I am NOW in the layout room of National Geographic Magazine. We are making decisions on which pictures will be included in my Outer Banks article coming up in June. You are going to help. You are going to help us pick the lead/opening shot . We are going to give you three choices. Pick one. Stay tuned. Next picture up with the three choices will be coming very soon.

Pictured here is Bill Marr, Creative Director, who is taking his weekend time along with Senior Photo Editor Sarah Leen to take this from a collection of pictures, to a publishable essay for Nat Geo.

The 3 photos with OBX type up at the top are what we are thinking for the opening shot. Which one of the 3 would you pick?


  • I really like those tracks on the wall to hold up the shots. A very organized layout room!!

  • Left one.. tough choice though..

  • I go for the middle one. with the right one a strong #2

  • Never been there so have no idea what’s representative. Would probably go with the one with people in it, the one one the right, just on general principles.

  • Middle one, for me. Gorgeous.

  • MW

    not sure what you mean by general principles…what do you mean? asking this question honestly…you are a part of our working team right now..this is for real…the one thing you are not seeing right now is anything much past the lead…in other words we do have people coming of course…i was also thinking about the text piece i will write…

  • All three are the soul of the OBX…but I think the middle is the strongest and is more…unexpected. The right one is a close second and in the magazine, with pages splitting the image, may be stronger.

  • I like #3..
    I like the orange font with it!

  • I go for the middle – beautiful picture, makes a statement about the struggle of life, death, and recreation and in a subtle way speaks of the imperiled nature of the OBX, as you have explained to us.

    Now… how did you get National Geographic to let you show these pix before the magazine comes out?

  • for “myself” i chose no 2…
    for the “NatGeo audience”?…definitely no3!!


    Bill good question…THIS IS A FIRST…NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE…didn’t i promise you surprises for 2012??

  • PANOS…

    what the hell does that mean?? laughing..why put NatGeo in a corner?? i am with you guys AND top of the editorial chain at NatGeo right now…THEY are listening to YOU …so far the center picture is ahead in the race…we only want to know what grabs you and not what you THINK the readers of NatGeo…

    by the way Aaron Huey who is doing an essay on the Pine Ridge Reservation, an incredibly powerful essay i just saw yesterday, just came in the room…he likes number one…just so you know…

    thanks always for an honest opinion….

  • I like the middle one, because of the coolors, and the graphical elements. fie fishing-rod leads my view through the picture; the fish is in a harmonic area.
    I like the right one, because it gives me in one picture a nice overview about the area. Surfing, beach, sea, people. (people in pictures always catch the interest to see more, at least for me)
    The middle one with its saturated color, however makes me much more interested than the other pictures, and therefor I would select the middle one.

  • The right one feels the most DAH to me.

  • The fish for me as well and by the way that wedding image is killer.

  • I like the middle one #2 because of its tropical color and extraordinary composition and a life by the sea. Thanks.

  • I’ll go for number one. Number two is strong but deals with capture and death (of the fish); number three shows the human environment of the OBX but number one shows the epic struggle between sea and land; it’s more …. geographic.


  • David, the general principles in choosing among those three were 1. general preference for shots with people (not all shots of course); 2. more dynamic composition (mainly thinking of the lines); and 3. Nice contrast of complimentary colors. Very nice, actually, as is typical of your work. I’d consider putting the title in the upper right corner though, since that’s the way the composition leads the eye.

  • Mike R.

    Not necessarily death.

  • And what actually jumped out at me first was that the one on the right contains all the information in the other two and quite a bit more. Though I know that’s generally not your primary concern, I think that in this case it works alongside the other strengths of the shot and is good for an opening of a magazine piece.

  • First of all…Just amazing…wonderful and beautiful images.David, congrats!.all capture obx for sure.
    However, the first one caught my eye off the bat and i can’t find a reason to not have that as my number one. For me that is the complete spirit of obx . OBX is fishing,is beautiful summer times..however, i see the first image as a solid representation and catch of it as a whole. Simple…beauty..You don’t see a fish, a person as the lead eye catcher…but the water, which without you could not have the others. Maybe it’s a bit up front however, i feel that’s what it is. You can see this image of obx whenever you visit or are there in summer, fall or winter. You see the waves crashing, the houses, the beauty. It is obx.
    The layout and placement of the text i also much much prefer in the first. It looks less like an advertisement and more like a statement. You know to me turning the pages of a magazine, looking threw a book or images in a line up seeing number one as the leading image makes a statement and pulls me in by making a strong statement. I could keep talking about it for paragraphs and paragraphs BUT! my vote is number one for sure!! It just IS OBX..What better first look into a beautiful essay.
    ahh love it david! -rachel wells

  • 2


    visually, the most interesting
    visually, the best frame, love the perspective of the ‘giant’ fish and small land
    visually, the least predictable and the most poetic, for its heady, visually disorientation
    visually, the one image that contains all the elements of obx: sea, people (through suggestion/fishing pole), land, fish, environment
    visually, the one that suggests through its invisible elements (what is not in the frame) from which to build the rest of the narrative
    visually, the struggle between life.death
    visually, the least obvious choice to open an NG story on obx
    visually, the most empty space that carves all that poetry form the blue space and the shock of the pole and fish….
    visually, the one (of those 3) that I would remember, after i took a walk :))


    if it’s spread over a fold, that’s more tricky….

    but, god help me, i don’t want to see another beautiful amber sunset pic in NG (done to death)…give me a beautiful, enormous (looking) white fish over a cobalt blue swell….


    ps. sorry miss’d the call…in the shower and than had to run out….will write later….


