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.

  • The middle one catch my attention. Mouvement, contrast, deep blue, bright white. The calm of the coast on the background… the struggle for survival on the foreground.

  • Loving this work David, #2 and #3 speak ‘recreation & lifestyle’ to me but #1 has something more powerful as an opening spread. OBX is a frail yet beautiful spit of land at the mercy of the elements and sadly, occasionally seriously threatened by hurricanes. The fishing and the surfing seem self evident (and important) to me in this environment, I don’t need them in the opening.

    In other words I like #1 because it has everything to set up a story about the way of like and characters inhabiting ths special place. I look at it and it without telling directly it evokes images of the surfers, fishermen, beach bums and pirates that inhabit those shores…..


    Richard Beaven

  • Popular #2 seems somewhat limiting in describing OBX, but #3 has light, people, attractive and more encompassing activity, as well as the long pier that hints at “outer” for me. Hi Bill. Hi Dave.

  • Doesn’t the choice of photo on the opening spread depend upon the story you’re trying to tell about the Outer Banks?

    You should post your manuscript, David. And more images from the layout. Then we’ll all know where you’re going with your OBX narrative.

    Otherwise, we’re just picking a pretty picture.

    { P.S. By framing the decision this way, David, you’re confirming all the worst fears of the Word folks on the 7th floor! :-) }

  • #3 would be my choice for the first image: it includes all the kitch and poetry of the coast, with beautiful composition (as always)

    #2 would be my second choice: fun, tense

    #1 would be my last choice, simply because it’s not telling me enough. However, I also can hardly see it!

    Great stuff


    the first looks like something for a travel or real estate story. The third is just expected.

    The middle one is different and dynamic.

    Not rocket science here.

    Nice shot! They are all nice. But 2 rocks.

  • At first I was drawn to #3. I get to meet some of the people, can imagine myself walking out on the pier. I feel like I’m standing on that boardwalk. I can hear the surf and the weather is nice. It gives a sense of place, there are multiple things going on, it splits nicely into separate halves in a dual-page spread. If the picture is to go over two pages, this is the obvious choice.

    #2 did nothing for me at first, and I was wondering why so many people prefer it. Maybe because I don’t like to fish. But now this second photo is growing on me. It’s unexpected, it has a strong graphic quality to it, gorgeous light. There is that decisive moment, just before the fish lands on the deck. It gives a feeling of being there. Also, knowing your work, and looking at the other posted shots, there will be plenty of opportunity to meet the people living there. So I will join everyone and vote for #2.

  • .why put NatGeo in a corner??
    laughing too.. (ha ha i always did that from day 1 didnt I?)

    i loved what tom hyde said above:
    (tom hyde
    January 14, 2012 at 5:34 pm
    #1 because it sets it all up … OBX holding a thin tenuous grip between the ocean and the sound.)

    so… Tom sounds right…although Picture 2 is the one i choose (and still prefer)it might give someone the impression (for someone that has never been to OBX) that OBX is a fishermen’s haven…and im not sure thats the case…but the photo number 3/ postcard -like definitely DESERVES A PLACE ON MY DENTIST’s office…. something that the classic NatGeo subscriber “expects”, anticipates, “requires”…
    i’ll be thrilled to be completely wrong on the latter…maybe things changed and i havent noticed…and that could be dope!

  • Number 3 with orange type.
    David, I think this offers the best combination of travel/landscape, people/emotion, depth/perspective, dynamic/color. And because of all those reasons, it’s the most interesting to me.
    Humble opinion from an art director/photographer. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to pitch in!

  • #2 stuck out immediately to me – I think that #1 is too obvious…beautiful, but obvious and safe…
    I really like #3 for the 70s nostalgia vibe… but I think the most unique one is #2…
    Fish on!!!

  • To me the wave shot on the left represents the forces at odds with each other on the outer banks. It is my choice, man against the power of the sea. I like the light shining on the crashing lip. The shot on the right with the pier and people enjoying the natural resources is my second pick. The middle one comes in third.
    By the way the fish is a pompano, a common summer time catch for recreational anglers. Great eating.

