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National Geographic Masters of Photography

National Geographic Masters of Photography

Taught By Multiple Professors

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National Geographic Masters of Photography

In partnership with
Taught By Multiple Professors
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Course No. 7923
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What Will You Learn?

  • Venture with photographers high into the Himalayas and deep under the sea as they capture remote places on Earth.
  • Explore how to use light and color in nature to create breathtaking photographs like the experts.
  • Learn the four kinds of light all photographers seek and ways to experiment with color to evoke emotional responses.
  • Learn how animal behavior informs good photographers and helps them capture the beauty (and importance) of nature.
  • Discover how photographers gain access to hidden worlds and build relationships with people of other cultures.
  • Learn how professional photographers use place and moment to tell visual stories in a variety of ways.

Course Overview

Photography is an art. We may all take pictures—now more than ever—but to rise above the level of a snapshot, you need to go beyond shooting and hoping for the best. You need to actually understand what you’re doing and anticipate the results.

The best way to learn any art form, including the art of photography, is by watching a master artist at work. By observing the creative process of a photographer who has truly mastered the trade, you can gain rich insight into how to approach your own images, boost your confidence as you work, and improve your photographs by learning skills that are rarely shared or taught in an ordinary classroom.

Now, in National Geographic Masters of Photography—24 lectures taught by 12 top National Geographic photographers—you gain unparalleled access to some of the world’s greatest photographers. Through our partnership with National Geographic, the gold standard of photography for more than a century, we are able to collaborate with some of the organization’s most talented photographers. As a result, we have brought together a dozen world-class experts for this one-of-a-kind instructional series that will forever change the way you approach photography.

National Geographic Masters of Photography goes inside the creative process of the industry’s most sought-after photographers as they reveal their working methods, from the planning stages of an assignment through the painstaking execution. Across 24 fascinating lessons, each professional uses his or her vast body of work documenting exotic locales around the world, as well as riveting stories of life in the field, to illustrate points and share invaluable expertise. As you explore their craft in units on Adventure, Wildlife, Landscape and Nature, People, Color and Light, and Storytelling, your guides take you far beyond Photography 101 territory into ground you’d never cover elsewhere—short of landing an apprenticeship with a photographer of this caliber. These lessons also touch on fundamental concepts of lighting, composition, and using your camera, but they’re truly designed to help you learn to see as top professionals do, and to ultimately discover your own personal vision.

Each unit is presented by a pair of photographers, exposing you to diverse perspectives on how to achieve captivating results. In the end, you’ll come to see that having a good camera and knowing how to use it is important, but it’s only a tool. Taking great photographs requires technical skill, plus preparation. As Michael Yamashita says, “the difference between a good photograph and a great photograph is often a matter of inches or milliseconds.”

After completing this course, you will possess a refined set of tools and insights you can use to drastically improve your photography, whether you’re using an expensive camera or the camera on your phone.

Elevate Your Photography with Essential Advice

In this visual feast of a course, you’ll gain insight on the elaborate process National Geographic photographers go through—both in the technical and artistic sense—from researching and planning a shoot to working a scene and waiting, often for hours, for the right elements to come together.

Guided by multiple experts, you’ll explore in depth the key three elements of great photography: good light, good composition, and a moment, as well as how to take advantage of the compositional concepts and principles they rely on every day. You’ll encounter specific techniques for:

  • taking action shots;
  • chronicling family life;
  • crafting poignant portraits;
  • creating striking silhouettes;
  • shooting in various weather conditions;
  • harnessing the light at dawn, at dusk, and every moment in between; and
  • approaching and working with subjects.

Every time you look through your lens, you’ll refer back to the secrets these top professionals share for constructing an extraordinary image, such as:

  • drawing the viewer in with leading lines and S-curves;
  • showing scale to communicate a sense of vastness;
  • using the rule of thirds to construct well-balanced images;
  • utilizing layering to create depth and interest; and
  • lighting scenes effectively—whether your source is the sun, a flashlight, event lighting, or your camera’s flash.

With these insider tips, everyone from the novice to the accomplished amateur will find ideas for enhancing their picture-taking skills. At the conclusion of each presenter’s session, you’ll be inspired to go out and apply your newfound knowledge based on an assignment outlined by the photographer.

Journey Around the World Through Photography

The Scottish isles. Paris. The Niger Delta. Papua New Guinea. Take a dazzling visual journey to these locations and many more as you join these globe-trotters for a behind-the-scenes look at precisely what went into getting the shot—and the trouble some found themselves in overseas.

