For 35 years, Exposure has been sacred real estate for professional photographers. We wondered: could reader-submitted images ever meet our exacting standards? Damn right they could.
Dave Adams, a software engineer from Fruit Cove, Florida, took nearly 1,000 shots to get this image of himself powering through a wave on his stand-up paddleboard off New Jersey’s Long Beach Island. “GoPros have their limitations,” says Adams, 49, who mounted the camera at the end of his board and had it take a picture every second. “But for getting shots that really put you in the action, nothing’s better.”
Capturing these two hikers traversing the grassy slopes near the summit of Pasochoa, a 13,780-foot mountain in Ecuador, required Travis Murphy to stand at the cliff’s edge. “It dropped off a couple hundred feet to my right,” says Murphy, 35, a foreign-service officer for the State Department. The risk was worth it. “I love the duality of the cliff on one side and the grassland on the other.”
It rained the day before Mark Colton, an industrial designer from Novato, California, took this shot of riders competing at the 2010 Cyclo-cross National Championships in Bend, Oregon. Then, on race day, it snowed. "The track was an obstacle course of frozen ruts," says Colton, 29. "Right after I shot this photo, there was a giant crash right in front of me."
Benjamin Martin was riding in Utah’s Antelope Island State Park in late October when he took this photo of his wife, Bree, along the Great Salt Lake. He didn’t submit the shot, though. “Ben’s too shy,” says Bree, 26, a marketing manager in Salt Lake City, who sent us the image. “Let’s keep it quiet until the magazine comes out.”
"Every second I'm not working, I'm taking pictures," says Casey McCallister, 30, a Web developer from Denver. But photography wasn't the focus of McCallister's trip to Mount Lindsey, a 14,000-foot peak in Colorado's Sangre de Cristo Mountains. He wanted to summit, which he did that afternoon. This shot of friend Jeff Roth striding toward the peak was a sweet bonus. "Moments like that are why I take my camera with me everywhere," says McCallister.
In 2011, Tom Pawlesh, 56, of Pittsburgh, got the ultimate seat for watching the Army's Golden Knights parachute team jump into the annual air show in Dayton, Ohio. Pawlesh was at 11,000 feet, sitting in a canvas chair just inside the jump door. "My camera was tethered to the plane, and I wore two seatbelts, just to be sure I wa safe," he says.
"It was a case of being in the right place at the right time," Dana Wentzel, a 42-year-old Web designer from Phoenix, says about his photo of the Little Colorado River. Wentzel and a team of canyoneers spent eight hours picking their way toward the river through Big Canyon, a technical route near Tuba City, Arizona. "Everybody says the picture looks Photoshopped, but the colors are natural," he says.
Ironworker Rick Johnson was working outside of Medicine Bow, Wyoming, when he saw this supercell beginning to twist into a tornado. "I jumped in my truck and drove as close to it as I could," says Johnson, 45, of Salt Lake City. He never saw the twister touch down.
During a heli-skiing trip in Alaska's Tordillo Mountains, ski mountaineer Kim Havell, 38, scrambled up rocks to photograph Olympic gold medalist Tommy Moe descending a 4,000-foot chute. "We had to keep our heads up, says Havell. "There was a mama bear and two cubs at the bottom of the run."
Reid Kasprowicz was doing some helicopter sightseeing on Kauai's remote Na Pali Coast when he spotted three kayaks on the beach below. "The pilot banked a turn right about them," says Kasprowicz, 30, a bartender in Reston, Virginia. The move gave him the opportunity to bag this shot.
Sharn Seaward, 61, an aspiring photographer in Center Barnstead, New Hampshire, traveled to Utah's Corona Arch, a 140-foot-tall-formation near Moab, to shoot adrenaline junkies on this giant rope swing. The stunt was impressive but a little frightening—even for Seaward, who has skydived. "Watching them gave me no desire to try it," she says.
Jon Johnson of Tallahassee, Florida, enjoying the view on day three of a backcountry biking trip. This photo taken near Gateway Canyon, Colorado.