Then & Now: Photographers on Assignment

Top: Joseph Baylor Roberts checks his camera equipment prior to departing for a Society-sponsored expedition. Bottom: Nick Nichols and Ken Geiger  set up camera gear in the redwoods.
Top photograph by Robert F. Sisson, National Geographic. Bottom photograph by Michael Nichols, National Geographic.




National Geographic photographer Joseph Baylor Roberts checks his camera equipment prior to leaving on a Society-sponsored expedition to the Aleutian Islands, circa 1948. Roberts was often assigned to shoots with writer and jokester Frederick Simpich. Once, the Society received a telegram saying that Roberts had been bitten by an armadillo, causing some concern until someone remembered that the armadillo's scientific name means "toothless." It was Simpich humor at work. Roberts's photos were first featured in the magazine in June 1937. He continued to work with the Society for 24 years.




"The world is going to wonder how we got that picture," says Nick Nichols about the foldout photograph in the October 2009 issue of the magazine. "It was a total team effort." After a year of talks and planning, photographer Nichols, National Geographic senior editor Ken Geiger, and several additional team members figured out how to shoot the massive, 1,500-year-old redwood. They tethered a rope between two trees and hung it from a pulley system carrying three cameras. As the cameras descended, Nichols, on the ground nearby, shot pictures remotely from a laptop computer. It took three weeks of predawn attempts, but finally, in one morning, they captured the 84 images that make up the foldout. After the shoot Geiger spent more than 120 hours digitally stitching them together to create what Nichols now lovingly calls "the collaborative composite."


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