Even if you’re already a skilled photographer or simply an appreciator of art, the gripping images and stories these esteemed experts share make the experience highly worthwhile. From arresting tales of surviving sub-zero temperatures in Antarctica to risking life and limb to document the perpetrators and victims of human trafficking, the experiences and worlds that will be revealed to you are nothing short of spellbinding.

  • In the Adventure section, Cory Richards takes you high into the Himalaya and deep under the sea, while Stephen Alvarez brings you to remote places no one had ever before witnessed.
  • In Wildlife, Steve Winter demonstrates how understanding animal behavior informs his work, then Joel Sartore shows you how to apply your knowledge to not only highlight animals, but also potentially make a difference on their behalf.
  • In the Landscape unit, Jim Richardson takes you from the Hebrides of Scotland to the American West, demonstrating how he experiments to work a shot. Michael Yamashita draws parallels between Japanese gardeners and landscape photographers, showing how both use light and color to direct the eye.
  • In the section on People, Jodi Cobb explains how she gains access to hidden worlds, from geisha houses in Japan to the tents of Bedouin women in Saudi Arabia. Then, Ira Block describes how he builds relationships with people of other cultures, even in the most hostile environments.
  • In Color and Light, Michael Melford describes the four kinds of light photographers seek—but demonstrates that it’s possible to work with any kind of light, given enough perseverance. Annie Griffiths communicates the joy of experimenting with color to evoke an emotional response.
  • In Storytelling, William Albert Allard uses images from his 50-year career to illuminate how you can incorporate place and moment to tell stories visually. Conclude with Ed Kashi discussing types of storytelling—from advocacy journalism to the way digital photography and the Internet allow for new kinds of narratives.

A Master Class with 12 Top Photographers

To say that National Geographic Masters of Photography is visually stunning would be an understatement. Words simply cannot do justice to the spectacular images presented by all 12 master photographers in this course. Breathtaking, awe-inspiring, and at times shocking and heartbreaking—their work represents the pinnacle of the art form.

Beyond revealing professional secrets and supplying you with a toolbox overflowing with techniques you’ll put into practice every time you lift your camera, these lessons offer a personally enriching journey like none other.

