National Geographic : 1995 Aug
HOW I GOT THOSE PICTURES Level camera on tripod head. Set lens tof/8. Estimate depth offield, maximize it via hyperfocal technique. SHUTTER SPEED. Shmutter speed. If it's just a matter of set ting dials, how come you and I aren't shooting for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine? The richness of a picture depends on everything but. It rides on an ability to see, really see. It hinges on knowing how to dance with subject and light, how to anticipate the ephemeral moment that will flicker before your eyes for a millisecond and vanish. For Sam Abell, images are a magic to be conjured. His work is contemplative, lyric. A Shak er village floats in heavenly mist. Chalk cliffs glimmer in moonlight. For Dave Harvey, photogra phy is choreography. He tries to sense the ballet of street life, positioning himself at the center of the whirl: a protest in Chile, a disco in Spain. For Jim Stanfield, photogra phy is obsessive. The quest for perfection. "You don't want failure," he says, darkening at the word. A colleague com ments: "Stanfield worries a sto ry to death." For his coverage of the Vatican he reshot pil grims at the statue of St. Peter 44 times (the last attempt was the winner). In the search for an aerial of Istanbul, he trudged up the 200 steps of a minaret 15 times. "Finally, they just gave me the key." Underwater photographer David Doubilet daydreams his pictures. They arise out of a series of poetic images that float through his mind. While diving in the Cayman Islands, the words "stingrays and clouds" popped into his head. "I looked down at the white sand, flying stingrays, and clear water; I looked up at the white clouds in the blue sky," he re members. The resulting photo has the quality of fantasy. Flip Nicklin, who photo graphs marine mammals, envi sions himself as a hunter. He once spent three days crossing sea ice in a snowmobile for a picture of narwhals. "It's not just finding them," says Flip, "it's watching, un derstanding, then getting close enough to get the story." Technical aspects-film speed, exposure, camera lenses-are the least of it. "People always ask about the f-stop and shutter speed of my pictures," says natural history photographer Frans Lanting. "I tell them: 'The exposure for that photograph was 43 years . . . and one-thirtieth of a second.' " Make contact; then make pictures. It took Jim Stanfield months to get permission to photograph the Vatican from places like a roof top above St. Peter's Square. Flip Nicklin, nose-to-nose with an Atlantic spotted dolphin off Grand Bahama Island,free-dives with a snorkel to avoid spooking his subjects with the noise and bubbles of scuba gear.