By Whitney Johnson, Director of Visual and Immersive Experiences
You may have to dig deep, but there are two common threads in our picks for best Nat Geo photos of the summer.
In a summer unlike any other, these images show determination to persevere through immense challenges. A few even offer a scintilla of hope in a world that remains awe-inspiring and beautiful.
The photographers behind them showed ingenuity and creativity to capture the majesty of Everest or to picture halos in the desert. Above, photographer Max Aguilera-Hellweg shows a Louisiana physician masked up and strapped in to confront 2020’s mass killer, COVID-19.
'Love in action’: Photographer Wayne Lawrence sought to explain August’s “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” commitment march against police violence in August in Washington, D.C. Said attendee Schcola Chambers (above): “It was important to me that I become part of history. And [to] show my grandkids and their grandkids that this is love in action."
After a wildfire: In Oregon, Diana Markosian showed this burnt pickup truck, covered by fire retardant, among the remains of a mobile home park in the town of Talent in the southern part of the state.
The mural behind the altar was spared: Marsh cane and mud from Hurricane Laura’s storm surge were strewn across the pews of St. Eugene Catholic Church in Grand Chenier, Louisiana. As the land sinks and seas rise in Louisiana, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are seeping closer and closer to communities.
Transporting a zebra: A sedated zebra is lifted by a helicopter at a ranch called Sexy Whitetails, near San Angelo, Texas. The wildness and heft of exotic hoofed wildlife make them difficult to corral and move, which has led to a lucrative subsector: transportation.
The ultimate panorama: Photographer Renan Ozturk used specially modified drones to capture Mount Everest and its surrounding peaks in awesome 360-degree panoramas. Ozturk operated a drone from Camp I on Everest’s North Col to complete this image.
And the halos: Photographer Reuben Wu programmed lit drones to circle above Utah’s Yant Flat sandstone formations, then combined several long exposures into this composite image. The effect? A bit of wonder.
See the rest of our best photographs of the summer here
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Today in a minute
Photography Sunday: Visualizing science is a topic that is drawing together three Nat Geo photographers and a photo editor at 5 p.m. Sunday for a virtual conversation hosted by Brooklyn-based Photoville, part of its annual festival. Anand Varma, Esther Horvath, and Max Aguilera-Hellweg will talk with Senior Photo Editor Todd James on the challenges they face exploring technology, the animal netherworld, and the extremes at the ends of the Earth. Sign up here to catch the talk. Also catch these virtual exhibits from Nat Geo photographers on Flamingo Bob, Portraits of Grief (pictured above) and Redefining Beauty.
Men in love: Through most of American history, gay or bisexual men have had to hide their love toward each other. Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell collected more than 2,800 images from 1850 to 1950 of men unmistakably in love. A selection of the images fill their new book, photo editor Dee Swann reports for the Washington Post.
Your Instagram of the day
Seeing your kid: 1.1 million dads and 120,000 moms of minor children are incarcerated in the U.S. For most of those parents, their in-person visits with their kids, already severely limited, have been suspended during the pandemic. More than 1.7 million American kids have a parent who is imprisoned now, and about 10 million kids have had a parent incarcerated at one point, the Casey Foundation reports. (Above, Carlos holds his son, Damian, during a parent-child bonding visit at the Everglades Re-entry Center in Miami, where Carlos is incarcerated.) Research shows children who have consistent contact with an incarcerated parent have better mental health and are more socially engaged. More than 280,000 people have liked this image on our Instagram page in the past 10 days.
The big takeaway
Sold into slavery: In our harrowing investigation of two Bengal girls sold into sexual slavery, we were careful to protect the privacy of the girls who were trafficked. We photographed them in ways intended to obscure their faces, and we used pseudonyms for the girls featured in the story. (Pictured above, R., who was taken from a train station to a red-light district but rescued before she was sold to a brothel.)
We have moved this important magazine feature in front of our paywall—and translated it into Hindi and Bengali. An International Labour Organization study estimated more than a million children were victims of sexual exploitation in 2016. With 70 million refugees worldwide now, “this is a growth industry,” says Louise Shelley, author of author of Human Trafficking: A Global Perspective.
In a few words
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On Mondays, Debra Adams Simmons covers the latest in history. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up here to also get Victoria Jaggard on science, George Stone on travel, and Rachael Bale on animal and wildlife news.
The last glimpse
From war to guano: The photographer was better known for his work amid strife, or his images of Pablo Picasso. But working for National Geographic decades ago, David Douglas Duncan found himself on the Peruvian island of San Lorenzo, watching hundreds of thousands of cormorants roost. Our senior photo archivist, Sara Manco, says the stop was part of a 1941 story about the Humboldt Current. The mounds in the photograph are nests from the previous mating season. Duncan noted that the entire side of the island acquired a guano deposit nearly 18 inches deep during the two-year period between harvests.
Related: Astonishing vintage photographs from our archives