the local newspaper also weighed in. “Our children will have the opportunity to play more sporting events,” wrote one supporter of the proposition. The lights “will fundamentally and unalterably change the quality of life,” countered an opponent.
Light pollution is a rather new, unintended consequence of technology in the arc of human history, reports Verlyn Klinkenborg in our cover story. The beauty of an ink black night aside, darkness turns out to be as essential to our biological well-being as light. The cyclic rhythm of waking and sleep parallels the cycle of light and dark on Earth. Tampering with it may turn out to have biological repercussions.
Back to the light storm in my own backyard: After an anonymous donor offered financial help, the measure passed, four to one. It was “best for the kids,” the superintendent of schools said, but the jury may still be out on that one.
Photograph by Jim Richardson
What would you do if you had one wish to change the world, and you were given $100,000 to make that wish a reality?
James Nachtwey, one of the most highly regarded photojournalists of our time, was given that chance when he was awarded the 2007 TED prize. He used the prize
money to translate his peerless journalistic vision into stunning images, in an effort to raise awareness of a virulent, mutated strain of extremely drug resistant
Mr. Nachtwey’s coverage spans the globe and will hopefully raise the profile
of XDR-TB. The photographs are as haunting as they are beautiful and can be
viewed at XDRTB.org.
My life has been bracketed by trails. I grew up near the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, which meanders from the Pacific Northwest rain forest to the California desert valley and passes through the Sky Lakes Wilderness in southern Oregon. It’s where I first tasted the magic of two loves, a backpack and a camera. I can remember rolling out of a tent to photograph a small lake as fingers of light poked through a scrim of mist and the rising sun burnished the landscape with the intense gold of late summer.
Thirty-six years later, on the other side of the continent, I can sit on my front porch, look west to the Blue Ridge Mountains, and see that other marquee route—the Appalachian Trail. I remember the first time I hiked the Appalachian. Being a Westerner, I imagined I knew what real mountains were; I figured I was in for a cakewalk. I was wrong. The Appalachian Trail upended my arrogance. I realized that a challenging hike and incredible beauty were not exclusive to the Pacific Crest.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the founding of a national system that incorporates 1,077 trails, totaling more than 66,000 miles in all 50 states. We feature one of them—Arkansas’s Ozark Highlands Trail—in this issue. “Build a trail and they will come,” says Pam Gluck, executive director of American Trails, a nonprofit that works to protect trails across the country. Trails, she points out, promote exercise and can help ease traffic congestion and decrease pollution. Most of all, trails put us in touch with nature—and ultimately ourselves.
Photograph by Peter Essick
Digital SLR cameras have come a long way in a few short years; all are feature rich, and with each new model milestones topple. Sony has broken another barrier for the serious photo enthusiast in bringing to market their flagship A900—a full-frame 24.6 megapixel CMOS sensor capable of five continuous frames per second—all for about $3000.
The viewfinder has been designed with a 100 percent field of view, and the A900 also comes equipped with the world’s first anti-shake system for a full-frame sensor.
“The camera’s newly developed, body-integrated SteadyShot Inside unit achieves an anti-shake effect equivalent to shutter speeds faster by 2.5 to 4 stops.”
Among the features, intelligent preview seems to be an option that will save both time and frustration creating properly exposed photographs—by giving you the ability to fine tune an exposure before the next image is committed to one of the camera’s two memory cards.
“After pressing the depth of field preview button, the camera 'grabs' a RAW preview image, which is processed and displayed on the LCD screen. You can then fine-tune white balance, determine the best level and effect of dynamic range optimization, adjust exposure compensation, and check histogram data, all before you actually take the picture.”
The A900 will be available in November with online pre-orders beginning September 10th. More detailed camera images after the jump.
Elephants stir strong emotions. I remember standing in the roof hatch of a Land Rover to photograph a bull elephant in Tanzania. The animal turned, headed toward me, and laid his tusks on the hood. I slid down and froze as his trunk slipped through the hatch and paused, inches from my face. Gently, the tip tapped my left shoulder and snuffled my neck. His warm breath filled the Rover. Then he retracted his trunk and ambled off. The contact took my breath away.
