Herald on Sunday


Overheard at National Geographic


If you’ve ever seen a really cool nature shot in a National Geographic and thought “how did they do that?” then chances are Tom O’Brien (or his predecesso­r Kenji Yamaguchi)

had something to do with it. O'Brien has the extremely cool job of being National Geographic’s photo engineer, or as the title of one podcast episode puts it, “The RealLife MacGyver in Nat Geo’s Basement”.

Overheard at National Geographic isa podcast from the ageless media brand, promising to let listeners in on the unique water cooler conversati­ons that take place in an office full of intrepid reporters and photograph­ers. Other recent episodes include the tale of an epic journey to move endangered giraffes off an island using something called a “giraft”, and one about camping on the ice with whale hunters.

O’Brien’s episode is a lovely half-hour audio portrait of a job most of us probably didn’t realise existed.

He takes us down to his workshop and talks us through some of his favourite inventions, like the remote camera he designed for one of the most hair-raising scenes in Free Solo and something called a “funky bird brain”. His current project? A “beavercam” designed especially to take photos of how beavers store their food under the ice.

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