arrow-downarrow-leftarrow-rightarrow-upchevron-upchevron-leftchevron-rightchevron-upclosecomment-newemail-newgallerygridheadphones-newheart-filledheart-openmap-geolocatormap-pushpinArtboard 1Artboard 1Artboard 1minusng-borderpauseplayplusreplayscreenArtboard 1sharefacebookgithubArtboard 1Artboard 1linkedinlinkedin_inpinterestpinterest_psnapchatsnapchat_2tumblrtwittervimeovinewhatsappspeakerstar-filledstar-openzoom-in-newzoom-out-new

Facing Your Fears

This assignment ran from Mar 14 to Apr 3, 2017.

When I was a teenager, I had a fear of heights. I had gotten into rock-climbing, but found that I was never really any good at it because the higher I climbed, the more scared I got. 

In college, our class visited the Empire State Building in New York City and we joined other tourists in admiring the breathtaking view over Manhattan. I was comfortable gazing ahead into the skyline and horizon, but looking straight down at streets below was petrifying; I remember being terrified.

My fear of heights inspired a series I made while in the college. At the time, I was painting giant canvases with oils, acrylics, turpentine, and linseed oil. I would lay the canvas on the floor and brush the paints around to create my art, which ultimately helped me creatively cope, understand, and express my experiences and feelings around my fear of heights.

I focused on the perspective, and exaggerated it ever so slightly so the viewer felt a sense of vertigo when they looked at my paintings on a wall, in an almost overpowering and unnerving way as they towered over the viewer. Because I spent so many weeks working on this art project, each of my paintings helped me overcome my fear of heights.

Years later I am now a cave photographer, where I often find myself suspended on a thin length of rope hundreds and hundreds of feet above the floor, concentrating on making pictures in total darkness. See the Editor’s Update for an example of a published photo from my first National Geographic magazine story exploring the Dark Star caves far beneath a remote mountain range in Uzbekistan.

We all have fears and it is only natural to find ways to avoid facing them. For this Your Shot assignment I’d like you to face your fear. Maybe you’re scared of spiders or snakes or the dark. Maybe you’re claustrophobic. Maybe you’re scared of talking to strangers. Direct your photography towards that fear. Use your photography as a creative canvas to understand and express your fears. Be thoughtful in your captions; describe and reflect on your fear because I’m sure many also share similar feelings.

It will be difficult, but I’m confident that once you become absorbed in the photography aspect of this assignment, you may find that this is not as difficult as it sounds. Don’t be afraid to be afraid. 

Submission deadline will be April 3, 2017 at 12PM EST.

Robbie Shone
National Geographic photographer

Curated by:

Robbie Shone
National Geographic photographer
Assignment Status
  • Open

    Everyone’s welcome to contribute their best shot to open assignments. Learn more.
  • Closed

    Completed assignments—with our favorite photos included—will be published online. Learn more.
  • Published

    Once the submission period is over, we'll review all contributions and select our favorite images to be included in the story. Learn more.
Published Apr 19, 2017.
Thank you for your contributions!

New Robbie Shone Assignment

Posted dec 12, 2017

Hi everyone —

Thanks to everyone for submitting to our “Facing Your Fears” assignment, curated by Nat Geo photographer Robbie Shone. I want to let you know that he is curating a new Your Shot assignment called "Wow! What an Adventure" where he is inviting you “to share with us your own unique adventures. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an epic, swinging-on-a-rope-in-a-black-pit type of adventure. Maybe getting married or having children has been an adventure for you. Maybe you are the first person in your family to graduate from college. Maybe you have swum with dolphins or driven across the country on vacation. Or maybe you have seen the world from the top of Mount Everest.”

I hope you all participate and share your adventures with Robbie.

David Y. Lee
Producer, Nat Geo Your Shot

Nat Geo Adventure story featuring photos by Robbie Shone

Posted nov 10, 2017

Hi everyone —

Nat Geo Adventure recently published a new story “Go Inside These World-Famous, Rarely Seen River Caves” featuring photos of strictly protected underground caves in Slovenia by National Geographic photographer Robbie Shone, your guest editor on the “Facing Your Fears” assignment.

