Sometimes you just do not want to be finished. Sometimes you could just roll on along. For awhile longer. Just a bit more.

This is the second time I have had an assignment from National Geographic to do a story on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Back in the late 80’s I did an overall coverage of the outer banks . However, this essay is personal. Plus I will do the text. OBX is an example of both the best and worst of man’s use of a fragile environment. Honestly, it would probably best if nobody lived on these constantly moving shores. Home to  folks who have just decided that just where they shouldn’t be is just where they wanna be. Misfits, fishermen, surfers and pirates. Folks like me.

I think you are looking at around 40 photographs above which represents the final editing. Down from thousands of clicks to  the 40 picks we  will show tomorrow.  This 40 will then come down even further to about 12 that will be published.  The result of two years off and on photographing right from my front porch. Sometimes literally. I have traveled around this lonely planet quite a few times for NatGeo….my university to the world….the only real education i have. My official formal education is  imperfect…Yet the  life of steeping in a subject is more than perfect.

This recent work on my life by the sea will be presented to Chris Johns, Editor NatGeo,  on Thursday. Presentations at NatGeo are hard to describe. So much is riding on these shows that anyone who did not say they were more than nervous when getting ready to present would be lying. Months of work is being decided on. Stories can die right at this meeting. I have had stories killed. Nothing personal. The story might just not work. Everybody, the very best, have had work which needed help or hit the cutting room floor so to speak.

Rare air has its price.

What I want to do this week and part of next on Burn is to meet the decision makers. The editors. The ones who decide who gets an assignment , who does not, and why. Chris Johns is a super pro NatGeo photojournalist and natural history photographer who is now THE Editor of the Magazine. The first pro photographer to hold such a position. I will interview Chris for you next week. Maybe he will even answer a question or two for you,  but I cannot promise. During the upcoming days I will introduce you to several editors starting with Senior  Photo Editor Sarah Leen who is the editor for my OBX story and also an example of a long time NG field photographer who six years moved inside to make a difference. Sarah is a mentor for many photographers. Both emerging and established alike.

Photographers  always work hand in hand with a picture editor at NatGeo. Someone who watches over the whole process. This editor works closely with the photographer helping with research, coordination with the writer, and a support to the whole visual side of the story all the way through the layout process. To make sure there is a usable coverage, to make sure the creative juices are flowing , in effect a “coach” a “guide” a “director”  to help the photographer just get it done. No small task. This varies from photographer to photographer and from story to story depending on many factors.

I will let the editors tell you how THEY think about it.

I feel good about this down home story. A personal diary of sorts. My best pictures? I always think I should have done better. I just feel good about having a chance to give some a  taste, a compelling reason  for why I feel exhilarated by this land. Yes, this land, this sand, this drifting dune I have chosen after banging around the world to hell and gone.

After doing the Rio book bit online, I realized how fascinated people are by the process. The motives. The USE of photography becomes way way more important than the photography part of photography.  See my best explanation of process here. For real.

Anybody can speak the photographic language now, as we use any commonly spoken language, yet alas there are  only a few poets among all the correctly speaking. So I love these new challenges , these new ways of telling the stories we all want to hear.

Technology changes fast, yet  surely the desire to hear or see or feel an amazing  recollection, a compelling  story, a colorful representation, a honest portrayal,  will not change.

In an effort to give this audience what I think is the most educational things we can do here on Burn , I will do more process stories. Stories about who did what and how in hell they did it. Stories about the decision makers from several top magazines and newspapers Starting now with NatGeo , but moving soon to The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Mother Jones, and on and on to give you some insight into the process for contemporary print and online magazines in terms of commissioning work. Talking to editors who are looking for the next super talents.

Burn will always be stories told  from this audience and from legends alike. The same mix of 75% emerging photographers, 25% icons will roughly hold. We will  do more commissioned assignments leading towards Burn 03 (later in 2012) and I think all of you know there will be a Burn show in Sydney, Australia paralleling the opening of One Night In Rio at the Australian Center of Photography in May of 2012.

I have way more to tell. Yet I find one idea at a time is best here on the net. I will be back in the next few days to suggest more to come, and of course to always listen to your thoughts. Well, most of them :)

69 Responses to “FINAL EDIT OBX”

  • John..

    You’re right, memories are there.. and even memories that are not our own, but that we have heard of.. going backwards in familyalbums I know more than I could ever remember.. reconnecting with people I’ve never known, but have shaped who I am.. weird stuff..