  • This is so exciting!
    I think I will have to go with #1.
    Difficult to decide, I was leaning to #3 initially but then I imagined opening it up as a ‘double-truck’ (a new term I learned recently:). I tried to imagine what I would think the article was about if I had no idea what OBX meant. Everything about outer banks experience is the related to the water and sand. It’s a beautiful image and makes a concise point.

  • Wait, can I change my mind ;-))

  • Really hard! After I hit send started doubting, but I will stick with #1. Just wanted to add that I love the tension and the strong blue and white of 2, the sunset colors of 3 with the people some close some far, would make a great spread …but yah #1. I get lost looking in all that water, I guess I like how that fills the frame the most.

  • hey thanks for asking us to be involved!

    hmmm ,,,i like the way fishing pole in #2 points toward “obx” .. but i like the way #3 incorporates the waves of #1 and the (fishing) pier of#2.. and then adds people to the mix…

    of course i also like the way #1 shows the sea dominantly over the land, kinda hinting at the precariousness of living on such a narrow strip of land surrounded by so much water. might even be my pick, altho i am more used to seeing people in your images David.

    i guess i would kinda like to see the pix for the following spread before i commit tho ;)

  • bit late to join this post… hard to keep up with you dah!
    the middle one, without any doubt.

  • this is very interesting…first and foremost, i have been impressed with the quality of these comments..intelligent thinking and writing…i thank you….we are always ready for all kinds of thinking, but i totally appreciate well thought out discourse….

    most interesting is the fact that all 3 photos seem to have about equal votes..i am looking here and on FB….we obviously have chosen all 3 for various reasons and of course will show you at least some of the rest of the story so you can see relationships

    the text for this NatGeo story is being written by me of course…a personal returning to my roots sort of piece, so all three will fit the way i am doing my lead…anyone who thinks that i would be picking pictures for any other reason than an overall visual literacy, of course does not know me at all…my relationship with writers goes back further than my relationship with photographers or photography, so literary referencing and metaphor where are where i live…at the same time acknowledging the relatively new language of photography…

    this little experiment with this audience giving their opinion is a unique and first time experience for all of us…editors are interested in the opinions here and have been fascinated with your reasoning and yet will still make their own decisions…honestly the conversation amongst ourselves has varied little from your observations and comments……again, many many thanks for taking the time….

    cheers, david

  • #1 could be the lead for an article about pollution (beautiful but a little dark).

    #2 is my favorite image, but my first reaction was like Panos, unsure whether it will draw in the audience or not. It’s not just about the NatGeo audience. It’s not as warm and inviting as #3, but it’s more active and interesting than #1.

    #3 is less exciting, more stereotypical, but I personally might be more likely to read that story. That’s because I’m attracted to articles like this not for the photography only, or even primarily, but to learn the human story. Even #2 interests me in part because I know there’s a person on the other end of the fishing pole.

  • I have no doubt that *you*, David, will choreograph your pictures & words so they’ll dance beautifully together for 24 pages (?) or so.

    My point is that it’s impossible for **us** to choose an opening photo that will do justice to your story since we have no idea what your story is.

  • A bit late here, I would go with #3, it ‘speaks’ Harvey (individually) and Nat Geo at the same time. The colour palette of the photo and placement of text work very well…

  • I would go for number 2. I think that it’s visually more interesting. All three pictures are nice, but it seems to me that number 1 and 3 are a bit too cheezy and unoriginal. The’re both good pictures and would be a good opener to put some context, especially the last one, but the middle one shows the same thing with a more interesting twist. I like the way the composition make me look at the picture. First you see the fishing rod, then the fish and you finally go to the beach. You don’t have that with the other ones, your eyes don’t linger. Some people mentionned that there’s a element of death in it, but I tend to see more a symbol of life than death.