Years later, I had an encounter that left me with a different emotion. I was in a helicopter chasing a large bull in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. As the pilot brought us in behind the frantic elephant, a ranger, Douw Grobler, leaned out and fired a bullet into the animal’s head. He collapsed, driving his tusks deep into the dust. “A perfect brain shot,” Grobler said, adding that he did it “only to protect the park’s biodiversity. I wish there were a better way.” Sadly, sometimes there are too many elephants, even in the vastness of Kruger. The ranger was simply doing his job as part of a culling operation.
A passionate advocate of African elephants is zoologist Iain Douglas-Hamilton. For more than a year, he worked with photographer Michael Nichols and writer David Quammen to bring you this issue’s coverage of the elephants of Samburu National Reserve area in Kenya. It’s a heartening story, but elsewhere the situation is more complicated. After 13 years, South Africa has lifted its moratorium on culling. This month we also examine that decision and the debate it provokes.
Photograph by Chris Johns, National Geographic Image Collection
The hand singed by the blowtorch looks human. Close inspection reveals that it belongs to a drill, a baboonlike primate, for sale in the bush-meat market in Malabo, the Bioko Island capital of Equatorial Guinea. Scorching flesh brings a higher price for monkey meat, a delicacy in this part of the world. Photographer Joel Sartore captured this alarming scene, hoping to provoke change. He was part of an International League of Conservation Photographers project called a RAVE (Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition) to document wildlife on Bioko.
There, primates are hunted and sold through a growing trade fueled by money earned in nearby oil fields. The commitment to make a difference motivated three other National Geographic photographers—Tim Laman, Ian Nichols, and Christian Ziegler—to accompany Joel. National Geographic and Conservation International sponsored the expedition. Along with writer Virginia Morell, Joel, Tim, Ian, and Christian have produced a startling story for this issue. We hope their work will raise awareness of the need for conservation on the island, to help ensure Bioko remains what one biologist calls a “monkey paradise.”
Photograph by Joel Sartore
Last year about this time David Griffin, National Geographic’s director of photography, and Elizabeth Krist, a senior photo editor, walked into my office and asked if I had any ideas on how we could photograph Stonehenge in a way that would be new and different. It was a natural question. David was already thinking about high-dynamic-range photography, and I’m the digital-tech guy at the magazine. I had an idea, but it came with a catch—I wanted to be the photographer, anything to get out of the office and into the field.
In the photograph, a snow leopard emerges from the shadows of the rugged Himalaya. Its thick, soft coat is lovely, but even more enchanting is its tail. It is nearly the length of its body. This is my first opportunity to really study a snow leopard; I can see the rosette spots, penetrating yellow eyes, and broad, delicate paws. I’ve photographed leopards throughout Africa, but never one to match this creature’s beauty.
In a darkened room, Steve Winter shows his next photograph—another snow leopard, this one with a dusting of snow on its back.
The snow leopard’s long tail helps stabilize the cat on rough terrain.
I read George Schaller’s Stones of Silence 20 years ago and ever since have wanted to make a photograph like this. Schaller’s book transported me to the Himalaya; I dreamed of seeing snow leopards at those heights. The dream remains unfulfilled, but for now Steve is there for all of us. His commitment to this beautiful animal has produced the finest images of snow leopards I’ve seen. But reality casts a shadow on these pictures. As few as 3,500 snow leopards may survive. If I want to photograph them, I should move quickly. Schaller’s words still hold the same urgency they had nearly three decades ago: “The snow leopard,” he wrote, “might well serve as symbol of man’s commitment to the future of the mountain world.”
Photograph by Steve Winter
View Steve Winters stunning photography from the June 2008 "Snow Leopards" story.
So you've made some great pictures and now you want to share them with the world? There are many ways to do that and lots of photo gallery and slide show designs published on the internet to use as inspiration. I asked my friend and colleague Jim Webb to share some web photography galleries that caught his eye. He sent a group of links to photo galleries that can be created with a range of tools from free web software through handmade creations designed and coded professionally.
