2011 – Looking Back

As a self proclaimed “nomad” I tend to get antsy when I haven’t been on a major adventure in a few weeks. To keep myself appreciative of the kind of life that I’ve been able to lead thanks to a well chosen career and great friends like Lou Lesko helping me along the way.  I sometimes have to reflect on the last year and outline the best parts. Here’s how 2011 shaped up for me, and some of my favorite projects of the year.


I got my start shooting for National Geographic in the underwater world, and although I’ve since moved on to mostly shoot above water, it’s one of my passions. I’m slowly but surely continuing my work on manatee, and hope to take it to the other side of the world and continue shooting dugong, a much more difficult subject that is a close relative of the manatee. This project was at first a way for me to start learning how to shoot the animals in an interesting way, but once I arrived in Florida I saw that most of the animals were covered in scars from the boats, and were nearly constantly pestered by the tourists. Expect to see more work from me on Manatee in 2012.

See my manatee photos on National Geographic Stock

Manatee in Three Sisters Springs, Florida.


Haiti was a chance for me to start working with a wonderful photo editor named Leah Roberts.  Lou Lesko sent me to Haiti for the National Geographic Assignment Blog – See those stories here, and here.  It was also a chance to bring something new to photography.  I worked with Tomnod, a crowd sourcing group out of San Diego to put together a way for people to join me vicariously on the expedition.  Using satellite imagery to follow my ground based photography the viewer could not only see where I was, but they could see before and after images from the Haiti earthquake.  It was a huge hit, and quite possibly the first time this has been used in photojournalism.  I hear that Time magazine did something similar a few months later, I hope they got the idea from Tomnod but I don’t know.

A boy in City Soleil, Haiti.


Mongolia was one of the few projects that I did this year for National Geographic that narrowed my role down solely to the photography.  The project is headed by Dr. Albert Lin and was heralded as a huge advance in the field of archeology.  Dr. Lin took new tools into the field and used modern science to aid his search rather than the antiquated trowels and brushes that we associate with archeology.  We also used the predecessor of the Tomnod format as a way to crowdsource the search for ancient tombs by having millions of citizen scientists search through the satellite imagery for anomalies.   Here’s a link to the National Geographic page on the project.

Of course, besides the National Geographic photography that I was doing, I made my living shooting fashion, commercial, and adventure photos.  Here’s a gallery of favorites from this year.

I also got to try my hand at filming and producing television!  This was an entirely new angle for me, and I enjoyed (some of it) immensely.

Here’s a teaser from the Mongolia special I helped put together.


After this I filmed for Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” in Alaska, when that comes out be sure to Check out footage from the “Kodiak” to see my work.

Check out some of the personal video that I put together this year at http://www.youtube.com/user/Benhorton83?feature=mhee

I also wrote a number of articles, reviews, and blog posts for other websites and magazines, had my photos published in editorials around the country, I produced a new portfolio book from Blurb, and of course, have a grand personal project that I am not ready to tell anybody about. So 2012 if we manage to live through this coming apocalypse (I am not a believer) will be my best year yet.


About Ben Horton
Highly influenced by his love of travel and adventure and his constant search for something new, his imagery is vibrant with fresh and creative energy. Raised in Bermuda, Ben Horton has spent the majority of his life traveling and seeking out new adventure. Ben is the recipient of the National Geographic Society’s first Young Explorer award for research on Cocos Island involving shark poaching. This led to becoming a photographer for National Geographic, and has allowed Ben to continue his passion for adventure. Follow Ben on Instagram

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