  • #2 was the one that caught my attention on first look ad the one that has stayed with me
    after a couple of hours of drinking.
    It is also,in my opinion, a little more of a ‘hip’ composition and less frequently seen
    in NG.
    I’d also second the sort of disclaimer that Bob pointed out. If it’s a full DPS and the fish
    falls in the gutter then the image would fail.

    Is it safe to assume most of the images we see on the wall are GF-1 ?
    Not that it matters one iota but I’ve found my most interesting pics in the past 18 months
    have been with the GF. Just easy to loosen up with.

  • Also,FWIW I like better the layout we see half cropped off on the computer screen in the lead
    image of this post.
    Think it would work well as a way to move te fish out of the gutter.
    For my taste I would position the ‘obx’ so that the ‘x’ falls completely over the image
    and the ‘ob’ falls on the white and picks up the cobalt blue of the sky.

  • After reading the ‘back to the roots’ bit, even more the left one.. it is you.. I know, we’re talking NatGeo and an essay about OBX.. but I can’t help myself and think that this photo is the most about you.. where you started out as reader which led to photographer, lonely watching out the window.. as in that left shot, alone watching over.. longing feeling.. and being the sea, it can go both ways, mercyful or demanding all..

    Will be very interesting to see what the choice will be.. did YOU have one first choice already on your mind when presenting them to NatGeo?

  • #1 and maybe try with a different color on text OBX maybe yellow/orange… like #3, the text is orange…

  • ALAN

    ahhh yes…but the assumption has to be that all three of these photos reflect the text or compliment the text…otherwise we would not have gotten this far anyway….what i am asking the readers here for is not for the “storytelling” aspect, but just for the visual part…a totally legitimate question….i was not asking about the story….the readers here do not have to know the story to pick a picture for its visual acuity only…of course the words and pictures must be in balance or symbiotic in the final package presented, yet a photograph can easily be judged out of the context of the story…just as brilliant lines and quotes and even graphs can be pulled out of a manuscript and appreciated for their artistic merit outside of the context of the whole….

  • a civilian-mass audience

    I will go with number 4…the FIREWORKS…

    yes…the red one with the fireworks…!:))))

  • a civilian-mass audience

    oups…the top 3…my apologies…I wasn’t focused…

    Number one looks like Greece
    Number two…looks like fish
    Number three …kinda orange…ish…

    hmmm…number one…little boring BUT hey…it looks like Greece:))))))))))))))

    VIVA !!!

  • #3 for me. Something about it suggests coming home.

  • I think 2 is the strongest, yet 3 is OBX.. 1 and 2 seem more generic and exclude people.


  • Thanks for your reply, David. If you say all three photos work equally well with your story’s main theme (whatever it may be), then of course — pick the most compelling image.

    Looking forward to seeing what rises to the top….

  • pic #2 because it is very dynamic, it guides your eye through the frame and keeps it there. Powerful geometrics.

    runner up- pic#1 has a very nice textured feeling to the eye, it was a superb use of available light and the results show. It is a powerful contender to the first place, possibly the best picture, but I think it’s second place because the geometrics of pic#2 are really catchy to the eye, possibly making a better choice for opening a story

  • The right one. But I already said that…

  • All three, in their own way, could represent ‘enviroment’ as in geographical location.
    Only number one speaks of precariousness/fragility.
    Two and hint three hint slightly at vacation as a theme.

    But all three are so neutral and un-threatening and NG friendly that the choice must come down to possible context rather than a straw poll on aesthetics….or just play pin the tail on the donkey in the office there and see which one gets it.

  • Without reading anything else. The middle one is my favourite picture but with my editing head on I would guess the one on the right with people would get more people to read the article. David that’s really nice work.

  • David any chance of getting a vid up of the process?

  • I choose number 1, I like the dynamic of the sea waves…

  • Michael Kircher, I agree that the fish does not always have to be linked to capture and death. I did look at the photographs within the context of magazine covers (DAH wants the cover, right?) and in that context I’d pick one over two because some people may be dissuaded from buying the magazine … maybe, and you want to hook (pun intended) as many people as possible with the cover.


