• July 21, 2015

Ten Nat Geo Images That Look Incredibly Familiar … Here’s Why

Becky Harlan

You may have seen these images before. At the dentist’s office, in the lobby of a law firm, or while you sit on your friend’s couch trying to agree on which movie to watch. As well as being popular stock photos, they are featured in the default screen saver for Apple TV—a device that allows you to stream content to your television. I don’t own one myself, but they are becoming increasingly common, and with them, so is this collection of stunning National Geographic images.

A video of National Geographic images featured in the default screensaver for Apple TV

I wanted to share some tidbits about these photos, so you can impress your friends the next time you’re arguing over rom-com or sci-fi. And even if you’ve never seen this screen saver, you’ll still appreciate the photos. Here is a selection of ten of the featured images (there are 26 total), including links to the original National Geographic magazine stories they appeared in.


Aerial photograph of the desert sands in the Namib desert
Photograph by Frans Lanting, National Geographic Creative
Africa’s Super Park,” June 2011

“Over thousands of years winds have sculpted sand in the Namib Desert into some of the world’s tallest dunes, colored red by iron oxide. The sand contains just enough moisture to sustain a few hardy plants. Not far from this dune, one called Big Daddy looms 1,200 feet above the desert floor.”


A school of spadefish underwater in an electic and bright composition
Photograph by Brian Skerry, National Geographic Creative
3 Degrees of Japan’s Seas,” November 2010

“Hunting for morsels of plankton, a school of spadefish hovers near the surface off Japan’s subtropical Bonin Islands. The turquoise color permeates the water late in the afternoon, as the red rays of the setting sun spread out and grow weak.”


Aerial photograph of the wavy white sand dunes, interspersed with green, in Brazil
Photograph by George Steinmetz, National Geographic Creative
A Sea of Dunes,” July 2010

“Seen from the air, the dunes look like white linens hung out to dry on a windy afternoon. In fact, the name of this place, Lençóis Maranhenses, means the ‘bedsheets of Maranhão,’ the state in Brazil on the tropical northeastern coast where the half-moon-shaped dunes are found.” Here, “Ribbons of dunes trap the rains.”


Picture of a polar bear swimming underwater, its its reflection mirrored in the surface of the water above
Photograph by Paul Nicklen, National Geographic Creative
Life at the Edge,” June 2007

“Its image mirrored in the icy water of the Arctic Ocean, a polar bear travels submerged—a tactic often used to surprise prey. Scientists fear global warming could drive bears to extinction sometime this century.”

“Concerned that the bears may be headed for extinction, officials at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently proposed listing the bears as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. ‘There’s a really clear relationship between polar bear conditions and retreating sea ice,’ says Rosa Meehan, division chief for the service’s Marine Mammal Management Program. ‘Bears depend on ice. And the ice is melting.’”


Landscape image of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River from a high perspective, under a glowing pink sky
Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic Creative
Boundless,” November 2011

“A thunder cloud passes over the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Salmon-Challis National Forest, Idaho.” The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, passed in 1968, protects 104 miles of this river.


long exposure picture of two bee-eaters sitting on a branch
Photograph by Jözsef L. Szentpéteri, National Geographic Creative
Painting the Sky,” October 2008

“The European bee-eater leads a colorful life on three continents.” Pictured here in Sarand, Hungary, “a hungry female bee-eater is not yet willing to mate. So the male bee-eater takes wing to find more food. When he returns, ‘the female nearly always accepts the offering, quickly eating,’ reports British ornithologist C. Hilary Fry. If his courtship is successful, he’ll continue to bring her prey through the egg-laying period. Both parents deliver meals to their chicks.”


Chinstrap penguins ride on an eroded iceberg in the choppy sea
Photograph by Maria Stenzel, National Geographic Creative
South Sandwich Islands,” December 2006

“Chinstrap penguins ride an eroded iceberg near Candlemas Island, part of the South Sandwich Islands chain,” in Antarctica.

