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I don't see how this will work. We'll be there for only a couple of weeks, and that's not enough time to get Geographic-quality images. There are no excuses at National Geographic. There's no explaining away why the frames aren't there, no matter how little time we have. It's all got to be great, every time, or else.

We are part of a RAVE, or Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition, a new concept in shooting the world's last, best places. The idea is to send in a team of environmental photographers to both shoot and publish quickly, before a place and the creatures within are lost forever.

Our shooters include Tim Laman, a lanky Ph.D. from Harvard who's one of the best primate photographers in the world. At 46, he fires ropes into trees using a bow and arrow, then hauls himself up to build platforms high in the canopy. Seeking eye-level shots, he'll sit there for days if he has to.

Next is Christian Ziegler, age 35. With mouth agape and steamed round spectacles, he is Dustin Hoffman in Papillon. From atop a mountain of gear (his round-trip excess-baggage fees routinely top $1,000), and in a German accent, he'll explain his battle plan: camera traps, blinds, patience. He'll make something out of nothing. He always has.

Ian Nichols is also on board. Son of the legendary photographer Nick Nichols, Ian is tall, smiles a lot, and is extremely attractive to most of the women he meets, and even some of the men. At 26, Ian is easygoing and works at his own pace. If he can be laid-back and still make the pictures, power to him.

And then there's me, a butterball who doesn't like to travel and still eats chocolate cereal for breakfast. I'm good at being physically miserable though, so I'll work the beach and coastal forests, with its heat, sand flies, and mosquitoes. Once in place, I'll cease being nervous and get to work, concentrating on wrenching every image from the surroundings.

Open the gate. I'm ready.

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