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National Geographic Magazine’s Top 10 Photos Of 2009

Airs Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

A garland of nature crowns Chicago’s City Hall, softening the hard edges of a...

Credit: Diane Cook and Len Jenshel

Above: A garland of nature crowns Chicago’s City Hall, softening the hard edges of a town famous for steel and stone — and lowering summer temperatures on the roof. Inspired by a worldwide movement, Mayor Richard Daley has made Chicago North America’s leading “green roofs” city. Photo by Diane Cook and Len Jenshel published in National Geographic Magazine, May 2009.

Flip through the pages of any issue of the National Geographic Magazine and you'll find eye-opening and evocative images - the best published anywhere in the world. Earning the "yellow border" is one of the most highly-prized accomplishments in photo-journalism. Yet even among these striking images, there are some that stand out as instant icons for our times. And what really set all of National Geographic Magazine's photos apart are the stories behind the photos.

With flair, action, and behind-the-scenes footage, this one-hour special counts down the "best of the best" from the magazine that has won dozens of national magazine awards for photography.

We're asking the editors to take a list that includes hundreds of amazing photos and whittle it down to just 10. As we do, we reveal the stories you haven't heard about the photographs. The program will include interviews with National Geographic Magazine Senior Photo Editor Chris Johns, as well as photographers and editors involved in everything from getting that perfect shot, to choosing the right photo.

The top 10 images were taken by:

Kevin Schafer, who struggled with the murky, tannic waters of the Amazon River for his first National Geographic magazine assignment.

Fritz Hoffman, who dangled from a cable over the raging Nu River in China as villagers crossed on a zip line to take animals to market on the other side.

Amy Toensing, who, documenting the drought in Southwestern Australia, describes how her picture came together almost by accident as she followed a family through the parched landscape of what had once been a thriving farm.

Stephen Alvarez, who explains how he illuminates pitch-black underground caves to expose them in a way that has truly never been seen before.

Martin Schoeller, who typically shoots portraits of celebrities like Britney Spears and Angelina Jolie, photographed the Hadza, a vanishing culture in Tanzania. He shipped a complete studio to the African bush with lights and generators to capture this series of intimate, searing portraits.

Randy Olson, who used a computer to control an underwater camera trained on a grizzly bear in Kamchatka, Russia.

John Stanmeyer, who usually covers wars, international conflict and social injustice, traveled to nine countries for a story about the global food crisis.

James Nachtwey, who has a similar beat to Stanmeyer’s, spent several months in Indonesia covering the many faces of Islam in a nation that is home to more Muslims than anywhere else in the world.

Len Jenshel and Diane Cook, a husband-and-wife photographer team, battled time and weather to make a photograph of a rooftop garden on Chicago’s City Hall.

Michael “Nick” Nichols, National Geographic Magazine’s editor at large, was ranked No. 1 of the top 10 with his photograph of a giant redwood tree. He talks vividly on camera about how it took nearly a year to complete the photograph and how it almost drove him to the brink. Using gyroscopes, dollies and computers, Nichols and his team made a seamless top-to-bottom photograph of a 300-foot redwood tree, the first in history.

View more photos and get tips from National Geograhic.

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