As the year began to come to a close, we asked National Geographic staff who work closely with photography—through the magazine, Your Shot, News, Travel, and Proof—to choose a photo from 2015 that they just can’t stop thinking about. There’s no formula for what makes an image resonate—it can be a piercing gaze, the perfect light, or a tender moment that strikes a chord with our editors. Over the coming days, we’ll reveal the 2015 photographs they found most memorable and why.
Sarah Polger, Senior Photo Producer, Travel
Sometimes, you just know.
Nat Geo Travel holds an annual photo contest, and stunning photographs from around the globe stream into the office. As the prep for the final judging commenced, this image of humpback whales dancing beneath the ocean surface, drenched in angelic light, kept floating to the top. The photographer had submitted a number of strong images, but the specular light, grace, and emotion in this image nagged at me and made me pause to wonder if it was in the top ten and maybe the top three. Judging is a subjective and careful process, and winners tend to reveal themselves slowly. In the end, the judges selected what my gut had felt, and this moment featuring divers near Roca Partida in Mexico won first place. The picture-perfect elements had come together for the photographer—and judges. The scale and awe of nature reminds us of how grand the world truly is and of how we’re each but tiny elements in the larger puzzle. Sometimes one dazzling photo is all we need to remind us of that.
I think one of the reasons why this picture sticks with me so much is because it’s a very subtle frame that contains deep storytelling power. It’s a different level of visual storytelling. Katie Orlinsky photographed the 2015 Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race in February, arguably the most difficult and dangerous sled dog race in the world. This photo gracefully illustrates the symbiotic relationship between musher and dog. One cannot succeed without the other, and there’s an unwavering reliance on either party. One of the reasons I keep coming back to this picture is that I love how quiet this moment is against all of the chaos of the Quest. It stifles the action and intensity for a moment and draws you back to the real story—the reverent relationship between man and dog.
I’ve seen many pictures of foxes, but few have captivated me like this one. I know I’m not alone in being mystified by these beautiful animals. My first reaction to this image was immediate elation. It feels like the fox is really looking at the viewer no matter where they are, similar to the way the Mona Lisa gazes at her admirers from any angle. You can tell that the photographer had an intimate connection with this magnificent animal.
Discover more of our favorite images from 2015 in these related “Pictures We Love” posts: