Photographer Balazs Gardi, who embedded with Red Bull Stratos for nearly a year, took this shot of Felix Baumgartner descending under canopy during the second stratospheric test jump, from 97,145 feet, in July 2012.
To capture 2,000 triathletes swimming across Kailua Bay at October’s Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, Donald Miralle needed to get above the action. “It’s the only way to show the madness of that mass start,” says the San Diego photographer. After shooting this photo from a helicopter at 7 A.M., he spent the next ten hours on a motorcycle, following the athletes through all three stages of the 140-mile race. “I competed in a few triathlons years ago but nothing like this. It’s incredibly inspiring what these people can do.”
THE TOOLS: Nikon D4, 70–200mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 400, f/2.8, 1/1,600 second
Ryan Creary and split-boarder Mikel Witlox came across this snow-covered boulder field in British Columbia’s Lizard Range on an early April morning. “It was like skiing through a Dr. Seuss book,” says Creary, of Revelstoke, B.C. He snapped Witlox skinning beneath a 20-foot boulder moments after the sun crested the ridge to the east, casting 50-foot shadows. “It was very abstract,” says Creary. And fleeting. Ten minutes later the sun was up, and the light went flat. “That’s the joy of the mountains. Some- times the perfect shot exists for only a single moment.”
THE TOOLS: Canon 7D, 70–200mm f/4 lens, ISO 200, f/9, 1/1,250 second
Matt Irving had been working out of a temporary base camp on Baffin Island’s frozen Sam Ford Fjord, in Canada, for more than a week when he learned that the helicopter scheduled for this shoot had been canceled. “Something about bad weather,” says the Salt Lake City photographer. “We had to improvise.” With the help of BASE jumpers Tim Dutton, Jesse Hall, and J.T. Holmes, Irving scouted this 2,200-foot cliff and captured the three in mid-leap from a nearby ledge. “I was only a few steps from a pretty terrifying drop, but it wasn’t until we brought the video director up later that week and made him harness in that I realized I probably should have been strapped in, too.”
THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark II, 24mm f/1.4 lens, ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/1,600 second
As soon as temperatures drop low enough to freeze the water seeping out of the sandstone cliffs around Lake Superior, ice climbers like Austin Fogt and Ross Herr flock to Michigan’s Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. “I was supposed to be in class at Northern Michigan University but played hooky to climb,” says 23-year-old Fogt, pictured here halfway up a 175-foot iron-stained column of ice in Luke Tikkanen shot. “It was actually a really bad day to skip, because I was supposed to be helping out on a big group final. But missing out on that climb would have been worse. Besides, I still managed to graduate.”
THE TOOLS: Canon T2i, 50mm f/1.8 lens, ISO 200, f/1.8, 1/1,600 second
"My friends and I were headed to Yosemite to do some climbing," says Grant Ordelheide, of Denver. “We’d been on the road for about two hours when I realized I had forgotten my camera. "Still, they went back and got it. After summiting the park’s popular Cathedral Peak late in the afternoon, Ordelheide asked his climbing partners to traverse over to nearby Eichorn Pinnacle so he could capture them rappelling off the top as the sun set.“I wasn’t sure they were going to make it in time, but they did, and this was exactly the shot I wanted,” he says. “It also made for a very long hike out in the dark.”
THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark II, 17–40mm f/4 lens, ISO 800, f/7.1, 1/50 second
Last April,David Clifford had hoped to shoot Bend, Oregon, runner Max King’s attempt to set a record on the 42.5-mile Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim traverse—a double crossing of the 5,250-foot canyon. Unfortunately, the Park Service wouldn’t let him. “For safety reasons, they’ve been trying to keep people from running on the trails,and they were worried about publicity,”says the Boulder, Colorado, photographer. King missed the record by almost an hour, but the next day Clifford talked him into a few action shots near the South Rim’s Shoshone Point. “Max was pretty burned out from the day before, but there weren’t any rangers around, and the backdrop was too good to pass up.”
THE TOOLS: Canon 1D Mark IV, 16–35mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 100, f/5, 1/1,500 second
Last May, Andrew Peacock was guiding three clients on a sea-kayaking tour of Antarctica’s Neko Harbor when he snapped this shot of a 20-foot minke whale swimming under his boat. "I’ve never been that close to such a huge animal," says the Queensland, Australia, photographer. "I thought it was going to flip one of us, and I started to wish I’d brought a waterproof camera." But after an hour of paddling beside the whale, Peacock relaxed. "We realized he was just as curious about us as we were about him."
THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark III, 24–105mm f/4 lens, ISO 200, f/9, 1/160 second
Last summer, Josh Smith was driving home across Australia’s Great Dividing Range when he captured this image of an enormous storm brewing behind a forested ridge. "My family was asleep in the car, but after an hour of watching the air mass develop, I couldn’t resist trying to get a shot," says the New South Wales photographer. Smith’s wife woke up and rolled her eyes when he pulled over and climbed onto the hood of the car. "It wasn’t until we got home and I showed her the photo that she realized what my efforts were for."
THE TOOLS: Canon 1DX, 70–200mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 100, f/11, 1/800 second
Each October, 18,000 riders gather in Fréjus, France, for the Roc d’Azur, one of the largest, longest running mountain bike events in the world. To get this shot of last year’s start, the Toulon photographer hired a helicopter and shadowed the competitors during the first half-hour of the 35-mile race. "I’ve been photographing the event for ten years," says Sébastien Boué. "The only thing that seems to change is that the post-race parties keep getting better."
THE TOOLS: Canon 1D Mark IV, TSE 90mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 400, f/2.8, 1/1,250 second
In the days leading up to the October 2012 final of Red Bull’s invitation-only Rampage mountain-bike competition. In the Utah badlands, Greg Mionske got a sense of the course by touring it with the event’s 36 athletes. "The mountain is essentially a blank canvas. Each rider scouts and plans his own route down from the 1,500-foot ridge," says the Brooklyn, New York, photographer. "It’s amazing how fast they ride. They’re 100 percent committed to their line." Like Kurt Sorge was when he backflipped off this 20-foot cliff at the end of his winning run.
THE TOOLS: Nikon D4, 80–200mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 250, f/4, 1/1,600 second
Last December, Tait Trautman spent three and a half weeks traveling around Chile with 30 professional kayakers in order to shoot the White Water Grand Prix, an international paddling event held on some of the toughest whitewater in the world. During stage three of the competition, the Bellingham, Washington, photographer captured 25-year-old Jakub Nemec launching off the lip of a ten-foot waterfall on the Rio Nevados. "It was the favorite river of most of the paddlers," says Trautman. "It was also the first and only sunny day of the entire trip."
THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark III, 14mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 500, f/8, 1/3,200 second
Each January, 10,000 people gather at Gull Lake in Brainerd, Minnesota, for the Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza, the world’s largest ice-fishing tournament. This year, despite temperatures of minus 40 with windchill, Robert Benson, of San Diego, spent 12 hours shooting the spectacle on the ground and from a helicopter. "I was nervous about driving out on the ice with the weight of all those people," he says. "But one of the organizers told me that if I kept my windows open, I’d be fine if the ice gave in."
THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark III, 70mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 400, f/8, 1/2,500 second