  • Love the third one (far right) for opening shot. Like the content.

  • Left.. wild, lonely and free..

  • #3 all the way….. first one could be the beach anywhere.. doesn’t get my curiosity….. second one… looks like it would be the lead to an article on fishing…… the third one is just moody… and peeks my curiosity.. i’m searching within the image… to see what’s going on…….. It stands out from the other two

  • that fact that a story would go with the Lead of a Fish (and the belly of a fish none the less) is exactly why I would use that….then again, i prefer the iconoclastic to the predictable….might even suggest that those lovely beasts off the swell are just as important as the sungatherers….

    “My mother is a fish.” – William Faulkner

  • BOB

    by cobalt blue water shot, you mean picture #1, right?….hmmm, i did not see it that way,but that is why we asking…we are going to give you a tiny piece of the inside too..remember the lead is the lead but the next ones set the tone too….thanks for thinking

  • #1 because it sets it all up … OBX holding a thin tenuous grip between the ocean and the sound.

  • david: the blue of 2…..not of 1…the ‘blue’ of 1 gets lost in the bronze of the sand and sunlight-set….

    maybe i should have said i love the IVES KLEIN blue of #2 :))), instead of cobalt….like this:,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&biw=1184&bih=886&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=BwQST8fkEfK20QHUufTMDQ

  • 2 is most lyrical, most haiku and both ‘least’ about obx (1 and 3 scream obx) and essence too….


    i see it (on my monitor) as rich, rich blue-2 :))

    or as young tom said, always go with the snapper ;)))

    ok, must run :))

  • sorry, i meant Cousin Cambell…he knows a thing or two about snapper ;))))….sorry Tom ;)))

    ok, said enough :))

  • They all have a great feel, but I like the middle one, just a little more unexpected.

  • i agree, i think the middle one, the one on the right is so close though, i keep swapping between them but finally plumped for the middle one, although possibly if i saw them both larger i have a feeling i might prefer the right one.

  • hard choice but left…water draws you in and the other 2 show whats in and around the water! Can’t wait to see the issue!

  • Man… what a hard decision. I think that #2 is the strongest/most dynamic photo, but I would have to go with #1 or #3 for the opener. I’ve only been to OBX once, but was most impressed by the unspoiled beauty of the islands, which leads me to favor #1. However, the people are great and based upon what we’ve seen thus far from DAH, his story will much about the inhabitants of OBX, so:

    I vote for #3!

  • ALL

    ok tomorrow we are going to show you the next spreads…to show you how the second spread might indeed affect the first….all of this is intended to give you a feel for how these kinds of decision are made…a lot of it is in fact very instinctual..contrary to much popular opinion…anyway, this audience is right now in very rare territory….as i am sure you appreciate

    and by the way, bless you for all these intelligent comments..much appreciated by me and those who are working on this layout from the magazine….

    cheers, david

  • #2 for me, maybe with “OBX” (just “OBX”) in the bottom right corner (subtitles may remain in the upper part).

  • for me it’s 1 or 3. Based on first instincts. 2 is strong, but feels to familiar ….and I don’t even fish.

  • My choice goes to the photo No. 3. I like the composition and colors in pastel shades between cold and hot. A very attractive late afternoon. On the other hand, this picture tells me more about the OBX than the photo No. 2. The photo No. 2, attention is more concentrated in fish, the life and death and not on site.
    Cheers, fernando

  • No.2 followed by No.3

  • Center photo, #2. Nice representation of OBX. Oh yeah and terrific shot.

  • I’d say the second one. It has some quirky personality and the color scheme is good. Fishing plays prominently in it without giving me the impression that I’m about to read a story about fishing. The third one would be my second choice but trying to invision it leading into the story it might feel like an introduction to an youthful, serene outdoor lifestyle story. Can’t see the fine details of the background of that one though when viewing at current size so it’s hard to call…

  • #1 tough going against the tide but i don’t like the fish. it’s too expected.
    when i was there, i was just waiting for the weather to get bad. thinking about the land between the water.
    the #3 . that’s not the base of the OBX (to me) it’s the water. it’s the strips of land surviving.

  • If you have showed me the three of them as singles and asked me to choose the best , I’d certainly would go for number 2 and I understand why the majority have it as preference. For me,it’s clearly the best shot, the colors, , the umpredictability, subectivity and uniqueness and defying aspect of this shot , that fish, that land and sea. BUT if you insert the subtittle “OBX” on the three of them, I’d go for number 3 , because it makes a perfect marriage , makes me feel more “OBX”, a more vivid representation and expectation of the subject ( in this specific case I would risk to fall for the predictable, the secure and maybe..obvious choice. It’s welcoming for me as reader and even that, thinking on contrasts, being the most predictable as representative choice here but when you open the magazine and check the essay it’ll be a turnaround of mood, a surprising element introducing an essay itself way above and beyond the expected. It flows better for me being surprised excitement )But clearly that’s depends on you and your main intention,interest with the selection of photos chosen for this essay …Evoke the idea(straight,raw,unpretentious ) or to challenge the idea (lyrical as well mentioned by Bob)that FOR ME would weight more, fundamental point on the cover’s decision

  • #2 followed by #1. I remember Hurricane Irene with the possibility to destroy and the vulnerability of the area.That’s why I like pic #1. And pic #2 is survival.

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