  • A bit late round here. Personally it would have to be N3, all I know about OBX is from your stories on Roadtrips and Burn… Beaches, the sea, lots of sand, waves, wooden piers, frisbees and of course SURFING. I really like N2 but it could be anywhere and N1 is a definite no in my humble opinion.

  • MIKE R
    “(DAH wants the cover, right?)”

    my understanding was “lead picture”, not “cover picture”.

    In the introducing words DAH says: “You are going to help us pick the lead/opening shot”

    I would not choose any of those pictures as cover picture, because I think if you cut them for vertical, much of the magic gets lost.

  • I suspect it’s too late but I’d go for no.2 followed by no.3.
    Thanks for including the Burn crowd!


    I start understanding why you and Eva are selecting number one, however this is quite complex. Not sure if that would be so obvious to an average reader, unless it is accompanied with some explaining words…

  • Thomas..

    I’m in a much more fortunate situation, I can just let my heart speak, and don’t have to take into consideration the readers.. ’cause I have not, my choice is solely based on my own aesthetics, what I can feel out of the photographs, and what this says to me, in this case, also about the photographer.. but I do think that even not knowing, the lefthand picture would be my choice.. it is the picture I would put up on the wall..

    Sarah Leen and Bill Marr have a much more difficult job, they have to think about the audience..

  • Number 1 because it is open-ended, introductory, non-editorial, and because it has that makes-me-want-to-turn-the-page factor going for it. It also has plenty of room for text.

    Number 2 has strong dynamics and powerful colour, but seems more appropriate for a Conde Naste opener.

    Number 3…hmmm…shouldn’t that one be saved for a book on surfing? :)


    good idea…let me see if we can do it….

  • David when you are producing a layout in the geographic do you ever try and second guess the reader?

  • Hopefully, the professionals shooting for and running a publication have better knowledge and taste in these matters than the mythical “average” reader, so the pros’ choices will give those readers more satisfaction than if they cater to what they perceive as the “average” reader’s taste, which is an inherently condescending approach that more often than not results in an average outcome rather than an excellent one. Steve Jobs has driven that point home rather forcefully.

  • I like the ominous potential of the first one – never been to OBX but idyll with living in edge quality seems to open up more possibilities for the story …

  • MW
    by “average reader”, I did not want to condescend anyone, or hurt anyone’s feelings. I think each of the three pictures are excellent. My thinking was more into, which one would drag the most into reading the story. It is not about winning the best picture, it is about starting an essay with an interesting picture, which makes a good intro.

    Here “average” means sub-summarizing my assumption of which picture would get the most viewers, not saying something about the viewers itself. “Average” by definition does not mean bad or anything like that, in the mathematical sense it is the sum divided by the number of items.

    Sorry, if I stood on anybody’s toe here.


    you have similar questions , so i will answer you together….obviously in the case of NatGeo editors, and i do hope one of them jumps in here at some point, what the readers want is for sure important…an editor of any super circulation magazine must think about readers and advertisers who are the lifeblood economically for the publication…yet in my experience, it is not the creative editors who are working with text and pictures and layouts who think much about the biz side…..i have NEVER had any editor ever ever bring up anything about the advertisers for example……somebody IS thinking about this stuff, but it is not those who are producing the creative content…the content producers think about the content…

    yet, of course when content is produced for a very specific publication , the editors at the very top must think about the readership…they DO owe their readership something…what that interpretation of “something” is varies with the editor…

    the best of these top editors in my experience are trying not only to be leaders for their creative staff, but LEAD THEIR READERS AS WELL…any editor who ONLY panders to his/her audience will lose in the long run…audiences want leadership…they want to be taken somewhere they have not been…but they probably do not want to be lead over a cliff either…so this is the balance editors must “feel”..get to the edge, but don’t fall off…

    readers might say “give me what i want” but what they “really want” is an exciting and educational version of what they do not know or enlightenment of a subject they think they do know…it is human nature…

    people want to be surprised…they do not want to be offended, but they do want to have their imagination piqued…nobody wants to be bored…everybody wants to be part of an adventure of one kind or another….

