Extreme Photos of the Week
National Geographic, 1 May 2012.
1. Mountain Biking Mary's Loop Trail, Fruita, Colorado
"This is so incredibly beautiful - I am so lucky to be here," thought mountain biker Candace Shadley (right), seen here with fellow rider Julie Gamache on Mary's Loop, which begins as double-track and then turns to single-track here as it contours the Colorado River. The pair stood at this point to take in the sunset and wait for just the right light. When the moment came, the duo sprang into action.
"Mary's Loop is a fantastic place for riding, full of rocky trails, beautiful views, and great weather," says Shadley, who founded the Trek Dirt Series, a 12-year-old instructional biking program that offers 18 camps annually, mostly for women, throughout the American West. "It's a bit hot in the summer, but that just means you ride early or late."
Getting the Shot
“The last half mile of the trail is where things get interesting,” says photographer Anne Keller of Mary’s Loop trail. Keller originally planned to shoot at Horsethief Bench Trail, but the cloudy sky and impending storm forced her to adapt and rally the riders to race the storm and bike to Mary’s Loop.
“That shoot ended up presenting one of the most unique lighting situations that I've seen out here,” recalls Keller. “The light broke through with a band of pink for several minutes and the looming storm cast the landscape with a strange blue tone.”
To capture the unusual lighting, Keller closed down her aperture and shot toward the west, exposing for the striking, saturated sky. “The combination of light, clouds, and lightning all felt electric at that moment; I didn't want to leave,” says Keller.
Keller shot with a Nikon D3 camera and Nikon 16-35mm f/2.8 lens at f/22, 1/15th of a second.
2. Backcountry Skiing in Neff's Canyon, Wasatch Mountains, Utah
"I go into auto mode once I'm in the air," says freeskier Tyler Peterson, seen here in a 360 true tail, a trick that involves grabbing the skis' tails while making a full revolution in the air. "All the thinking and visualization happens before I ride off the jump."
Peterson and photographer Mike Schirf hiked for three hours and 3,500 vertical feet to take this shot in Neff's Canyon in the Wasatch Mountains backcountry. The pair strategically built a jump with a view of Salt Lake City, which has 11 ski resorts and ample backcountry offerings within an hour of the airport. "By this point it was about 6:30 p.m., and it was very difficult to see my landing," says the Salt Lake City-based ski half-pipe competitor. "But I had already hit the jump several times while the sunlight was fading away, so I knew how long I needed to be in the air to land smoothly."
Getting the Shot
Photographer Schirf worked carefully to find the right exposure to capture Salt Lake City's bright lights and Peterson mid-trick at dusk. When the dramatic sunset they had hoped for did not appear, Schirf used gels to add another element to the scene. "Gels are a great way to add a new element to a photo," says Schirf, who doesn’t typically work with gels. "It definitely has to be the right situation, but I think when used well, they can make a photo.”
Schirf photographed this shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens.
3. Kayaking Toketee Falls, Oregon
"At this moment I was about to toss my paddle and tuck up for landing," says kayaker Fred Norquist. "Coming over the lip was an incredible view!"
To get to Toketee Falls, which drop more than 65 feet into the North Umpqua River, this group of five kayakers had to do rope-assisted climbing down into the gorge - which included lowering their boats as well. "Once you are in the gorge you are pretty committed to running the falls," says the Bellingham, Washington-based paddler. "There is a 20-foot-tall waterfall shortly above this last drop. We ran the 20-footer, then ran the final drop."
Only six people have run this waterfall. Kayaker Chris Korbulic claimed the first decent in 2011. On this spring day in April 2012, all five paddlers - including Norquist, Evan Garcia, Kyle Hull, Erik Johnson, and Sam Friehofer - had successful runs. "None of us got injured and everyone had great lines on the waterfall," recalls Norquist, who contributes to Bomb Flow Magazine. "It was a picture perfect day."
Getting the Shot
An Oregon native, photographer Charlie Munsey shot Toketee Falls 15 years earlier and had hoped to return to photograph a kayaker descending the impressive falls. “The main challenge of capturing this moment was the combination of getting the right water level and a group of kayakers that could mentally and physically pull it off,” says Munsey. The remote Toketee Falls are Class V rapids.
To capture the kayakers and create horizontal framing, Munsey scaled a steep cliff and set up 30 feet above the water. Kayakers at the top of the falls shouted to Munsey as Norquist approached the falls' crest, and Munsey steadied himself to shoot. “I have to admit, the moment was so powerful that I was shaking a little bit,” he says.
Munsey took this shot with a Nikon D700 camera body and a Nikkor 70-200mm, f/2.8 lens.
4. Climbing Portal Peak, Banff National Park, Canada
"The rock was loose and crumbly - it was a precarious perch that both scared and intrigued me equally," recalls local climber Rossel Sabourin, seen here scaling the "Flower Pot," a rock tower on Portal Peak in Banff National Park, Canada. Sabourin and his girlfriend had admired the rock feature every morning from Num-Ti-Jah Lodge on the shores of Bow Lake, where they are the innkeepers. On this day, a group of friends decided to explore the peak in perfect, sunny conditions. "From the top of the pot, the panoramic view was incredible: the turquoise waters of Bow Lake, the iconic red roof of our lodge, and the Wapta Icefield spilling into the lake."
Getting the Shot
“The Wapta Icefield is notorious for its whiteouts and powerful storms, even in the summer,” says photographer Paul Zizka. “Portal Peak itself is very seldom visited, partly because of the poor quality of its rock,” he says. “It’s not a particularly technical peak, but does require a significant amount of elevation gain. It is fairly dangerous down-climbing, including glacier travel, as well as dealing with some of the worst rock, in an already shaky mountain range."
“I definitely wanted to stop by this feature on the way to the summit, but didn’t expect anyone would venture onto the tower itself. When Rossel did just that, the photo opp became obvious,” Zizka says. “I was limited in terms of angles to shoot. The Flower Pot is flanked by precipitous drops on most sides."
To capture this image, Zizka used a Canon 5D camera body and Canon 17-40mm lens at f/4.0.
5. Surfing Teahupoo, Tahiti
Surfer Nathan Fletcher’s amazing ride at Teahupoo, Tahiti, was captured by photographer Brian Bielmann in August 2011. “This was the heaviest day anyone had ever surfed or photographed," recalls Bielmann. Fletcher’s incredible ride and Bielmann’s photo are nominated for the Monster Tube Award in the 2012 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards.
“We had the most fearless boat driver in Tahiti and that’s the reason I got the shot,” says Bielmann. The other boats in the area were already at the top of the wave looking down or on the other side of the wave, but Bielmann’s boat remained. “Nathan caught this wave and was below sea level from my angle. Then we watched him ride the biggest tube ever ridden, all the way through, before finally being taken over by the wave,” an amazed Bielmann recalls.
Unusually large swells often create unusual situations. “The waves were so big this day, they were rushing up the shore and slamming into people's homes, dragging all kinds of things back into the ocean. At one point, I saw a refrigerator floating through the line-up. When I got home, we realized it was our fridge that I had photographed,” says Bielmann.
“After the wave closed, I looked at my viewfinder and saw this shot, but it’s hard to tell if things are sharp on the water," Bielmann recalls. "When I finally saw the photo, I knew it was the best shot I had ever taken in my life.”
Bielmann photographed this image using a Canon EOS-1D Mark III, with a Canon EF 70-200mm, f/4.0 L USM lens.
[Source: National Geographic. Edited. Top image added.]
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