• December 23, 2015

Pictures We Love: Exploring Near and Far

Proof Staff

As the year began to come to a close, we asked National Geographic staff who work closely with photography—through the magazine, Your Shot, News, Travel, and Proof—to choose a photo from 2015 that they just can’t stop thinking about. There’s no formula for what makes an image resonate—it can be a piercing gaze, the perfect light, or a tender moment that strikes a chord with our editors. Over the coming days, we’ll reveal the 2015 photographs they found most memorable and why.

A villager sits inside a bathhouse in Kazakhstan, a beam of light shining on his hands
A villager in Aqbasty, Kazakhstan, bathes in an ancient hot spring piped into a bathhouse—one of the few water sources left after decades of irrigation and evaporation. Aqbasty used to be on the shore of the Aral Sea. Today it’s seven miles inland.
Sins of the Aral Sea,” June 2015
Photograph by Carolyn Drake

Whitney Johnson, Deputy Director of Photography, National Geographic Magazine

For half a decade, photographer Carolyn Drake focused her attention on Central Asia. With the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers as her guide, she moved westward through the “Stans” to the remains of the Aral Sea. Drake returned to the region for National Geographic to explore what was once at the water’s edge. In an interview about the larger project, she told me, “I’m drawn to places that are off the track because I want to point out, ‘Look, this exists too.’”

Picture of the vast landscape of Montana, mountains in the background and a reservoir in the foreground, with three horses passing by in the distance
Horseback riders move around the Kicking Horse Reservoir during sunrise in northwestern Montana.
Montana Road Trip: From Flathead to Philipsburg
Photograph by Keith Ladzinski

Tyler Metcalfe, Associate Photography Producer, Travel

For the last year, the American classic novel Lonesome Dove has been making its way around the photography department at National Geographic. The novel chronicles the story of a group of cowboys as they drive a herd of cattle across the open plains of the west, from Texas to Montana. The book was recommended to me early in the year by a fellow photo editor, and as I began reading the book I also began work on a yearlong web feature covering the state of Montana. While I became immersed in the book, Keith Ladzinski headed out into the field to photograph for our project. I saw this photo, and the book I’d been imagining came to life. It exemplifies everything I love about the West: big skies, dramatic views, and the freedom to explore.

Picture of a person vacuuming the stage in a theater, their figure silhouetted against the lighter curtains
A custodian is silhouetted at center stage in the ballroom of the Palmer House hotel in Chicago.
Undiscovered,” September 2015
Photograph by Marcia Mahoney, National Geographic Your Shot

Matt Adams, Assistant Photo Editor, Your Shot

When I started my job as a photo editor here at National Geographic, there was a lot of sudden change I had to deal with: moving to a new city, finding a new place to live, and starting a new job—all in the matter of a week. I knew about Your Shot but had never engaged with the community. Within my first month, I was tasked with running an assignment called Undiscovered. The theme fit me well personally, since I was in a new area trying to discover new surroundings and meet new people.

This image was an early editor’s favorite for me. I love quiet moments in photographs, and the scene captured here worked exceptionally well for the Undiscovered theme. I thought about how we’re all in a hurry to get to somewhere that isn’t here. We all have goals, dreams, and new ideas we’d love to pursue as soon as possible. Sometimes it’s a good idea to slow down and explore your environment a little more closely, to look for those small scenes that may go unnoticed. Document the details that everyone else just walks by or, as a kid from Chicago once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”

Picture of the Camino trail with open fields on either side
On the route known as the Camino Frances, pilgrims dot a trail across the meseta, the plateau of central Spain. “The Camino has no specific stopping point each day,” Michael George wrote in his journal. “If you are tired, injured, or fall in love with a town or a person, you can stop.” Exploring on foot, he concluded, is “simultaneously the simplest and most intense way to see the world.”
Walking the Way,” May 2015
Photograph by Michael George

Elena Sheveiko, Photographic Coordinator, National Geographic Magazine

The Way of St. James, or simply the Way, is a centuries-old Christian pilgrimage path through France and Spain. The story inspired me like no other. Walking this road is on my bucket list now. I will not consider my life fulfilled unless I do it.

Discover more of our favorite images from 2015 in these related “Pictures We Love” posts:

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