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24 lectures
 |  31 minutes each
Year Released: 2014
  • 1
    Redefine Adventure (Adventure)
    Follow how Cory Richards’s approach to adventure photography has evolved beyond capturing the pure danger of climbing into something larger. Discover ways to reveal the human element and culture of a locale by using techniques including silhouette, leading lines, scope, and anticipation. x
  • 2
    Broaden Your View (Adventure)
    Continue your exploration of adventure photography by looking deeper at ways to create dynamic results. Examine compelling shots from Mr. Richards’s portfolio as he illuminates techniques for drawing viewers closer, creating a studio-lit effect in the field, finding the unexpected, focusing on details, and taking a picture of “people” —without the people. x
  • 3
    Show What No One Has Shown (Adventure)
    Head underground with Stephen Alvarez, a photographer who specializes in subterranean spaces and extreme terrain. Travel to breathtaking places through his portfolio, including Oman on the Arabian Peninsula, Madagascar, the catacomb passages of Paris, and the Myo Lake Room in Papua New Guinea—a place no human had previously been, as Mr. Alvarez shares tips for lighting and finding adventures close to home. x
  • 4
    Set the Scene, Get Close (Adventure)
    Conclude your lesson on adventure photography by applying the skills you’ve acquired to the broader world. See what works and what doesn’t as you explore how to craft a great “scene-setter,” zoom in or out for maximum impact, and shoot images of the night sky. Also, learn the importance of good lighting and doing your research. x
  • 5
    Understand the Animal (Wildlife)
    Jaguars. Snow leopards. Rhinoceroses. How do wildlife photographers such as Steve Winter capture once-in-a-lifetime, emotion-filled images of such elusive—and dangerous—animals? Find out as he takes you through the essential tools and techniques he relies on, from shutter speeds designed for sports photography to understanding and anticipating an animal’s behavior. x
  • 6
    Use All the Tools (Wildlife)
    Photographing a bird in the jungle is no different than photographing a bird in your own back yard. Learn how you can use the skills wildlife photographers employ in the field at home to make the ordinary extraordinary, including panning, using eye contact, and incorporating the environment into your portraits. x
  • 7
    Make a Difference (Wildlife)
    Good light. Good composition. A moment. Explore the key ingredients of a great photograph with Joel Sartore as you continue investigating what makes an ordinary picture extraordinary. Get pointers on using storyboarding, remotes, and additional tools in wildlife photography, then see how his images have "gone to work" on behalf of endangered species and other animals. x
  • 8
    Go Back, Get It Right (Wildlife)
    These days, good equipment isn’t hard to come by and many people are able to take tight, standard shots of wildlife in focus. So, how can you do something original in a world awash in pictures? Find out as Mr. Sartore delves deeper into the art of building photo essays and the mechanics of making exquisite images. Gather tips on lenses, where to photograph animals, and more. x
  • 9
    The Joys of Nature (Landscape)
    According to Jim Richardson, “When we tell the story of the Earth, we are telling the story of ourselves and our relationship to the Earth.” Here, the veteran photographer takes you from the Hebrides of Scotland to his native Kansas, illuminating how he approaches telling tales in a graphic way. x
  • 10
    Exploring Landscapes (Landscape)
    Return to Boreray, the Callanish Stones, the Isle of Muck, and other locations Mr. Richardson took you to in the previous lesson, so you can go behind the scenes to learn the “messy” process of how his remarkable landscapes were made. Also, get advice for preventing a “sedentary” feel in your work. x
  • 11
    Guide the Eye (Landscape)
    As Michael Yamashita walks you through his body of work—which includes everything from a Zen garden to New Jersey traffic—pick up tips for shooting simple but effective landscapes. Go inside his story on China’s Jiuzhaigou national park to understand how he approaches landscape projects and creates an air of mystery. x
  • 12
    Moment in Landscape (Landscape)
    Continue to investigate what makes a great landscape photo by looking at the three key elements of any great photo—light, composition, and a moment—and how these ingredients factor into this genre specifically. See how Mr. Yamashita uses negative space, sense of scale, leading lines, S-curves, and the rule of thirds. x
  • 13
    Gaining Trust (People)
    As you trace the diverse career of Jodi Cobb—who has photographed everyone from famous musicians to the shrouded women of Saudi Arabia and the geisha of Japan—discover how rewarding it can be to photograph people, particularly when you get behind the public persona. Conclude with a heart-wrenching photo essay on human trafficking. x
  • 14
    Uncover the Human Condition (People)
    How do you approach people and get their permission to be photographed? How can you ensure you’re telling a story in every image? What’s the difference between a photographer and a tourist? Get answers as Ms. Cobb guides you in a close examination of individual photographs that explore the human condition. x
  • 15
    Build Relationships (People)
    Find out how Ira Block learned to incorporate people and interact with subjects even when conditions—be they language or weather—were against him. Discover how to make visual connections that advance a story; take advantage of intriguing backgrounds, lighting, and atmospherics; and capture people in authentic moments. x
  • 16
    Use the Background (People)
    To capture a moment, you have to be ready. Mr. Block shares how he stays prepared as he walks you through various ways to approach people and produce pictures with impact, including going for less obvious shots and photographing from different angles. Learn how to find the "right" image once you return home. x
  • 17
    Good, Bad, and Magic Light (Color & Light)
    Join Michael Melford, a landscape photographer and expert in natural light, for a discussion on lighting fundamentals. Take a deep dive into the four kinds of light he specifically looks for—diffuse light, side light, back light, and “magic” light—in addition to the types of filters he uses to control the available light. x
  • 18
    Wait and Work the Shot (Color & Light)
    What is it like to go on assignment for National Geographic? Find out as Mr. Melford takes you through his process during shoots in Death Valley, Glacier National Park, New Mexico, and other locations he’s been assigned. Learn to anticipate the right shot—and be prepared to wait for it. x
  • 19
    Compose with Color (Color & Light)
    What is there to know about color? Plenty, as you’ll discover in this enlightening discussion with Annie Griffiths. Watch as she demonstrates how to use the different “personalities” of colors—including black and white—to communicate emotions. Get practical tips on shooting at different times of day, using backgrounds, creating silhouettes, and more. x
  • 20
    Write with Light (Color & Light)
    Light is the most elemental part of any photograph, yet it's easy to neglect. Study how light leads the eye through an image and unifies a composition, then learn how Ms. Griffiths uses light to add drama and interest to portraits, nature shots, and special event photos. Also, find out why you should limit the use of flash. x
  • 21
    50 Years of Telling Stories (Storytelling)
    How do photographers put pictures together to tell a story? What needs to be included for a photo essay to be successful? William Albert Allard answers these questions in detail using examples from his 40-plus photographic essays for National Geographic, including his groundbreaking first assignment on the Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. x
  • 22
    Moment, Gesture, Place (Storytelling)
    Dive deeper into the matter of visual storytelling and get background on Mr. Allard's process. Consider how to craft photographs that show a sense of place, find lead images, capture often-photographed subjects such as the Eiffel Tower in new ways, and take strong portraits' be they 'found' or 'produced.' x
  • 23
    Engaging the World (Storytelling)
    Ed Kashi, who has photographed in difficult locations from Syria to Nigeria, expands your education on storytelling by sharing how he captures political issues, cultures, landscapes, a sense of place, the daily life of the people, and, ultimately, a cohesive feeling or mood in his work. x
  • 24
    Raising Awareness (Storytelling)
    The digital revolution has radically altered both the media and journalism, and here, you'll see the impact mobile photography has had on Mr. Kashi's work. But first, examine advocacy journalism, another development in visual storytelling, through projects on sustainable development in Madagascar and on the devastating effects of kidney disease among sugar cane workers in Nicaragua. x

