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A Photographer Drawn to One of Nature’s Fiercest Forces

Mark Thiessen has been photographing wildfires for almost 20 years. And he’s been on staff at National Geographic for almost as long. In his own words, he’s been “bitten by the fire bug.”

In the video above, Thiessen talks about the time he got covered in flame-retardant goop, shares tricks for shooting fires when they’re at their peak, and reveals the surprising personal characteristics that are indispensable when shooting wildfires. Hint: It’s not being a daredevil.

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A firefighter supervisor drives through flames that jumped the road in Seeley Lake, Montana. Photograph by Mark Thiessen
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Mark Thiessen photographing wildfires over the course of his career. Photographs by Frank Caroll, Brian Day, and courtesy of Mark Thiessen

Is there an extreme subject you love to shoot? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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Last year, Thiessen worked with National Geographic’s Your Shot community to curate the #wildfire2014 hashtag.

See more wildfire photographs taken by Thiessen for National Geographic magazineNational Geographic magazine.

Meet one of the photo engineers who make tools like Fire Cam possible.


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