• Photo: Brian Bielmann

    “It took me 30 years to get the best shot of my life,” says Hawaiian surf photographer Bielmann, referring to this photo, taken in August 2011, of California surfer Nathan Fletcher at the bottom of a 30-foot wave at Teahupoo, Tahiti’s most famous break. Fletcher’s ride earned him three honors at Billabong’s 2012 XXL Global Big Wave Awards. The whitewater beside the break was more than 40 feet tall. “I love this photo, because it captures the David and Goliath feel of that moment,” says Beilmann. THE TOOLS: Canon 1D Mark III, 70–200mm f/4 lens, ISO 250, f/6.3, 1/1,250 second
  • Photo: David Clifford


    To photograph Glenwood Springs, Colorado, climber Mike Schneiter scaling Donkey Ear, an 80-foot pinnacle west of Colorado’s 14,000-foot Elk Mountains, Clifford free-soloed a 40-foot pillar beside it during the last light of the day. “The hardest part was not getting blown off the wall by the 45-mile-per-hour wind,” says the Carbondale photographer. High gusts weren’t the only challenge: the climb also involved a six-hour off-trail hike from the nearest road. “It’s God’s country up there,” says Clifford, “but you have to really work to see it.” THE TOOLS: Canon 5D, 16–35mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/100 second
  • Photo: John Wellburn


    In April 2011, on the last day of a month-long trip to Argentina’s Salta Province, Wellburn photographed mountain biker Mike Kinrade, of Nelson, British Columbia, riding off a 30-foot-tall mesa outside a protected area known as Quebrada de las Conchas. “The drop wasn’t even the hardest part,” says Wellburn, of Williams Lake, B.C. “It was the entrance.” To get onto the mesa, which was roughly six feet wide, Kinrade rode down a ridgeline and jumped a 10-foot gap. “He styled it,” says Wellburn. “Then he went back and did it again so we could shoot it from another angle.” THE TOOLS: Nikon D300, 70–200mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 400, f/8, 1/800 second
  • Photo: Sterling Lorence


    "Sometimes the best angle for a photo is the most obvious one," says Lorence, of Vancouver, British Columbia. That was certainly the case when he photographed mountain biker Brandon Semenuk in April near Semenuk's home in Squamish. "With a rider like Brandon, you just let his moves do the talking," says Lorence. On the day of the stunt, Semenuk arrived at the jump, took three practice runs, then backflipped over the 35-foot gap. "It was ridiculous how little time it took him to prepare for something so big," says Lorence. THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark IV, 35mm f/1.4 lens, ISO 1,600, f/1.4, 1/1,000 second
  • Photo: Lucas Gilman


    To capture kayaker Rafa Ortiz, of Mexico City, paddling off Washington's 189-foot Palouse Falls, Gilman set three cameras on tripods and triggered them remotely. "I didn't want to shoot handheld because I was shaking too much," says the Denver-based photographer. "On 100-plus-foot waterfalls, it's not like things go kind of bad." Ortiz fell nearly four full seconds and was ejected from his kayak on impact. He walked away unhurt and hopes to paddle off Brazil's 200-foot Iguazu Falls in November. THE TOOLS: Nikon D800, 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 250, f/5, 1/2,500 second
  • Photo: Francois-Xavier De Ruydts


    British Columbia isn't known for its canyoneering, but De Ruydts, of Vancouver, was hoping to change that in March when he snapped this photo of fellow Vancouverite Colin Pither rappelling through a 197-foot waterfall into Lynn Canyon—a popular hike 15 minutes from Vancouver's downtown. "There are no more than 10 canyoneers in the whole city," says De Ruydts. "I want the sport to grow." De Ruydts is dedicating the summer of 2012 to exploring, filming, and photographing new canyons in British Columbia. The goal? To get his work featured at this year's Vancouver International Film Festival. "When people see the potential here," he explains, "I'll have more friends to go canyoneering with." THE TOOLS: Nikon D700, 24mm, f/2.8 lens, ISO 800, f/2.8, 1/60 second
  • June

    The water temperature of Antarctica’s Neko Harbor hovers around 32 degrees in February, which was when Wright caught Canadian kayaker Valerie Lubrick Eskimo-rolling beside a house-size iceberg. “Valerie was nearly hypothermic when she got out of the water,” says the Sydney, Australia, photographer. A little ingenuity kept Wright herself out of the sea: she attached the camera to a four-foot pole and submerged it while sitting on a Zodiac. “It was kind of cheating, but I’m allowed a bit of luxury when it’s that cold,” she says. THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark II with AquaTech housing, 15mm f/2.8 fish-eye lens, ISO 800, f/10, 1/1,600 second
  • June

    To capture Canadian mountain biker Graham Agassiz’s ride off an 8,000-foot peak in British Columbia’s Coast Range, Jorgen­son relied on his experience as a ski photographer. That and a heli­copter. “Shooting mountain biking is becoming a lot like shooting heli-skiing,” says the Whistler-based lensman. The chopper dropped Agassiz onto a ridge above a scree field, then followed the rider downhill while Jorgenson snapped photos from 300 feet above. He didn’t have much time—Agassiz descended 1,500 feet in less than a minute. THE TOOLS: Nikon D3S, 80-200mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 250, f/5.6, 1/1,250 second
  • Photo: Tim Kemple


    The sun had just set when Kemple snapped this photo of British deepwater soloist James Pearson taking a 50-foot fall into the Mediterranean on the coast of ­Majorca, Spain. “The light’s ­always best in the evening,” says Kemple, of Salt Lake City. But the trick to catching the chalk coming off Pearson’s hands was a remote flash held by Kemple’s assistant, Pat Bagley, who along with Kemple rappelled ten feet down the limestone face and leaned out over the sea. “The combo of the flash and the angle gave the shot an almost graphic quality,” says Kemple. THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark II, 15mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 3,200, f/3.2, 1/30 second
  • May

    “While making To the Arctic 3D,” Shaun MacGillivray says, “we had the pleasure of working with award-winning wildlife photographer ­Florian Schulz, who has logged 18 months in the Arctic over the past six years. Schulz took this aerial photograph of kittiwakes gathering near a pool of meltwater on the ice of the Chukchi Sea, in northern Alaska, from a 1940s-era Super Cub airplane.” The image appears in Schulz’s stunning new photography book, To the Arctic, a companion to the film. THE TOOLS: Nikon D3X, 70–200mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/4,000 second
  • May

    “My dad’s first Imax film about the ocean, The ­Living Sea, explores our relationship with this complex and fragile ­environment,” MacGillivray says. “The film was nominated for an Academy Award. This scene, which he filmed at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, shows a group of sea nettles, a type of jellyfish, as they slowly move up and down in a kind of mesmerizing dance. Jellies thrive in all the world’s oceans, and there is mounting evidence that human activity in coastal zones, like overfishing, is creating conditions that could cause populations to skyrocket.” THE TOOLS: Mark II Imax, 80mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 500, f/2.8, 1/48 second
  • Photo: Gordon Brown


    “We spent several weeks on the Greenland ice cap filming inside 600-foot-deep moulins for Journey into Amazing Caves,” MacGillivray says. “Cinematographer Gordon Brown shot this image of French caver Luc Moreau as he rappelled into one of the moulins. It’s one of the audience’s favorites in the film, because it gives the feeling of entering a cathedral of ice. But the cave’s crystalline beauty belies the deadly instability of the continuously shifting environment inside it.” Brown captured the image by standing on a ten-ton block of ice wedged into the wall 600 feet inside the cave. THE TOOLS: Mark II 15/65 Imax, 40mm f/4.5 lens, ISO 500, f/4.5, 1/48 second
  • Photo: Patrick Orton


    To get this shot of British BASE jumper Chris Bevins nose-diving off 460-foot Thaiwand Wall, near Railay, Thailand, Orton had to climb four pitches up a 5.11 route called Circus Oz. “I wanted to be directly below Chris when he jumped,” says the Bozeman, Montana, photographer. Orton, who was dangling from a bolt by his climbing harness, snapped 17 frames in the 30 seconds it took Bevins to reach the beach. Rapelling took Orton half an hour. “Chris was sipping a margarita at the bar when I got down,” he says. THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark II, 16–35 f/2.8 lens, ISO 500, f/8, 1/1,000 second
  • Photo: Gabe Rogel


    Ben Shook was halfway down Antarctica’s 2,264-foot Mount Tennant when Rogel captured him skiing beside a series of ice pillars. “The terrain there is endless,” says Rogel, of Driggs, Idaho. “Everywhere you look is snow and ice.” For five days, Rogel and Shook skied lines on the 5,000-foot peaks that rise from the Gerlache Strait. Their shuttle vehicle—and temporary home—was a 387-foot polar-research vessel. “We skied every line summit to sea,” says Rogel, who is already planning to return in November. THE TOOLS: Canon EOS 1D Mark III, 28–300mm f/3.5–5.6 lens, ISO 200, f/5, 1/6,400 second
  • Photo: Corey Arnold


    “It kind of blew my mind,” says Arnold of the moment last September when he came upon the hull of a cargo ship jutting out of the Mediterranean Sea, just east of the Greek island of Kythira. For Arnold, who was aboard a yacht lent to him by a friend, the 11-year-old wreck presented a good opportunity to go snorkeling. That’s when the Portland, Oregon–based photographer snapped this shot of a deckhand diving toward the bridge of the sunken freighter. “There wasn’t another person out there,” he says. THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark II with AquaTech housing, 24mm f/1.4 lens, ISO 320, f/5, 1/500 second
  • Photo: Andy Bardon


    To capture Mallori Abbott riding across Northern California’s Rainbow Bridge, a 241-foot concrete span just below 7,135-foot Donner Pass, Bardon climbed onto the bridge’s railing, waited for Abbott to pedal into the frame, and triggered an off-camera strobe. “It helped make the photo dramatic,” says Bardon, who lives in nearby Truckee. The strobe filled in the details around Abbott’s face; without it, she’d be in shadow. “That’s the challenge of shooting during sunrise. You get amazing light, but it comes from only one direction.” THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark II, 24–105 f/4 lens, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/180 second
  • Photo: Ryan Creary


    Mikkel St. Jean-Duncan didn’t go to the Bighorn River in the Canadian Rockies just to kayak this 50-foot waterfall, Curtain Call. He also went for Crescent Falls, the 88-foot behemoth in the background. “He ­really wanted the first descent,” says Creary, of Canmore, ­Alberta. But while scouting the big one, St. Jean-Duncan ­noticed rocks suspended in the water beneath the falls: it landed on a gravel bar. “Curtain Call was a pretty good consolation prize,” says Creary. “Especially for me. The light at the lip was almost ethereal.” THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark II, 70–200 f/2.8 lens with a 2x teleconverter, ISO 100, f/8, 1/1,000 second
  • March

    “The tidal bore comes into Alaska’s Cook Inlet with every incoming tide, but you can’t always surf it. Sometimes it’s just a frothing foam pile, because the tide is too weak or the wind is blowing in the wrong direction or the inlet is frozen. When the elements align, like they did at Turnagain Arm last September, there’s no other wave like it. That day, three of my buddies surfed the bore’s leading edge for almost five miles while I flew a motor­ized paraglider 500 feet overhead and snapped photos. Between the sun and the surf, it was the best I’d ever seen the bore—even if I was working.”
  • March

    To capture pilot and aeronautical engineer Chuck Berry flying his ­single-engine plane just above a glacier on New Zealand’s west coast, Murray needed a helicopter. “Chuck’s daring but calculated. He’d buzz waterfalls and fly alarmingly close to the surface of lakes,” says Murray, of Rotorua, New Zealand. Berry, who is also a BASE jumper, was scouting spots for jumps. The hunt paid off in November when he found a 700-foot cliff in the South Island’s remote Wonderland Valley. He launched off it three times the following day. THE TOOLS: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, 70–200 f/2.8 lens, ISO 250, f/10, 1/1,600 second
  • February