    some editors totally rely on ‘readership surveys”, others fly by the seat of their pants, going on gut instinct….i think the history of journalism and business and entertainment shows us the “seat of the pants” folks tend to have probably the most failures AND the most significant success …the super success….

    for those of us who have audiences built on the internet, it is a whole new equation….we build our audience with zero investment and the audience we have are just the folks who are here, who like what happens here…those who do not like Burn , just go to another place and there is no loss either way….this campfire is this campfire…. Burn does not preclude other great places to hang….matter of fact i recommend the work and sites of others all the time…i do not live in a vacuum….

    you are both part of my audience…..i have disagreed with both of you, i have published both of you….why? well i liked the pictures…period…but i will not always publish your pictures only because you are part of my loyal audience..i should say a part of my commentating audience…some never speak …i do listen to both of you, but i will make my own decisions not in either agreement or opposition to either of you or any of this audience, but just based on my sensibilities built up over time or just raw instinct based on the moment..both can work…

    it has been a whole lot of fun to get Burn readers opinions right here right now on this NatGeo piece….it is unbelievably cool, you may have no idea, how unique an experience this is…THIS just does not happen at a top magazine to get this far behind the scenes as a “live” experience…this really is happening right NOW…..i will leave my hotel room soon and go right back to it today working on the whole layout…

    this is sort of a readership survey in advance…the editors responsible for this story in NatGeo will not rely on this advance survey, but i promise you they are listening….since we know you do love surprise , even though you ask for immediate revelation, we will hold off on showing you the whole thing until it comes out in the Magazine…yes, buy the June issue featuring OBX!! even if you do not subscribe…many of you have been on this journey with me and i am sure you will enjoy the final result..

    ok ,speaking of final results, i gotta write the text over the next several days…i am past deadline…people are waiting…i am always on the verge of being truant….yes, i guess i DO like the edge…but do not worry , i will not fall off…

    thanks for participating…i do hope it has been either entertaining or educational or hopefully both….

    cheers, david

  • Is it too late?…

    I love no.3 very much … It tells many many stories … People, wooden bridge,continuing waves, floating clouds and color of lights…all everything would remind readers of their own memories…
    Very lovery and sweet…

    David, Thank you for sharing.
    Kyunghee Lee

  • The photo on the far right of the man carrying the surfboard.


    so nice to have you back here….not too late…we are still working….your opinions are always valued, and i do look forward to your next work….

    cheers, david

  • but LEAD THEIR READERS AS WELL…any editor who ONLY panders to his/her audience will lose in the long run…audiences want leadership…they want to be taken somewhere they have not been…

    Yes, that’s what I was trying to say.

    And Thomas, sorry, I was not referring to your use of the term. I think I know you well enough from your writing and photos to feel secure that you would never be condescending to anyone.

    I find this process endlessly interesting, which is why I have made it such a large part of my life. Although there are many and ever changing intricate relationships across these vocations, being a writer and/or photographer is one thing, an editor another, and a layout artist something else again. Being all three on the same project requires some interesting paradigm shifts. Fun stuff.

  • # 2, ’cause is the most DAH style… others are more intelectual… others are more quieter pictures…with amazing light of course!
    …and readers DOES judge an article by its front picture!

    Hard choice.

  • I’m drawn to #1 because the essence of all living existence in OBX is very closely related to the whims of the ocean. I feel a calm underlying rumble when I look at this picture. It’s my select.

    I also like #2 very much for it’s striking simplicity and interaction with man/nature, but I’m curious/concerned of what the gutter will do.

    #3 has wonderful rhythm and calm warmth, but perhaps I like something less straightforward.

