Just after college, I subscribed to National Geographic. I picked one up for the first time since my childhood and the photography and simple layouts left me in awe. I guess I always took their design and layouts for granted when I was younger, when they were strewn all over my elementary school classrooms.
For the past few years, whenever I have photoshop open and I'm not working on anything crucial for work or a client, I've been experimenting, trying to come up with a simple way to display text and images that maximizes the impact of both. The goal is to somehow mimic the simplicity of a National Geographic layout: huge, visually interesting photos, with complimentary typography floating alongside, but accomplish it in the harsh environment of the web. Given the vast array of screensizes, gamma settings, and browser differences, I've never gotten very far with the project and I have dozens of abandoned photoshop mockups to show for it.
Tonight, I stumbled upon Tim's BigEmpty for the first time in ages, and I have to say the current layout is as close to the realization of what I've been trying to do as any I've seen. I remember the previous few layouts were also fantastic, but the current one takes the cake. Big photography, front and center, understated essential information alongside, and clear, legible text that doesn't compete with the imagery.