“The South Sandwich Islands are nature’s solo act. Volcanic eruptions roughed out their shape; ice, wind, and waves still hammer and carve them. Birds and seals alone find refuge here.”


Photograph of a grizzly bear leaning off the edge of a waterfall with its mouth wide open, attempting to catch a leaping fish
Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Creative
“Grizz Survival: Their Fate Is in Our Hands,” July 2001

“A grizzly bear opens wide for a mouth full of salmon,” in Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.


landscape image of two green mountains coming together in a valley, the scene reflected in the still water below
Photograph by Michael S. Yamashita, National Geographic Creative
China’s Mystic Waters,” March 2009

“This is the other China. High in the mountains of Sichuan Province, in Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve, rare plants and animals find sanctuary, and millions of visitors have discovered cool, clear, sapphire-and-emerald-tinted waters, far removed from the sooty industrial sprawl that consumes lands and lives below.” Here, “mist rolls over Five Colored Lake at dawn.”


Picture of a lowland mountain gorilla sitting in grasses and holding a leaf that he is gazing at
Photograph by Ian Nichols, National Geographic Creative
In the Presence of Giants,” January 2008

“Needing fuel for his efforts, this silverback soaks in a swamp for hours, methodically stripping and rinsing dirt from herb roots before munching,” in the Congo Basin of central Africa.

Want to see more amazing photos taken by National Geographic photographers? National Geographic Creative licenses our photographers’ work around the world, creating more space for these images outside of the yellow border.

There are 20 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. Angelo Allegra
    September 10, 2015

    Grizzly, Katmai National Park. -> Foto bellissima peccato aver dimenticato il giornale sul treno…

  2. bri
    July 28, 2015

    these pictures are gorgeous.

  3. Haposan Nico
    July 28, 2015


  4. Mary Meyers
    July 27, 2015

    I feast on the photos in both the magazine and the offerings online. They make me hunger for the stories behind them. They help me get in touch with all that is out there. They touch me deeply in my soul. Thank you.

  5. imaculada figueiredo
    July 27, 2015

    Presentation of photographs in National Geographic is always a gift to me.
    This magazine selects well and is careful to share best.
    Colors, images, framing, exposure light.
    The idea of this magazine, featured topics of the update provided a grand opening at the right time and at the right time; Sensitive, creativity and touch of BEAUTY.

  6. Denis Knežević
    July 27, 2015

    Thanks. I hope that you will post the other 16

  7. Denis Knezevic
    July 27, 2015

    Thank you.

  8. Naomi
    July 27, 2015

    Beautiful. So aspiring.

  9. Maxim
    July 27, 2015

    Very nice! Thanks for the beautiful photos!

  10. Caz.
    July 26, 2015

    Now this is beautiful & this I would call photographic art. Thank you!

  11. Jay
    July 26, 2015

    Unbelievably beautiful; thank you.

  12. Barbara Necker
    July 26, 2015

    thanks for taking us to these beautiful places

  13. Brent
    July 24, 2015

    Wow I never knew places like that existed in China. Amazing water.

  14. Donna
    July 23, 2015

    Incredible photos! Glad they have become so recognizable–an honor well-deserved.

  15. Ambra
    July 23, 2015

    I have seen 7/10 of these. Thats a lot considering how many pictures National Geographic has out there! Gorgeous!

  16. Raniel
    July 23, 2015


  17. Karthik Manduri
    July 22, 2015

    I’m a big fan of National Geographic Channel. Thanks for the beautiful images

  18. Gera
    July 21, 2015

    Photographs are portraits of someone’s vision presented to others. It’s up to the admirer to see it or not…I see souls on these pictures…I see solitude…I see what nature refuses to give up to the atrocities acted upon it…I see love…
    Thank you for such amazing display!!!

  19. Susan Gittens
    July 21, 2015

    Amazing shots!! Thanks for sharing them with those of us who do not have an Apple TV either.

  20. Joan Churton
    July 21, 2015

    These pictures are wonderful!

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