  • I like the fish image the best, but the people image with the pier in the background says OBX to me. Brian

  • Well, I still prefer the old biplane shot as a lead, but I guess that got dropped along the way. I think #3 is most representative of my own personal experience, and what most people’s personal experience, of the OBX is…there is something about that late-day feeling, when you’re a little bit sunburned, but you still want to stay out because it’s such a great day. Plus, the Avalon Pier is probably the most truly iconic setting on the OBX…there are tourist attractions and other piers, lighthouses, etc, but I think most anyone who’s lived there for a long time would concur that as strange and funky and sometimes shady as Avalon Pier is, it’s ground zero. The design on the longboard (I actually have one like it) references the famous surfboard from the movie “Endless Summer”, which is a classic film and I think kin to the vibe of the essay. The shark shot is cool, and I guess it’s kind of an arresting photo so if you want to run the lead with a “kapow”, then that’s an option. But I think if you really want that nostalgic, “this is why I love the Outer Banks” vibe, you got to go with #3. It sets the scene, and puts people in it, from the get-go…And there’s something still and painterly about it, which I like. I think it would also flow well with the double truck of the two married couples… #1 is good as a concept, leading you in to the place by way of the ocean, but for all the waves that come to the OBX, that one doesn’t feel very strong…and it feels a little lonely to me, with no other lines of swell to put it into perspective. Also the way it’s lit (must have been sunrise) and the way it’s breaking–looks like it got hit by backwash–it makes the back of the wave look like the face of the wave, which is a little confusing, unless I’m not reading it right. Anyway, I like #3 the best. It’s got old-school soul to it. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to vote!

  • Scenes of “carnage’ always make me feel a bit queasy…not everyone likes to see dead things (even fish/sharks), and most people have no interest in fishing(how many people ACTUALLY fish?) so I go with the right one….has more of the Outer Banks feel for me. The colors and textures are very ‘Monet-esque”

  • The one on the left catches the eye and is representative of OBX. Wild untamed beauty is the OBX.

  • Thomas,
    you’re right, it did say lead / opening shot; I just thought cover, my mistake. Still prefer one though: the fragility of the houses against the forces of nature.


  • The one on my left. Beautiful light in that picture. The other two depict human activity so they don’t appeal as much to me.

  • As a newspaper editor, I usually look for something with people in it (or animals). My choice would the the far right, because I think it will appeal to readers who like to see people in photos. It also seems more inclusive – not everyone likes to fish or would appreciate photo #2.

  • I would go with the middle one. It seems to me to be the most visually eye catching with the stark white fish against the blue. The right one with the people in it, is interesting and makes me want to ask questions, but the composition is more complex and takes a minute more to explore. To me, it would make more sense to be on the inside of the magazine for when someone has sat down with the magazine and is ready to spend time with it. The first one, to me is too simple. It doesn’t have enough in it to hold my attention or have me asking any questions.

  • 2nd one. its really amazing

  • I have been going to the Outer Banks every summer for nearly 40 years…and hope to retire there – or near there – some day in the not too distant future. All three photos are beautiful and do justice to such a wonderful place, but the first photo is my favorite. In most locations, the beaches are pristine and there are very few people – part of the beauty of OBX.

  • No 2 definitely deserves a double page on its own, but not the lead; the title on it would spoil the strong impression.
    For me it´s No 3 – I go with bnd1999 and Roberta Tavares on that.

  • I’ve been to the OBX a few times and lived there for one summer with my brother; Its a great place to do a lot of photography. All three photos are really well done, but I’m going with number one. Number one works the best as a opening/leading shot because it has the simple elements of the ocean and land. I like how there is a golden strip of light between the water and sand. The color of the sky is also the same making the water focused between the two golden walls. Seeing that it was shot in the late afternoon, it reminds me when I would go out to the beach and meditate till the sun had almost vanished out in the west. The water over taking the sand. The night overtaking the day. The calming time of the day where you can relax and listen to the sounds. Also in the horizon, the line of buildings adds some detail of living in the OBX and what you realize is their backyard. Number two and three would be good photos to add more in the article. The middle one expressing the fishing and wildlife aspect and the far right which portrays some of the the tourism in OBX with surfing and exploring the old pier.