    “It snowed eight feet the first four days we were at Icefall Brook, a cirque of big walls north of Golden, British Columbia. When the weather finally cleared, avalanches were thundering all around us. We were so tired of being in the tents, we went climbing anyway. Ian Wellstead and Jon Walsh picked out this 1,300-foot unclimbed route with a hanging serac on top. When Ian was about 800 feet up, a piece of ice the size of a football field peeled off the serac and cascaded down the slope. It stopped a couple hundred feet above their heads. If it hadn’t, they would have been swept off the wall.”
  • Photo: Mark Fisher


    “We spent half our month-long trip sitting in a hotel in Juneau, Alaska, waiting for the storms to break,” says Fisher, 35, of Victor, Idaho. When good weather arrived, Fisher helicoptered into the Coast Range to capture skier Ian McIntosh on this line, which required a 20-foot jump over a crevasse. “There was six feet of fresh snow, and the conditions were ­absolutely perfect,” Fisher says. The bliss was short-lived. Four days later, McIntosh hit a patch of ice and fell 100 feet, fracturing his femur. THE TOOLS: Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, 24–105 f/4 lens, ISO 200, f/7.1, 1/2,500 second
  • February

    For five days every August, a tidal bore races up eastern China’s Qiantang River and creates a breaking wave, like this ten-foot-tall section downstream of Jiangdong Bridge. Soderlind was there last year to photograph six surfers the Chinese government had permitted to ride the bore—including 46-year-old Robert “Wingnut” Weaver, from the film Endless Summer II, and Mary Osborne from MTV’s Surf Girls. “They wanted high-profile riders,” says Soderlind, of Orlando, Florida. Ahead of the break, cameramen from the state television network filmed the surfers from speedboats. “There was a whole flotilla, even police boats,” says Soderlind. THE TOOLS: Pentax 67II, 75mm f/2.8 lens, Fuji Velvia ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/1,000 second
  • February

    “The best way to shoot paragliding is from a paraglider,” says MacDonald, who was flying above her boyfriend, Gavin McClurg, last May when she captured him soaring along a 400-foot cliff in Portugal’s Azores Islands. The pair, who spent the past five years sailing the world in search of remote kitesurfing and paragliding locations, waited three weeks to get the perfect wind conditions for this flight. “It’s a tricky spot,” McClurg says. “If the wind switches, there’s nowhere to go but straight into the Atlantic.” THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark II, 24–105 f/4 lens, ISO 400, f/7.1, 1/500 second
  • Photo: Pete McBride


    “I was in a Cessna 180, flying above the Colorado River near Moab, Utah, when I looked down and saw an unusual pattern of cattle feeding in a snowy field. My dad, the pilot, did a few laps to get directly above them, then I leaned out the window and took the picture looking straight down. The cows, the telephone poles, the trees—most of what you see in the image is shadow. It’s a play of the eye. That’s the abstraction I like to employ to hold people’s ­attention. It takes a minute to figure it out.”
  • Photo: Adam Clark

  • January

    To capture these hammerhead sharks and Pacific creolefish swarming near Cocos Island, a Unesco World Heritage site 342 miles west of Costa Rica, Daniels dove 100 feet to the rocky ­bottom, wedged himself into a crack, and aimed his camera upward. “I wasn’t scared at all. But the hammer­heads were really skittish,” says Daniels, of ­Berkeley, California. “Even the bubbles from my regulator spooked them.” Daniels slowed his breathing to reduce the bubbles, a trick that worked: at one point, a shark cruised within four feet of him. “I could see the serrations on his teeth,” he says. “It was pretty cool.” THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark II with Aquatica ­housing, 15mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 320, f/9, 1/200 second
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