National Geographic: Cameramen Who Dared


Behind every exciting

film image is a cameraman.

Behind his camera he is unseen

and forgotten

by viewers

but dangerously exposed

to his subjects:

animals the could

easily maul or kill him,

cataclysms of nature

that could swallow him up

tumultuous human combat

pulling him

closer and closer

to the epicenter

of violence.

Sometime with

only the camera

between himself

and mortal danger,

other times separated

from danger

by the flimsiest

of protection,

but always driven to

shed protection,

to get out of the cage

and push even closer.

Stretching the limits,

pioneering in places where

the limits are unknown,

stretching luck

and boldness

until limits are found

and exceeded.

The cameraman

is David Breashears,

shooting a climb on

an ice face in New Hampshire.


Just watch your left leg

on my

To do it right,

Breashears must climb

as well or better

than the climber.

Keep going.

While the climber

thinks about climbing,

Breashears thinks about

climbing and shooting

about camera position,


focus and changing light.

About storytelling,

lenses, equipment.

He thinks ahead and

climbs ahead.

Breashears is one of

the top

mountaineering cameramen.

He's been on six Mt.

Everest climbs,

twice getting to

the summit with his camera.

The job is never over.

You don't crawl into

your sleeping bag at night

and just go to sleep.

There's always some

fooling around with equipment,

loading a magazine for

the next day,

being more prepared than the

other people have to be,

and also getting up earlier

to get that extra shot,

to be in position

when they begin their ascent

or when they leave camp.

It doesn't matter

if you're cold;

it doesn't matter

if you're tired;

It doesn't matter

if you're hungry;

you just do it.

By the 1920s,

cameraman were traveling

to exotic and faraway places

to film wildlife

and adventure,

and one of the most

spectacular locations

was Africa.

Americans at home had never

seen such images as these.

They were thrilled by them.

This was the golden age of

photographic exploration.

Carl Akeley

as an extraordinary

figure of the times:

an American taxidermist

who went to Africa

to collect his own specimens.

Trying to shoot a leopard,

he only wounded it;

it counter-attacked,

and he managed to kill it

with his bare hands.

Akeley's insistence on

recording accurate details

for his taxidermy led him

to photography,

and his frustration in filming

fast-moving African scenes

led him to invent

a better camera for

action photography.

The distinctive

rounded Akeley camera


nature photography

and was also used to film


combat in World War I

and Hollywood movies.

In Africa Akeley joined

forces at times

with the celebrity

filmmaking couple

Martin and Osa Johnson.

As filmmaker the Johnsons

were less interested

in documentation

than sensational entertainment.

They raced about Africa

elaborate photo safaris,

seeking thrills and

narrow escapes,

heightening their adventures

when necessary with deceptive

film editing or staging,

Occasionally lapsing

into antics that,

seen today, seem like satire

of a very bygone era.

The Johnsons were

a glamorous pair.

Martin was an all-American guy

from a small town in Kansas

who started out as a cook

for Jack London.

Osa was a singer who'd never

been anywhere

until Martin carried her off

to a life

summed up

in the title

of her autobiography,

'I Married Adventure'.

In the water, crocodiles

are especially wicked.

They would pounce upon

the unfortunate

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    "National Geographic: Cameramen Who Dared" STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 19 Jan. 2021. <>.

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