Landscape photography is a genre that we all experience, at least once in our lifetime. The risk, when photographing a place, is to end up with ordinary results, especially if it is full of tourists and not a remote corner of the Earth. In the following two photographs, selected for the exhibition What a Wonderful World, two great photographers of the National Geographic Society used their touch to make these landscapes “magical”: one, with the strength of an original point of view, the other with the charm of a bold perspective. Let’s see what they represent.

Like a painting

Alberi riarsi di Acacia erioloba. Dead Vlei, Namibia ©Frans Lanting

In order to take a memorable picture, you often have to be in the right place, at the right time, with an idea in mind. This is what Frans Lanting did when he photographed the dead camel thorn trees in Dead Vlei, a desiccated clay pan ringed by 400-metre-high ferrous dunes in the Namib Desert. He patiently waited for the rising sun to gradually illuminate the dunes until it touched the clayey soil still in the shade, creating an incredible contrast. A small aperture for a sharp rendering of the grassy bushes in the background and a graduated filter to compensate for the difference in brightness were the only technical devices used to capture this shot, which resembles a painting. Just a few more minutes, and the magic moment would have faded away with the arrival of sunlight and tourists. This photograph, published on the digital platforms of National Geographic, was seen by more than half a million people in two days. The power of the image.

Frans Lanting

Frans is considered one of the greatest photographers of our time. Born in Rotterdam in 1951, he graduated in economics and then moved to America to study environmental planning. For thirty years he has documented nature from the Amazon to Antarctica, in order to promote understanding of the world and natural history through images that convey passion for the environment and a sense of wonder and amazement at the beauties of our planet. He has been described as having «the mind of a scientist, the heart of a hunter, and the eyes of a poet». Frans’s photos owe a great deal to art and literature as well as to science, technology and his own experiences with nature and wildlife on all seven continents.

Rainbow-coloured bacteria

La più grande sorgente calda degli Stati Uniti. Grand Prismatic Spring, Wyoming ©Michael NicholsThis hot spring, that reaches up to 70°C and has a diameter of 110 metres, is the largest one in the United States and the third largest in the world. The name Grand Prismatic Spring stems from its colouring: while the pool’s centre is always of an intense blue, the colours towards the edge range from orange to red in the summer and will turn almost green in the winter. This incredible effect is caused by thermophilic bacteria in the water which thrive at high temperatures. The photo is taken from above with a drone, and you can appreciate the shades of colour of both water and soil at Yellowstone Park.

Michael Nichols

Michael is from Alabama, where he was born in 1952. In the early 1970s he was drafted into the photography unit of the U.S. Army. After studying at the University of North Alabama, where he met his mentor, former Life magazine photographer Charles Moore, Michael began his career as a photojournalist in 1979. He has documented elephants, African nature, lions, American zoos, tigers, and the relationship between man and chimpanzee. He uses innovative techniques to create huge composite images, such as that of a 300-foottall, 1,500-year-old redwood tree. He photographed 27 stories for National Geographic magazine, before retiring in 2016. He lives in Sugar Hollow, Virginia, with his wife, artist Reba Peck.