  • Chris brought up an interesting point, I’m surprised there isn’t an aerial in the short list for lede. Too “standard”? This whole discussion is fascinating.

  • #2 More powerful, It really grabbed me – also, not the recent norm for Nat’l Geo.
    Thanks for letting me in!

  • Ok everyone i am back in the layout room….my last shot at this baby….i must go home to OBX tomorrow to write the final text…

    there is one more thing coming to you very soon… three versions of the first three spreads…this might change your mind on the often changes ours when we look at the overall opening feeling, not just the first picture….a lot of thought goes into what for most people is a 30 second experience when they open the magazine…but we do not think about things like that…we just take the whole process very seriously…just to make it right…the craft of it….

    of course we are always wishing we had more space…just never quite enough pages..after all , there are 5 other photographers and 5 other writers who have THEIR story in the same issue…all of us competing for the same space….but alas, the net, the iPad….if it doesn’t all get in here, we will get it all in

    k gotta get to work…stay tuned

  • I say definitely go with #2, the one in the center. Great sense of movement within the image. Love it.

  • #3 captures the color of the sky so beautifly. The conbination of the old and the young are represented so well in this photo. THE beauty of the land, the old pier and the young sufers so represents todays OBX !!

  • Personally, of the three, I’m most drawn to the first, on the far left. I’m not familiar with OBX, so I can’t really offer an opinion based on the place, but the first photo speaks most to life on the edges of change and is therefore most intriguing to me. That said, the shot that I think you should use for your opening one is not one you’ve included in your three, but rather the one of the two couples on the beach underneath the ones you’ve asked us to select from. Of the images shown, this is by far the strongest and most compelling visually and provides the most fodder for the mind, speaking both to the place and also the experience of that place over time. #2 says ‘fishing story’ to me, and the one on the far right looks like it’s advertising a vacation spot. It’s beautiful, but doesn’t really say much beyond that, though depending on the story, I can see how that might be a good thing.

  • For the record, I’m pretty sure that’s a pompano in the middle. ;^}

  • I think the middle one is the best because I find it a bit exciting and peaceful at the same time. The 1st photo is nice but slightly boring. The last photo gives me the feeling of not enough solitude which would be the reason I would go to a place like this.

  • #3 because it’s warm, human element and depth.


  • Fish pictures are not interesting unless the fish is smoking a cigar.

  • I pick the picture on the right. I like it because I think that it not only represents the Outer Banks but the people who live and enjoy it as well. The one on the left makes me think of an article about water pollution and the middle looks like the cover of a sports fishing magazine. All are very beautiful and well done, but my pick is the one on the right.

  • Fish out of water. Middle. No contest. It’s full of the anticipation of a delicious meal.

  • Mind you, Akaky has a point.

  • Wow, nice choices to have. Having just finished a great book while on vacation in Hawaii about the English first attempts to settle in America (which happened to be the Outer Banks – book is Big Chief Elizabeth by Giles Milton) my vote would go to #2 which speaks to the life and death struggle that has gone on there for millennium between man and nature (and man and man when the English showed and the Native Americans weren’t so keen at first).

    Good luck and looking forward to the piece!

  • 2, 3, 1. I’ve visited OBX many, many times. The middle photo shows it all. Fishing, beach, people, and some of the great cottages. Only thing missing is a pier, or maybe not, I can’t see it close enough to tell :) If I could see it closer, I could tell you the milepost! If you use a pier, the Nags Head Fishing Pier is the one to choose. Old style.

  • #1. They are all great pictures representing OBX, but the natural beauty captured in the first pic says it all.

