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Nat Geo’s Most Amazing Photos follows the world’s most renowned photographers as they scale 100-metre redwood trees, chase fierce thunderstorms for the perfect lightning strike and photograph a dynamited warship as it is sent to the bottom of the ocean – from inside the ship.

Whether diving 30 metres below the ocean’s surface or venturing into a terrorist hothouse where the risk of kidnapping is high, photographers on assignment for National Geographic magazine push their physical abilities, emotional endurance and creative powers to the limit. Taking tens of thousands of pictures for a single story, the photographers brave extreme environmental conditions, gruelling hours and dangerous political undercurrents to capture vivid, world-shaping images.


  • Most Amazing Photos: Shaolin
    National Geographic magazine photographer Fritz Hoffman has always been a wanderer, starting when he hitchhiked around the U.S. and Canada at the age of 14. It was no surprise that he moved to China in 1995 and spent the next year and a half studying the language, giving him a freedom few foreign photographers have ever had. He is now on a mission to capture a portrait of modern China through the lens of an ancient tradition – the martial art known as Shaolin Kung Fu. Fritz travels to the Tagou school where 20,000 students from all walks of life demonstrate precise skill in formations and a modern standardization of this ancient art, but Fritz is after the more elusive soul of Shaolin. Visiting a remote school where the 200 students are driven to learn the ancient practice takes him a step closer, but his true break comes in the form of a Buddhist monk walking alongside the road. Fritz walks with the monk on the last stretch of his 1,000-kilometre journey to visit his master in a 1,500-year-old temple. Fritz then journeys into the remote mountains of central China in the hopes of meeting one of the few traditional masters left, Shi Dejian. The hazy, dramatic mountains in the heart of China provide the perfect lighting when Fritz meets the man who lives his faith through a quest to unite an outer strength with an inner peace – the very quest of China itself.
  • Most Amazing Photos: Redwood
    A veteran, 20-year photographer for National Geographic magazine, Nick Nichols has faced some of the most difficult – and dangerous – shooting conditions possible. But capturing the tallest living things on Earth proves to be one of the hardest assignments yet. His mission is to create a single, seamless image of the redwood tree from top-to-bottom in all its glory – something that has never been done before. He develops an ingenious plan involving multiple cameras and a motorised dolly that will photograph every inch of the tree from its canopy to base. However, a series of failed test runs push Nick to the edge and call into question the fate of the entire project. Running out of time, Nick and the team must work through the night for last minute troubleshooting before beginning the intensive photographing process. Then, nearly 100 photos are arduously aligned and stitched together to pull together one jaw-dropping image. After a year of planning, weeks in the field, endless setbacks and over 100 hours of stitching and fine-tuning the images, Nick accomplishes the impossible.
  • Most Amazing Photos: Wrecks to Reefs
    While shipwrecks spell disaster for man, they can also lead to an explosion of life underwater. Superstar underwater photographer David Doubilet heads out on a National Geographic magazine assignment to document the complex web of life within three artificial reefs. But how do you manage a photo shoot complete with cutting-edge technology and intricate lighting systems 30 metres below the ocean surface? Diving in search of the perfect wreck photo – which is a bit like photographing a building at night, in the fog and in the rain – David must think quickly on his feet after nothing goes according to plan with his instruments. Even more complicated, David is tasked with photographing the Vandenberg as it is dynamited and sent to the bottom of the ocean –from inside the exploding ship. He must devise a strategy for where to place the unmanned cameras and figure out how to trigger them to shoot in order to capture the inrush of water through thousands of time-lapse images.
  • Most Amazing Photos: Lightning
    On the hunt for the perfect lightning storm, photographer Carsten Peter teams up with researcher and expert storm chaser Tim Samaras to film a lightning bolt like it has never been seen before. Carsten specialises in shooting the impossible, tackling exploding volcanoes, glaciers and giant crystal caves. Tim has put together a mega camera that weighs 725 kilograms and is able to shoot 1.5 million frames per second. He hopes to capture an electrical strike from the ground meeting a bolt from the sky. But photographing storms is fraught with danger from lightning and accompanying tornadoes – and finding these massive storms can be hit or miss. As Tim and Carsten frantically chase one storm, Carsten must shoot from the outside of the moving truck. Heading into another storm’s strike zone, the electrical field is so intense that it damages Tim’s camera, and some of Carsten’s best photos are also lost. The team loses precious time, jeopardising their chance of capturing the images they so desperately need.
  • Most Amazing Photos: Killer Current