Reading the New York Times while riding the metro into work this morning, I had a flashback to my college days. Rochester, New York, in the late 1970s was dominated by a global powerhouse in photography — Kodak. I still remember driving around the outside of the Eastman Kodak plant looking on in jaw dropping amazement at the miles and miles of pipe that snaked with contorted twists and turns through the vast manufacturing facility, wondering what kind of chemical concoctions were being brewed into the next great film emulsion.
According to the NYT, the “Great Yellow Father” employed 145,300 people 20 years ago; in 2007 its ranks had dwindled to 26,900. Not surprising when you consider the tact taken when one of Kodak’s own electrical engineers, Stephen J. Sasson, invented the first digital camera in the 1970s.
From the NYT:
“My prototype was big as a toaster, but the technical people loved it,” Mr. Sasson said. “But it was filmless photography, so management’s reaction was, ‘that’s cute — but don’t tell anyone about it.’ ”
While I was learning the basics of chemical-based imaging at Rochester Institute of Technology, Kodak was quietly developing pixel-based photography. It’s ironic that 25 years after college it seems I owe Mr. Sasson a personal debt of thanks; his invention is the reason I now work for National Geographic magazine.
Thank you, Mr. Sasson!
I’m in a Beijing hutong—a narrow alley in the old city—playing Ping-Pong with a monk. It is 1985, and I’m on a photographic assignment for this magazine. Though many Chinese are afraid to be seen with a foreigner, the monk doesn’t care and invites other monks to join us. It is the best experience I’ve had in three months. That night I take a small, dilapidated taxi to the Beijing Hotel, one of the few places where foreigners can stay. It’s 8:30; the streets are dark and deserted. The few cars on the road aren’t using their headlights, I’m told, because the drivers don’t want to burn out the bulbs.
Cars now fill Beijing highways both day and night.
Twenty-two years later I’m in front of the Beijing Hotel at 8:30 at night. The driver of a sleek new Audi taxi pulls up with headlights blazing; he doesn’t seem concerned about burning out a bulb. The city pulses with life. It’s washed in light and jammed with traffic. An attractive Chinese woman approaches a number of men, then comes to me, asking if I need a massage. I don’t need a massage; I need a map—something to help me understand the cataclysmic changes of the past few decades.
China can overwhelm. The shock waves of its growth reverberate in every corner of the globe. That’s what this issue is—a map to help readers navigate the terrain of exuberance and anxiety that is China today.
Photograph by iStockphoto
I’m in Khartoum, Sudan, in a shabby hotel room with Idriss Anu and Daoud Hari. Their eyes are wide with fear. They want to be anywhere but here. Idriss is a driver and Daoud, an interpreter-guide. The two have just spent five weeks imprisoned in Darfur with Paul Salopek—the writer who hired them while on assignment for National Geographic—because they illegally crossed the border from Chad to Sudan. After intense negotiations, all were released from jail; now Paul is on his way back to the United States. But what about Idriss and Daoud? I’ve promised Paul I’ll get them home safely, but it won’t be easy.
Daoud Hari (left) and Paul Salopek (center) were imprisoned in Sudan.
The Sudanese rebels who arrested them confiscated their identity papers. A U.S. Embassy official explains that a diplomat from Chad will arrive to help with the papers. We’ll need more than that, I think. We’ll need a miracle. That miracle appears in the form of dedicated diplomats from Chad and the U.S. Embassy. Two days later Idriss and Daoud fly home.
Paul took a risk when he crossed Sudan’s border. He paid dearly. He didn’t want to break the law, but felt there was no other way to tell this story, because the Sudanese authorities keep Darfur and its war off-limits to journalists. Those who help and guide us in dangerous, unfamiliar places are the often unsung heroes behind the work of any writer or photographer. Idriss and Daoud also took a risk and paid the price. They, too, wanted the story told.