  • While I love the middle shot, I think the fold would really detract from its impact. The one on the right, however draws me in and makes me want to take a closer look at what is going on. I actually moved the computer closer to take a look. I vote right!

  • I would choose the middle picture with the fish. The colors are more clear/vibrant and the silver fish in the air with the darker background catches the eye everytime.

  • The one on the left. The choice was difficult, though. Wonderful photos all three of them!

  • Number 2 is the most interesting. Number 3 is so expected, a typical touristy shot. Number one is too generic and boring. As a North Carolinian, the Outer Banks is distinguishable from other beaches in the Carolinas by its distinctly non-touristy feel, its lack of row after row of high rise hotels, its residential feel, etc. We chose to go there as opposed to the other beaches because you actually experience the ocean, its wildlife and habitats, and feel like you just live there.

  • By the content of the photos, I would guess the article is about tourism in the Outer Banks, perhaps about how it’s becoming a hot destination.

    It is difficult to choose an opening photo without knowing what the opening paragraph of the article is. But the photo should help to set the tone of the article, to lead people into it.

    In that context, the first photo (the one on the left) is not “active” enough. It’s a beautiful shot, but it is also “lulling” — not enough action to draw readers in.

    The photo on the right doesn’t quite feel right for an opening. For me, it is a turn-off. It lends me little to want to go to a place like the Outer Banks. However, if the article focuses a lot on surfing in that area, perhaps it would be ideal. However, the composition of the photo just seems a bit blah.

    That leaves the middle photo. It has nice color and composition, as well as action. I can almost sense the tug on the rod as the fish is leaping out of the water. It also says much about the Outer Banks: not only is it a nature paradise, it is also an outdoors sports area.


    the focus of the text is actually quite personal…the only reason i am doing the text is because the story is really about me coming back to my roots…i started out as a youngster in this area, and after traveling the globe shooting 40 plus stories for the Magazine, i have chosen OBX as my inspirational place to there is no attempt with this particular article to do a “coverage” of the Outer Banks, but a little vignette of all that is within about 10 minutes of my front porch….

    thanks for writing….much appreciated

    cheers, david

  • Guess I will jump on the bandwagon for #2 – besides color and form it shows action, whereas #1 is a nice shot but static and #3 shows an activity that is over at the end of the day, a nice mood set; but, does not draw in the viewer like #2. Good luck with the issue.

  • the left. absolutely. The margins and colours are peaceful and I just like the way it moves like the water. I’m not a photographer (obviously, by my comments) but the lighting is just so lovely.

  • Love the first layout it shows the natural progression of the events as they occur.

  • I like the middle one with the fish. I like the white of the water and the white belly of the fish. It makes the picture pop against the deep blue of the sky and water. The pole without a human visible gives the shot a mysterious quality and makes me think about where they are in regard to shore.

  • The one with the surfer and the pier…

  • Yikes! I missed the boat on this one! I don’t do much internet in the weekends. I have not read the comments but I really like #1.
    Now it’s reading time…..a lot to read!!!!
    Oh BTW….this is great David! thank you! surprises and more surprises in 2012!!

  • interesting read and opinions. So informative. So many new writers….NICE!

    Comments that stood out:



    I’m in a much more fortunate situation, I can just let my heart speak, and don’t have to take into consideration the readers.. ’cause I have not, my choice is solely based on my own aesthetics, what I can feel out of the photographs, and what this says to me, in this case, also about the photographer.. but I do think that even not knowing, the lefthand picture would be my choice.. it is the picture I would put up on the wall..
    Sarah Leen and Bill Marr have a much more difficult job, they have to think about the audience..


    the best of these top editors in my experience are trying not only to be leaders for their creative staff, but LEAD THEIR READERS AS WELL…any editor who ONLY panders to his/her audience will lose in the long run…audiences want leadership…they want to be taken somewhere they have not been…but they probably do not want to be lead over a cliff either…so this is the balance editors must “feel”..get to the edge, but don’t fall off…

Comments are currently closed.