national geographic

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring travel, salt flats, and a loyal soldier

Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

What is the most effective way to inform others about travel?

Is it through a photo gallery? A beautifully written essay? A video?

As the media landscape keeps trending toward multimedia and interactive storytelling, storytellers of all genres are presented with the challenge of mastering it all. Perhaps one story is best told through the written word, perhaps another through audio or video, and yet another as a combination.

This is particularly true with travel stories, where the visuals are often stunning but the experiences are often complex and powerful.

Take a look at two different ways of telling similar stories, along with one heartfelt memorial to a “ragged soldier”:

Impossible Rock (January 2014, National Geographic): Here is what you might call the “traditional” way to tell a travel story.

Mark Synnott of National Geographic documents his journey to the top of a mountain in Oman with a pair of twenty-somethings; all three are avid climbers, though Synnott fills his pack with a little more trepidation.

For me, Synnott is most effective in this piece when describing the non-climbing parts of the trip, such as his interplay with the locals. Within these asides and vignettes are moments that could not possibly be fully captured with a photo. They are best told verbally.

He describes the hike with similar gusto, but here I really benefited from the story’s attached photo gallery. (I am assuming, of course, that photos were featured far more prominently in the magazine story than they are online.) A link in the top left corner of the page directs the reader to the work of photographer Jimmy Chin, whose dramatic snapshots truly drive home the daring nature of the climbers.

(more…)

PODCAST EPISODE #11: Alexa Keefe, National Geographic photo producer

Play

I am hooked on exquisite photographs.

I subscribe to several blogs that curate great photography — I wrote about them in a recent entry — and I find myself constantly coming back to them as I scroll through the various feeds and media that dominate my daily reading.

And I am absolutely not alone.

Alexa Keefe is a photography producer for National Geographic and curates the “Photo of the Day” series for the magazine’s web site. And with every picture she posts, thousands of viewers share it.

Keefe is my guest on this week’s Telling The Story podcast.

She has worked as a photo archivist and editor, but now Keefe is responsible for curating beautiful content in an era where photographs are more ubiquitous than ever. In doing this, sites like National Geographic have thrived. On the podcast, we discuss why.

“With the ubiquity of photographs on the web now, I think the focus has shifted toward curation,” Keefe said. “There’s just so much to look at, so much to consume, that I think we need that more and more.”

(more…)

PODCAST PREVIEW: Alexa Keefe: Photography “speaks to how visual we are”

Take a look at this study, which came out last month.

According to Ipsos, when Internet users (read: nearly all of us) share content online, more often than not, they share photos.

In fact, 43% of said users have shared a photo on social media. This is 17% higher than how many users have used social media to share an opinion, status update, or link to an article.

Photography is more ubiquitous than ever, and it has really only become that way within the last decade. Digital cameras, camera-phones, and social media have all fueled the movement.

So, with photos all around us, where does that leave the truly great ones?

That is what I asked Alexa Keefe, a photography producer for National Geographic and this week’s guest on the Telling The Story podcast.

Keefe curates the famous magazine’s daily web series, “Photo of the Day”. She delves through thousands of photos to find the 30 or so that fill up a given month, and she often chooses the most exquisite ones around.

But, you may be surprised to hear, even a photo purist like Keefe can respect the rise and current glut of amateur photos.

“I think it really just speaks to how visual we are, just looking at a picture …” Keefe says. “I think that’s been the amazing thing about digital photography.”

(more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring storytelling through photographs

Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

Being on vacation has a way of making you appreciate our golden age of photography.

I just returned from a week in Italy — my first time visiting the legendary and exquisite cities of Rome and Florence — and was again reminded of how easily I can capture the moments of my life. For all the photos I took of the profound scenery (like the one above), I also took a large amount with the goal of recording memories. And because I possessed a strong digital camera with a 3,000-photo memory card, I did all these with great ease and little concern for whether I would run out of film.

To be honest, I didn’t really need the camera or the memory card. I could have taken all those photos on my cell phone.

But for all the free-wheeling sharing of photography that occurs today, I still find myself frozen with awe when I see a truly beautiful picture. I have begun subscribing to feeds that curate photography in a powerful way, and on certain weeks, those feeds provide some of the most memorable stories I see.

Without further ado, here are three great photography posts from last week. Are they newsworthy or timely? Not necessarily. Instead, they are timeless, as a great photograph should be.

Daily life: September 2013 (10/2/13, The Big Picture): I have mentioned The Big Picture many times, and they deserve a mention in any column that touts excellence in photography.

Entries like these are huge reasons why.

The editors at The Big Picture obviously possess keen eyes for photos, but they also possess the ability to properly curate those photos. Witness their monthly “Daily Life” series, specifically this week’s post showing images from the past month. The 34 photos have little that tie them together, apart from two qualities: they all fall into the category of “daily life”, spanning an array of places across the globe to do it, and they all feature masterful craft behind the camera.

Put them all together, and you have a rewarding product.

(more…)