  • This seems to have now become the default dialogue page, so I will note that I just put up part four in my David Alan Harvey Loft workshop series. In a weird way I do go back into family albums, so it is not totally off-topic. I fear that it is of a nature that will drive away 30 readers for everyone that it holds. But I have gotten into this vein and must ride it out. When this done, I will revert back to something closer, but maybe not quite, to the past and see if I can start winning some readers back.

    This is the master link to the series, to include all posts as I make them:

  • Bill..

    you’ve opened a can of worms.. on a very personal level..

    But that’s not the purpose of my comment.. just bumped into this:

    Not Alaska, but COLD! You might perhaps even know the photographer.. or just enjoy the video and pictures..

  • Good mornig everyone!
    Still posting some stuff about the Steve Jobs Biography:

    …engineers are taught to make a decision analitically, but there are times when relying on gut intuition is most indispensable.

    Below a whole paragraph about Apple engagement, focus, aim and commitement, months after the released of the iPod:

    “The older I get, the more I see how motivations matter… We won, because we personally love music. We made the iPod for ourselves, and when you’re doing something for yourself, or your best friend or family, you’re not going to cheese it out.
    If you don’t love something, you’re not going to go the extra mile, work the extra weekend, challenge the status quo.”

    Wish you a good week-end!

  • it was just a truly warm meeting yesterday at NatGeo with the Editor (who i am going to interview right now for Burn)….there is still process to come…..i must write the text….a layout must be done in the next week…to get this story into the June 2012 issue, will take lots of work, fast….i think it just perfect if i keep all of you right in this loop….just so you know how THIS is…not to say there are not other ways, other ways to think about pictures, but this is a good time to explain THIS way…

    for sure very few realize the process to magazine publication….things always look easier or less complex than they actually are….

    anyway, stay tuned…this interview exclusive to Burn with Chris Johns, Editor NatGeo…i cannot promise he will have the time nor the inclination to answer your questions…i will gently ask…if he does, it would be a first….students always ask me how editors think, how they choose, how and why they decide this or decide that….you who are here will at least know way more after this interview than you did before….right from the number one source….

    cheers, david

  • Ok.. PHEW.. was turning blue, now breathing again.. just kidding, well, sort of.. looking forward to see how this evolves.. :)


    great quotes from Jobs…yes, this is what makes people do great things….must be 100% PERSONALLY involved…i mean you gotta CARE…


    speaking of, thanks for CARING…much appreciated..only sorry i did not jump in here sooner…i literally did not and do not have much spare time..thanks for your patience….

  • excellent news! great it all worked out. What is more nerve recking…..the meeting or knowing what’s ahead after the approval?
    I’m looking forward to that interview. THANKS YOU!

    As civi says: “what not to love”?!?!?!

  • David..

    Thank YOU.. for caring about us, this audience here.. would be so much easier just doing your own stuff, instead you take the time and energy to give what to me seems the logical, yet unexpected continuation to theriobook workshop. Between you and Frostfrog there’s enough input to last for a while!

  • “I used to point out, at art school you can teach the craft; it’s the poetry you can’t teach. But now they try to teach the poetry and not the craft.”
    David Hockney
    I think David Hockney should join us Burn :))

  • So this is a different magazine, not NatGeo, but it’s about getting educated, study study study.. and fits in right here I think.. and I gotta kill the time while ironing.. one hour video, stumbled over the link on twitter.. and I can see why it had such an influence on some to become photographers tehmselves, like DAH, if I remember well:


    the photographer is always at the heart of the stories at NG…after all it is a picture driven magazine and only the photographer has actually “been there” and is often working off her/his own idea in the first place…so photographer involvement has always been a part of the NG experience…still, the editor, in this case Chris Johns makes the final decisions….yet he is not a tyrant , nor have i ever seen a tyrant at NG…the decision are not made in a vacuum, and really depend mostly on space limitations or on type of content appropriate for their demographic….

  • DAVID :)

    no time to write, just saying: good luck with the edit and NG selection. Will be looking in June :))….I’m no NG editor for sure, but I would totally lead with the Photo Crew pic and you with that golden surfer hair (where have the years/follicles gone? ;)))>….love that old pic…an a great intro….

    sure the essay will sing :))


  • @ ALL:

    One more quote to start this week-end:

    “Despite being a citizen of the digital world, or maybe because he knew to well its isolating potential, Jobs was a strong believer in face-to-face meeting. There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by iChat or e-mail. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what you’re doing, you say wow!, and soon you’re cooking up all sort of ideas”


    “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them”


  • I just came across this post while googling Sarah Leen, who I will be fortunate enough to meeting with at Review Santa Fe this weekend. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to receive her “coaching and direction” which as you mentioned is the role of a good photo editor. Thanks DAH.

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