Photograph by Candace Feit
Rob Galbraith is reporting that Canon may finally be getting down to the root cause of their focusing challenges with the 1D MKIII. The buzz out of PMA is that engineers in Japan have isolated a problem that goes beyond the sub-mirror repair and 1.1.3 firmware update which didn’t fully create a cure — it seems the main autofocus circuitry is putting out so much information that lenses may be over correcting.
"In closed door meetings at the PMA 2008 trade show in Las Vegas, at Super Bowl XLII in Phoenix, Arizona and on the phone, by our count it's a minimum of four different professional market reps that have revealed to photographers or managers at seven different sites using the EOS-1D Mark III that a new fix is in the works. In other words, Canon USA reps have been directed by their superiors to begin contacting VIP customers, and to tell those customers that there's good news pending on the EOS-1D Mark III autofocus front."
Canon will now have to decide the best course of action to implement this new fix. Hopefully it will be the final solution to an aggravating problem that has tarnished the sales and reputation of what has been one of the best camera lines on the market for photojournalists.
Rob’s web site has been out front on this issue from the start, if you own a 1D MKIII I’d suggest reading his latest update.
Maybe it’s just imbedded in my DNA but I can’t help being a gadget geek, fortunately that passion melds well with my job description here at National Geographic. It also affords me opportunities to visit some of the largest photography trade shows, like the 84th annual Photo Marketing Association (PMA) convention being held at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
There are literally thousands of cameras and photo doodads set out for hands-on display and scads of eager manufacture’s representatives on call to explain and demonstrate the newest widgets for 2008. It’s like visiting the world’s largest candy store except you get to satisfy your sweet tooth with photo gear!
Carried by the fury of a river in flood, logs, entire trees, even the occasional mobile home batter the Shady Cove bridge. It’s late December 1964. The Rogue River, which begins at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon and snakes through the Cascades and Coastal Ranges before spilling into the Pacific, is 50 feet above flood stage. My father and I stand on a bank and watch the bridge, which looks ready to be swept away. Temperatures have risen; heavy rain and snowmelt from the mountains has unleashed so much water that the torrent will be remembered as one of the worst recorded floods in the Pacific Northwest.
It isn’t supposed to happen this way. In the West a heavy accumulation of snow is considered a blessing. The melt fills lakes and reservoirs, irrigates crops, and produces hydro-electric power. It sustains forests and wildlife. It’s our lifeline.
The flood of 1964 was a rare event. And even if it were to happen again, new houses crowding the floodplain should be safe. A new dam upstream controls flooding. But water remains a concern in parts of Oregon and neighboring states—only this time, it’s the lack of water that’s worrisome.
As Robert Kunzig says in “Drying of the West,” the wet 20th century is over. As climate changes, so will life in the West.
Photograph by Southern Oregon Historical Society
That’s the pessimistic headline of Peter Plagens's recent Newsweek article on the fate of photography. He contends that the digitalization of photography is leading to its demise as an art form.
"Film photography's artistic cachet was always that no matter how much darkroom fiddling someone added to a photograph, the picture was, at its core, a record of something real that occurred in front of the camera. A digital photograph, on the other hand, can be a Photoshop fairy tale, containing only a tiny trace of a small fragment of reality."
Digital photography has leveled the playing field such that a commoner with computer can create art, so if the masses can create faux photographs, then photography must no longer be considered art. Or is photography merely in an awkward adolescence, thrown off balance by a few pixel-grabbing headlines of photo manipulators who tarnish the credibility of reality in front of the lens?
Perhaps photographers should adapt the brilliant precedent writers set by segregating themselves from the digital masses—cleave off the untrained commoners sitting at home pecking words on a laptop, their grammar and spelling checked only by digital word processing software, daring to publish commentary to the world—by labeling them not writers but bloggers. So that no one is goaded to ask: Is writing dead?
With the proliferation of online photo sharing and print fulfillment sites, creating a custom family Christmas card has never been easier. All you need is an idea and a couple of willing subjects.