Campus / News / May 6, 2010

Being at one with the subject

Last Friday, senior photo editor for National Geographic Traveler and Galesburg native Dan Westergren gave a talk showing two of his favorite photographic expeditions during his years at National Georgraphic Traveler.

Westergren was the outside examiner for senior and TKS Managing Editor Evan Temchin’s, honors defense. Westergren decided to give this talk while he was in town for the weekend. The Round Room in CFA was filled mostly with community members but few students, possibly due to the poor weather outside. The weather did not stop Westergren who grew up in Galesburg and has traveled to the North Pole.

Waiting both for the late community members that he knew from years past, the talk started a few minutes late. The first expedition he talked about was for the

National Geographic World (now called National Geographic Kids). He was originally planned to cover a group of kids that planned to bike in the Registrar’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. The RAGBRAI is an annual bicycle ride across Iowa that has been happening every year since 1973. Westergren was asked to cover this event and was excited to cover it. Most people would have rented a car and driven ahead and waited to photograph the bikers as they biked past. Instead Westergren decided to bike with them and was able to produce better quality photos because he was able to feel the whole experience. The mentality to always be ready to shoot has lived with him for most of his photographic career with National Geographic.

The most memorable moment from the RAGBRAI trip was the naked beer slide. This involved nudity and a slip-n-slide with beer. This was memorable because of the oddity of something like this happening in Iowa and the low chance that he would have caught this moment if he was traveling like most photographers covering the event, in cars. Not to mention the luck he got when photographing this event; in a single photograph he is able to capture the wildness of the bike ride, without even showing a bike in the photograph.

The second expedition he talked about was with National Geographic Traveler on his trip up to the North Pole. He was asked to do this expedition because of his willingness to bike to work even during cold and rainy days. This trip was a week of skiing the last degree to the North Pole; it was filled with many difficulties, including the cold temperatures, pressure ridges and gaps in the ice. To explain pressure ridges to his son and his fourth grade class, Westergren described it as “being four inches tall and trying to ski through the ice cube tray in your freezer.” Although this expedition was treacherous it was more of a tourist event for many people than a full expedition because they would pay to be flown to the North Pole instead of making the trek. This was no easy trip to ski more than seventy miles. Cold played a factor in eating, sleeping and even photographing. Westergren was lucky enough to not get wet during the whole trip or to injure himself more than a bruised tailbone.

Even without much variety in scenery, Westergren was able to produce interesting and different photos that condensed into an amazing photo story.

“I really enjoyed it. It was fascinating to hear that he actually enjoyed torturing his body that way,” said Norm Winick of Galesburg.

After his talk, Westergren took a few questions from the audience and continued to talk with some people for a while after he had finished. Overall, his talk was humorous as well as informative for both aspiring and well-seasoned photographers alike.

“You have to understand multimedia,” Westergren said to any hopeful journalists trying to find employment nowadays in media.

Westergren is hoping for his next expedition to be to the Channel Islands National Park, “America’s Galapagos.” This would be his first big photographic trip in a year and would include underwater photography.

John Williams

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