National Geographic Traveler‘s Senior Photo Editor, Dan Westergren, has the distinct pleasure (and sometimes pain) of choosing which photographs run in the magazine.
The award-winning photographers assigned to our stories come back from the field with such a rich variety of images that it can be hard, if not impossible, to make the final cut. So we asked Dan to make an even tougher call: out of all the photos that ran in every single issue of Traveler this year, which ten were his favorites and why?
Here’s the crème de la crème of photography from National Geographic Traveler in 2012:
“My Scottish Obsession,” August/September Issue (iPad Edition)
The most surprising thing to me about this photo was the realization that there was in the world an actual job of deer stalking! The fog in this picture subdues the landscape and shows how effective the old tweed fabrics are at helping someone blend into the scene. I was happy to discover the iconic “deer stalker” hat worn by Sherlock Holmes was not a name pulled out of thin air. I also like the way this picture blends the old and new world: witness the ancient walking stick and the state-of-the-art spotting scope and binoculars.
Cotton Coulson and Sisse Brimberg
“You Must Remember This,” December/January Issue
Successful travel photographs often show how people around the world behave in the same way — how humanity unites us all. You fully expect to see a young boy in sandals playing with a ball near the water, but because of the heavy robe worn by his female companion (mother?) we know this picture was taken in a Muslim country. It is these subtle elements that give pictures what we like to call a sense of place.
“Travelers of the Year,” December/January Issue
Susan Seubert brought back this engaging portrait of Theron Humphrey, one of our Travelers of the Year, who spent a year traveling across all 50 states and recording the oral histories of everyday Americans. Obviously it take s great deal of energy to pull off a feat like that, and Theron has got it in spades. Susan understood that she needed to show us a bit of his personality. How better to accomplish that than to show him hanging upside down?
“Charlie Chaplin’s Venice,” January/February Issue (iPad Edition)
Dave Yoder used an off-camera strobe to produce a spotlight effect and slow shutter speed to make sure the background wasn’t too dark, then relied on the motion-stopping ability of the flash to render the woman’s mask-shrouded face sharply. The special look of this photo comes from a white balance mismatch. The flash puts out daylight-colored light that makes her face look color correct, but since the flash didn’t hit anything else in the room the rest of the picture is bathed in a warm tungsten. The real mystery is how he managed to get the flash pointed exactly at the dancer’s face.
Robert J. Szabo
“On the War Path,” June/July Issue
When Tony Horwitz wrote a story for Traveler about a road trip visiting Civil War sites I knew immediately that I wanted to have the photos made in the old-fashioned style. I contacted Robert, a Civil War re-enactor/photographer who takes pictures using 19th-century methods. The trick for this story was to find scenes that could only be taken in the modern world. It was too easy for Robert, using his old camera and glass plates, to make pictures that looked simply like they were 150 years old. In this shot, he asked some hikers on the Appalachian Trail in Harper’s Ferry to pose for him. I’m pretty sure they didn’t have form-fitting backpacks and aluminum hiking poles during the Civil War, so those elements wound up giving us the mixed-up-time-machine look we were seeking.
“Jerusalem by the Book,” May Issue (iPad Edition)
The most popular pilgrimage sites in Jerusalem are quite familiar to us. But to me this was something different. Alex was interested in showing Armenians (one of the original Christian communities of the Old City, later augmented by those who fled or survived the Armenian Genocide of 1915) so she photographed the inside of St. James Church during a religious ceremony. Amidst all the gilded grandeur, the way this hooded figure turns to look at her hints at the tortured history of the region in some way. It is a tenuous arrangement, the many religions attempting to share a place they all consider holy, and I think she captured that in this photo.
“In Search of the World’s Cleanest Air,” November Issue
Palani did everything right in making a photograph of the amazing boulders on the beach at Bay of Fires, Tasmania. He chose a low camera angle to make sure these huge boulders looked as big in the photograph as they are in real life. He also made sure to be there in the late afternoon when the low-angled sun would make the orange lichens shine and the clouds stand out in the sky. But the most important thing he did to make this a great photo was a decision he made months earlier. When you travel with Michael Davie, the energetic journalist who wrote this story, you never know what’s going to happen, but you better be ready with your camera.
“The Slow Life in Italy,” October Issue (iPad Edition)
- Nat Geo Expeditions
The main quality of this photograph is the light that somehow enters this restaurant in the late afternoon and bounces around to softly illuminate the chef’s face. This person is not the famous face of the restaurant, she is simply the one who does all the work to make that front-man look good. Judging by her expression I doubt she harbors any ill will about that. I like to look at pictures and pretend to know what the person is thinking. In this case I think she’s glad that when the dinner rush hour comes she can be safely hidden in her kitchen, only pausing to take a peak at the outside world when she chooses.
“Here Comes the Sun,” October Issue
When Peter McBride told us about his desire to tour India astride a newly manufactured post-WWII motorcycle we said he should go straight away. Secretly I wanted to go with him. So, as I was looking through the pictures I was happy to see this, a driver’s point of view, showing some of the color and chaos of the street. It almost made feel like I had joined him on the ride.
“Lens Craft Winning Images from Traveler’s 24th Annual Photo Contest,” December/January Issue
I had a feeling that it must be a magic place under the waves. But until I saw this picture I realized I had no idea! The composition is good, the lighting is fantastic, but look at that background! That is one of the most menacing, yet beautiful things I have ever seen. It makes me want to grab a mask and head out into the surf to have a look for myself.