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Video Download Includes:
  • Ability to download 24 video lectures from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 190-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 190-page course synopsis
  • Photographs
  • Photo assignments
  • Bibliography

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Your professors

Joel Sartore William Albert Allard Stephen Alvarez Ira Block Jodi Cobb Annie Griffiths Ed  Kashi Michael Melford Cory Richards Jim Richardson Steve Winter Michael Yamashita

Professor 1 of 12

Joel Sartore
National Geographic Photographer

Professor 2 of 12

William Albert Allard
National Geographic Photographer

Professor 3 of 12

Stephen Alvarez
National Geographic Photographer

Professor 4 of 12

Ira Block
National Geographic Photographer

Professor 5 of 12

Jodi Cobb
National Geographic Photographer

Professor 6 of 12

Annie Griffiths
National Geographic Photographer

Professor 7 of 12

Ed Kashi
National Geographic Photographer

Professor 8 of 12

Michael Melford
National Geographic Photographer

Professor 9 of 12

Cory Richards
National Geographic Photographer

Professor 10 of 12

Jim Richardson
National Geographic Photographer

Professor 11 of 12

Steve Winter
National Geographic Photographer

Professor 12 of 12

Michael Yamashita
National Geographic Photographer
Joel Sartore is a professional photographer and a regular contributor to National Geographic magazine. His assignments have taken him to some of the world's most beautiful and challenging environments and have brought him face to face with a diversity of wildlife in all 50 U. S. states and all seven continents. He was recently named a National Geographic Fellow for his work on The Photo Ark, a multiyear project to document...
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A major force at National Geographic and in mainstream photography for 50 years, William Albert Allard has contributed to the Society’s magazine stories and books as a photographer and writer since 1964. He studied at the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts (now the Minneapolis College of Art and Design) and the University of Minnesota. Mr. Allard is the author of six highly acclaimed books, including the award-winning...
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Photographer and filmmaker Stephen Alvarez produces global stories about exploration, adventure, and culture. He has been a National Geographic magazine photographer since 1995 and has published more than a dozen stories with the magazine. Mr. Alvarez has won awards from Pictures of the Year International and Communication Arts. His story on the Maya and their religious rituals was exhibited at Visa pour L’Image, a renowned...
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Ira Block is an internationally acclaimed photojournalist, filmmaker, teacher, and workshop leader who has produced more than 30 stories for National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, and National Geographic Adventure magazines. He began his career as a newspaper photographer, earning numerous press club awards. His momentous coffee-table book, Saving America’s Treasures, was a collaborative effort among the Clinton...
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Jodi Cobb’s groundbreaking career spans more than three decades as a staff photographer with National Geographic, one of only four women to have held that position in the magazine’s history. She has worked in more than 65 countries, documenting closed societies and disappearing cultural traditions. Ms. Cobb is perhaps best known as the first photographer to document the secret lives and rituals of the geisha, revealed in...
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Annie Griffiths has photographed in nearly 150 countries during her illustrious career and worked on dozens of magazine and book projects for National Geographic. Her books include A Camera, Two Kids, and a Camel: My Journey in Photographs, a memoir about balance and the joy of creating a meaningful life, and National Geographic Simply Beautiful Photographs, which was named the top photo/art book of 2011 by both Amazon and...
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Ed Kashi is a photojournalist, a filmmaker, and an educator dedicated to documenting the social and political issues that define our times. Since 2000, he has pioneered the movement to multimedia and filmmaking in photojournalism, producing an innovative flip-book entitled Iraqi Kurdistan and award-winning short films and multimedia projects on geopolitics and social issues. Mr. Kashi has won numerous awards from World Press...
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Michael Melford is an internationally recognized photographer who has worked with National Geographic for more than 30 years. He has produced 19 feature stories for National Geographic magazine and more than 30 stories for National Geographic Traveler. His work also has been featured on the covers of Newsweek, TIME, LIFE, Fortune, Smithsonian, GEO, Travel + Leisure, Travel Holiday, and Coastal Living. Mr. Melford has won...
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A climber and visual storyteller, Cory Richards was named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2012, the same year the American Alpine Club presented him with its Rowell Award. At the 2014 National Geographic Explorers Symposium, Mr. Richards was named to the inaugural group of National Geographic Photography Fellows, whose work combines visual storytelling and exploration. Mr. Richards’s camera has taken him from...
