National Geographic : 1991 Mar
On Assignment Putting subjects in their best light is crucial to the photog rapher's craft. Merely bring ing light to the utter blackness of Lechuguilla Cave was a big chal lenge for free lance MICHAEL "NICK" NICHOLS on his first GEO GRAPHIC assignment. In an 80-foot shaft, Nichols hangs below his chief assistant, David Modisette, who ma neuvers a "soft box," a cumbersome unit that provides diffused light to smooth out harsh shadows. "I felt it was almost a mandate for me to photograph Lechuguilla," says Nichols, who as a youngster explored caves near his northern Alabama home. After college he was drafted into the Army and became a photographer with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he did more caving on weekends. After his discharge Nichols embarked on a series of daring assignments: flying into the eye of a hurricane, sliding 3,000 feet down a rope suspended from an Arctic cliff, rafting the Indus River in Pakistan. Magazines gave Nichols such nicknames as Nick Danger and Indiana Jones. Now living in Charlottesville, Vir ginia, with his wife and two sons, he views his mission as a documenter of a fragile world. "Seeing so many things destroyed really woke my environmental consciousness," says Nichols, currently preparing a GEO GRAPHIC article on apes and humans. Lechuguilla marked the sixth col laboration-their first for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC-of Nichols and author Tim Cahill, grimacing during a diffi cult crawl, right. Cahill is a contrib uting editor of Rolling Stone, a founding editor of Outside, and the author of several books. He makes his home in Montana. Nichols and Cahill have scaled Venezuela's Mount Roraima and walked from the lowest point in the conterminous United States (Death Valley) to the highest (Mount Whitney). But to have undertaken the rigors of Lechuguilla, Cahill says jokingly, is a "pure demonstration of psycho logical aberration." KRISGREEN(TOP); MICHAELNICHOLS,MAGNUM NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC(ISSN 0027-9358)IS PUBLISHEDMONTHLYBYTHENATIONALGEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY,17THANDM STS. N.W., WASHINGTON, D. C. 20036.$21.00A YEAR,$2.65 A COPY. SECOND-CLASSPOSTAGEPAID AT WASHINGTON,D.C.,AND ELSEWHERE.POSTMASTER:SEND ADDRESS CHANGES TO NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC,P.O.BOX 2174,WASHINGTON, D.C. 20013.