Hear from the photo editors of National Geographic about what it takes to create some of the most memorable images appearing in the magazine.
If at first you don't succeed...
Posted Sep 11,2007


What a difference a few years can make. Ten years ago, Brooklyn-based photographer Robert Clark started a story for the Geographic on the beautifully and eerily preserved 2,000-year-old bodies unearthed from European peat bogs.

For various reasons the story was shelved before Rob was finished. Then last year, when a call went out for new archeology story ideas, Rob and photo editor Susan Welchman proposed returning to the subject to complete the coverage.

But something had changed. Rob’s lighting technique had improved so significantly since the original coverage, that it became clear, as he began shooting the additional bodies, that the older work would no longer fit aesthetically with the new.

“In the past I was using a broad soft light, when what was called for was actually focused hard light,” Rob explains. “The skin of the bodies was so dark that it was like trying to light onyx.”

So Rob went back and re-shot most of the original situations.

Rob used as many as ten individual strobes equipped with either directional grids or focusable irises. The photograph of “Clonycavan Man” was particularly challenging because it was in a glass box and could not be removed. Rob had to shoot down through the top panel of glass and then edge the lights around the body to avoid any reflections. “This shot took over six hours to get the lighting just right.” Rob said. The body is also laying on a sheet of glass which contributes to the effect of it floating in air. Watch the video, below, to see a time lapse montage of the various lighting adjustments Rob went through to achieve the final image.

Rob also noted that this kind of fine adjustments of the lights could not have been accomplished as easily without the use of digital cameras. He was able to review each subtle change of strobe position and intensity immediately so he could tweak to his satisfaction.

It is this pursuit of uncompromising perfection that is a hallmark of the best of the photographers that National Geographic magazine is so fortunate to be working with.

Click here to see more of Rob Clark's photographs of the Bog Bodies.

David Griffin, Director of Photography

Posted by David Griffin | Comments (15)
Filed Under: Photography


Sep 11, 2007 1PM #

Wow! How exciting to be able to do this. How time-consuming.
How wonderful for us. Thank you.

Alberto Perez
Sep 11, 2007 1PM #

It's absolutely amazing how light smartly used can give such an astonishing effect of presence, and define the volumes so beautifully.
Thanks for an incredible experience.

A. Perez
Downingtown, PA

Steve Bernard
Sep 11, 2007 1PM #

I am fascinated with archeology and who better to bring the past into focus with outstanding photographs and excellent documented reporting, than National Geographic. My wife, Dale, has subscribed for many years, given subscriptions to family, and we look forward to many more future adventures with you.

Stan Walker
Sep 11, 2007 1PM #

Who were the "Clonycavan Man" peopole. How did some them end of in a bog? Where were they located? Etc.? Will there (or has there been) an article in NG about them?


Stan Walker

Gary Burkholder
Sep 11, 2007 1PM #

Fascinating! The picture begs the question of what is the story that led to this pictorial conclusion? I now am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the magazine! Thanks:) Gary Burkholder

Sep 11, 2007 1PM #

Absolutely amazing! Thank you for sharing your talent with us to enjoy. Keep up the great job.

Sylvia Espinach
Sep 11, 2007 1PM #

It is just amazing! Thank you for such a great experience!

manohar babu
Sep 11, 2007 1PM #

Fabulous!The clarity and the optimum utilization of the light are really worth watching.The story must be really interesting.Great job, Rob Clark !

Sep 11, 2007 1PM #

Amazing! So Hot!~

Nadiya Seeloch
Sep 11, 2007 1PM #

Great job!

Sep 11, 2007 1PM #

His first try was horrible (what on earth was he thinking when he used that blue light? :-)), and his recent try nice. But I can't merit using that many lights and so much equipment other than as an experiment or for publicity.

Lorrie W
Sep 11, 2007 1PM #

This was very interesting, both from a technical camera perspective and from an archeological viewpoint. Great job - and patience!

Linda Parrish
Sep 11, 2007 1PM #

It was absolutely fascinating to watch the progression of lighting attempts in the time lapse montage. You could almost see the thought process going on as he tried one setup after the next. There is much we can learn as photographers and the analysis of our photos watching this kind of presentation. Thank you.

Sep 11, 2007 1PM #

What an AMAZING difference! The blue cobalt color brings out the surreal eeriness of this shot. The angle of the shot also rocks!


Angel A.
Sep 11, 2007 1PM #

I want to be an NGM photographer when I grow up!
Pictures like these inspire me. This is excellent!

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