    Exploring an underwater oasis in one of the most remote places on Earth, photographer Brian Skerry – who has logged more than 15,000 hours underwater – is not prepared for what he finds on his trip to the planet’s largest marine sanctuary. The Phoenix Islands are renowned for their breathtaking beauty and are largely outside the influence of man, but Brian finds nothing but hectares of dead coral. With just over a week to document a National Geographic story that would usually take ten weeks to shoot, Brian has few images to bring back with him. But, as the team moves through the island chain, they find increasing evidence of recovery, and Brian is able to photograph beautiful fish surviving against adversity. Finally, amidst the desolation, Brian spots signs that the coral is coming back from the brink, and captures a compelling image that exemplifies a phoenix rising from the ashes.
  • Most Amazing Photos: Pakistan
    Creating a portrait of a country that is both dangerous and misunderstood, photojournalist Ed Kashi travels deep into the Punjab region to illustrate the true face of Pakistan for National Geographic magazine. In Lahore, Ed documents a Shiite commemoration for the suffering of prophet Ali where participants mix denim and devotion, using metal chains and daggers to show their commitment. The crush of people crowded in narrow alleyways mixed with the smell of blood is almost too much for Ed, but he captures more than 2,000 photos in the first two days. Juxtaposing the ancient splendour of the Badshahi Mosque with a stop at the trendy Gun Smoke restaurant where burgers and cowboy hats abound, Ed presents a unique side of Pakistan. He then travels to southern Punjab – a hothouse for terrorism where the risk for kidnapping is high – and visits an infamous madrassa. But southern Punjab is also where he finds a striking icon of beauty, symbol of power and sign of sophistication in the home of one feudal lord.
  • Most Amazing Photos: Pollinators
    “Dr. Bugs,” Mark Moffett places Pollinators under the lens to show people the subtle interplay between these sometimes rare creatures who play a vital role on our planet. Flowering plants and crops’ survival depend on the accidental miracle of insects transferring pollen. From Madagascar to Hawaii and Panama, Mark chases miniscule supermodels down perilous roads and through forests and captures each one in stunning photographs. Not only are the subjects difficult to find, but Mark must capture them at the perfect moment without scaring them away –but fortunately, his inherent interest in these creatures allows him to treat the camera like a microscope for the rest of the world. He chases the rarely seen pollinator of the cacao flower, capturing an image of the almost transparent fly. Orchid bees like living colorful jewels rest on entomologist Stephen Buchmann’s fingers, while Mark skims the treetops in a crane to gather figs that cradle wasps pollinating the flowers inside. Mark gets down to eye level with leaf-cutter ants and flits after the elusive Heliconius butterfly that pollinates the single hot lips flower in sight.
  • Most Amazing Photos: Secret Voices
    Chris Rainier joins Enduring Voices linguists David Harrison and Greg Anderson exploring and encouraging preservation of endangered languages and cultures. As Ansel Adams’ last photographic assistant, Chris understands the power of photography as a social tool. On assignment for National Geographic, Chris overcomes weather challenges and delicately negotiates with elders to capture the essence of cultures and languages in photographs. In Paraguay, shamans agree to perform a ceremony that was once banned by missionaries. At the last moment, rain drowns the photo shoot and while Chris considers the technical challenges of lighting, he must also negotiate delaying the ceremony so he can capture it on film. In Papua New Guinea, the team is invited to document the endangered Yokoim language. Upriver, the last 300 speakers of Yimas gradually warm up to Chris, who believes that the quality of a picture depends on the friendships you establish. Language and culture are inseparable, and Chris’s photographs play an integral role in revitalizing endangered traditions.
  • Most Amazing Photos: Rio Exposed
    David Alan Harvey’s latest mission is to capture a beautiful, vibrant, and dangerous city – Rio de Janeiro. David’s minimalist approach to photography allows him to get in between subjects and capture natural positions. From a relaxed father and son on Ipanema Beach to the choreography of a culture at Carnival, David constantly brings out the soul of the people that make up this truly diverse city. The poor favelas are visible from the wealthy beaches, but entering this world takes a special passport. Junior, a former taxi driver turned activist with all of the right connections, agrees to take David to a dangerous favela so off-limits that even Brazilian television crews rarely go there. Bullet ridden walls line the streets where children enjoy ballet and music classes, and David strives to capture the positive human element, despite the omnipresent danger of hidden gunmen. The entire city turns out for four days of Carnival in a swirl of sequins, feathers, and lights. David secures a coveted floor pass and mingles with the parade floats and samba schools. He exits the Sambadrome to photograph those on the outskirts – poorer citizens who watch on television sets outside the pavilion – where moments that can never be re-created are captured.


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