Landing his first story
George, born in Beverly Hills, California, in 1957, studied geophysics at Stanford University but became "a little bit restless," so dropped out and spent the next two years hitchhiking across Africa. He says it was "a real dirtbag safari." He didn't take much with him: a snakebite kit, a small stove, a 35mm camera. "I loved taking pictures," he says, "and I thought, 'Wouldn't it be cool if I could make a living doing this?'"
He returned to complete his course at Stanford and, after a brief internship with an oil company, got a job in a photo studio, was fired, got another job with a photojournalist, and was fired again. But the photojournalist kept in touch and passed on jobs. In 1989, George got his first story with National Geographic.
"My first story for National Geographic was about oil exploration because I studied geophysics in college and knew the oil business," he says. "So I could take pictures that told a story most people weren't aware of. I was a decent photographer, but I really knew my topic. That's the key. I think knowledge is much more important than photographic skill. You want to be able to tell your story. You have to do your research and know your topic really well."