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Jim Richardson has been a photographer for National Geographic for more than 30 years, specializing in global environmental issues and landscapes. He also is interested in the Celtic world, with special attention to Scotland and its remote islands. His documentary photography has focused on the American Great Plains and includes extended coverage of small-town life in his native Kansas. He has a 30-year photographic...
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Steve Winter has been a photojournalist with National Geographic for more than 20 years, specializing in wildlife, particularly big cats. He is also an adventurer who has been attacked by rhinos, stalked by jaguars, and charged by an 11-foot grizzly bear. Mr. Winter was named Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 2008 and Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year in 2012 in a competition cosponsored by the Natural History Museum in...
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Michael Yamashita is a 30-year award-winning veteran of National Geographic and has photographed a vast range of topics and locations, most notably in Asia. He has traipsed with camels across the Taklimakan Desert, scaled peaks in Tibet, and journeyed the length of the Great Wall. He has published more than 30 National Geographic magazine features, as well as 10 books. He also has two documentary films to his credit, Marco...
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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by 105 reviewers.
Rated 5 out of 5 by Valuable, Practical and Enjoyable Instruction This course is an exciting departure from the usual Great Courses format in that it is presented by twelve of National Geographic’s most experienced photographers, each delivering two lectures covering six major aspects of photography: Adventure, Wildlife, Landscape, People, Color & Light and Storytelling. The audience is treated to a constant stream of extraordinary photographs, with an accompanying narrative that is quite consistently lively, instructive and entertaining, impressive considering that the speakers are not professional lecturers in a university setting. As a keen amateur, I have been taking photographs with a variety of high-quality cameras since the 1960s, for the last dozen years using a series of increasingly sophisticated digital cameras. From my personal perspective, the lectures of greatest value were by Joel Sartore (a Great Courses veteran) on wildlife, Jodi Cobb on people, Annie Griffiths and Michael Melford on light and color, and Ed Kashi (an advocacy journalist) in the final segment on storytelling. Particularly impressive is the way that both Cobb and Kashi have used their dramatic photographs in National Geographic to increase public awareness of deplorable circumstances in certain Third World countries: Cobb regarding human trafficking and exploitation of young women in Africa, and Kashi regarding the mysterious illness afflicting sugar cane workers in Nicaragua. Of truly practical value to many amateur photographers is the segment on light and color presented by Melford and Griffiths. Both offer helpful tips on optimal shooting times and conditions, especially the advantages of the lighting created by overcast skies over direct sunlight, and when to use (and not to use) a flash. Small touches are emphasized, like the difference that a dash of color in clothing or an object can make in a picture of low contrast. Other principles of composition such as layering and the rule of thirds are addressed by several lecturers. Each segment has its own focus, and simple tips are generously offered throughout to enhance the photographs of discerning amateurs. One striking takeaway from this course is the time and care that top professionals take with one subject to achieve a particular effect. Multiple exposures present no constraint with digital cameras, but spending hours on site and then returning at a different time of day to achieve a special effect is routine and represents an impressive dedication. Note that these effects are to be obtained on site, not by computer manipulation back at the office. Not one lecturer mentioned later altering photos by computer or Photoshop back home, an implied breach of National Geographic’s high standards. Notwithstanding the expressions of disappointment by some other reviewers, perhaps stemming in part from the unusual format or use of multiple (non-academic) speakers, I heartily recommend this course to everyone who owns a digital camera and wishes to expand and improve their picture-taking skills. Viewing the spectacular images these experts have created, accompanied by their explanatory narrative, was a pleasure for me and certainly well worth the price of this course. November 28, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Fascinating I have only seen the first of four discs and am really enjoying it. Even if you weren't interested in the photography lessons the course would be interesting because the instructors give so much background on each location. I am seeing parts of the world I will never visit in person. August 14, 2016
Rated 3 out of 5 by The Pros Review Their Work The series highlights the creative process by having professional photographers review their own work. 24 episodes. Over and Over. Not too interesting after awhile. Nice photos though. Somewhat akin to having a pro athlete comment on a dozen of his best plays and a dozen of his worst - then having another 23 do the same. July 22, 2016
Rated 5 out of 5 by Awesome DVD It's great to learn from the best ! The details and tips given by each photographer on each photo presented is so helpful and will surely make me a better photographer. Thank you July 14, 2016
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