You may not be able to articulate what makes an epic photo, but you can feel it. You know it when you see an epic scene. Something epic takes your breath away. Epic is larger than life. Epic requires you take an extra minute to absorb everything. For this assignment, your goal is to share photos where the community's reaction should be, "Wow that's epic."
Epic means insane-on-the-membrane massive! Some of my cave shots that are the most epic are the huge chambers and shafts with tiny, tiny people for scale. When I first enter a giant underground space, the echo is the first thing that I feel. It sends a shiver down my spine. I remember in 2005 when I was part of a team that discovered a huge underground chamber in Whiterock in Sarawak, Malaysia. We were super excited. Our first thoughts were to shout out loud to hear the echo. It took six seconds for the echo from our initial shout to fade, hit the far wall, then bounce back to us. Even though we couldn’t see anything, we knew immediately from the echo that this was a huge room. It was epic!
You are going to need to think big—vast, even. This assignment is a great chance to play around with scale. Big spaces, little people. Both in landscapes and the natural world, and also manmade structures like stadiums and aircraft hangars. Inside or outside, the choice is yours.
However, don't forget that there are epic moments. There are epic experiences. Think about how you use the word “epic” and what it is describes for you. Now think about how you are going to illustrate that visually. Try to incorporate a sense of mystery and intensity from within your surrounding space. Remember not to restrict your creativity in any shape or form. Better photographs will be born out of an unlimited and free visual spirit. So let your imagination run with this. Good luck, I’ll be watching on from the sidelines.
Submission deadline is August 14, 2017 at 12PM EST. You will have three submissions.
National Geographic photographer
Thank you for your contributions!
Editor's Update 02
Thanks to everyone for submitting to Robbie Shone's "Epic" assignment. The final story was awesome. I was so inspired by the quality of your submissions, that I am now curating a companion assignment called "Quiet Moments." While you can submit photos from your archives, I highly encourage you to set aside some time to take new photos that are quiet. Notice how you move differently when you’re respecting the quiet moment you're documenting, trying not to disturb the world in front of your camera. Use this assignment to not only take pictures of quiet moments, but to also quiet your mind as you work. I encourage you to slow down, take a deep breath, and be in the moment as a photographer. I look forward to your "Quiet Moments."
Editor's Update #1
I think I’m drawn to photographing caves and underground spaces because they offer such a playground to experiment in. The darkness serves as a blank canvas, allowing my imagination to construct whatever it tells me to construct. I begin by laying out the lighting rig, using layers of lighting to paint my canvas of darkness. I always try to make the cave look as beautiful as it can, but I’m also trying to add another dimension to the picture—a dramatic and an epic dimension that makes the viewer go, “Wow!” Being underground means the right lighting is crucial, and it really can make or break the final feeling of the photograph. Often I find that the simpler the composition and the lighting is, the more dramatic the end photograph feels. Do you find this with your photographs?
Since the Epic assignment started, I have been spoiled with so many striking photographs. You are all doing a great job. The images have been powerful and strong, and you’ve made my job relatively easy.
We still have some time remaining in the assignment, so please keep submitting your photographs. Try to think beyond the first thing we think of when we imagine an “epic” photograph. How else can you depict this feeling in your work? It doesn’t always have to be dramatic thunderclouds with lightning bolts crashing down, or powerful views of majestic landscapes. There are other ways to portray “epic”— keep thinking and submitting. Well done.
National Geographic photographer