I also encourage you all to participate and submit to our current assignments, “Unsung Hero” curated by National Geographic photographer Matt Moyer and “Quest for Happiness” curated by National Geographic photographer Matthieu Paley.

“Unsung Hero” is inspired by the Nat Geo Channel series “The Long Road Home.”  “Quest for Happiness” is inspired by the November 2017 National Geographic magazine cover story, “The Search for Happiness.”

Thanks everyone for being a part of the Your Shot family.
Keep up the great work.

David Y. Lee
Producer, Nat Geo Your Shot

Thank You

Posted mar 30, 2017

I’d like to thank everyone who has submitted to the “Facing your Fears” assignment! I am thoroughly enjoying viewing all the images so far. Some of you have really embraced the topic, and have created unusual images that really portray your fear. I’ve seen so many different types of fears and so many different types of way of combating them through photography. This is great!

One of my favorites so far is "No More Fear" by Phuc Hau Huynh. This is a great shot! I love the point of view. What happens next is not going to be enjoyable! The subject matter is strong and we all relate to this being a fear — a fear of pain and death. Very strong and very real. Top shot. This is a strong image for this assignment, because it embraces a subject matter that we all relate to. When I was younger, I was afraid of heights. This effects many of us, possibly even most of us. However, what Phuc Hau Huynh has achieved here is a fear that effects all of us. The POV is amazing. It feels real. I feel in pain just looking at it, looking up at the surgeons about to carry out something very serious to my body. The perspective lines that draw my eyes into the middle of the frame work so well.

Another frame that feels me with fear and excitement at the same time is “Upstream” by Dzintra Zvagina. Although the caption is a little short and without much detail, here it works. It works because I love this picture. While everyone is walking one way up the steps and a little blurred, the man in the cape walks the other way against the flow. Is he real and from our time? Or is he a ghost from a time long ago? Brilliant. A great use of the street art to compose this photograph. I find myself finishing the caption in my own mind using my own imagination purely from the photograph.

Please remember that the caption is just as important to the viewer as the photograph itself. Don’t be afraid to add greater detail here and include more mystery, more suspense and atmosphere to this part of your submission. I want to feel afraid reading your captions as well.

Please keep the photographs coming in. There really is not long left.

Robbie Shone
National Geographic photographer

Editor's Update 01

Posted mar 17, 2017

My fear of heights inspired an art series I made while in the college. At the time, I was painting giant canvases with oils, acrylics, turpentine, and linseed oil. I would lay the canvas on the floor and brush the paints around to create my art, which ultimately helped me creatively cope, understand, and express my experiences and feelings around my fear of heights.

It's been almost twenty years since I painted these two paintings (Vertigo 1, Vertigo 2) back when I was at Art School studying Fine Art at University — and thanks to this Your Shot assignment, to see them again with revitalized eyes that long since overcame their fear of heights is overwhelming.

During the past twenty years, my eyes have looked down into many scary, deep black voids in caves all over the world, that first appeared to never end, not to mention many floors on skyscrapers and big buildings all around the UK, while I worked as an industrial abseiler, cleaning windows and inspecting blocks of flats for signs of deterioration. However, there is something so very familiar with these two paintings and my cave photography today and that is scale. A sense of scale defines my work, because it is something that I was conscious of from an early age. These two paintings, which show the view looking down from the tops of skyscrapers show scale and how things get smaller and smaller the further they get to the road.

This is true of my cave photography. When I position figures and models either holding light sources or just posing, they offer the viewer the enormous sense of scale that would otherwise be absent in the photographs. It is this scale that helps make the photograph work on a more dramatic level. I found that as the scale grew and grew my vertigo got progressively worse and worse.

Robbie Shone
National Geographic photographer

Click to see Robbie’s story Dark Star: Into the Deep published in the March 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Robbie Shone

Robbie Shone

National Geographic photographer
National Geographic photographer Robbie Shone is recognized as one of the most accomplished cave photographers in the world. He has hung on a thin rope while photographing 200m above the floor in the world’s deepest natural shaft and has explored the far ends of a 189 km long cave system. For his book “Gouffre Berger – L’esprit d’equips,” Robbie spent a continuous 94 hours underground photographing the first cave to hold the 1000m depth record.