• Photo: Adrian Bailey

    Adrian Bailey spent the past three summers documenting zebra migration in Botswana, where he snapped these skittish members of a herd of Burchell's zebras "running from a rainwater pan after being disturbed by some imperceptible threat." The herd was in Xakanaxa, an area in northern Botswana that's home to elephants, lions, leopards, antelope, buffalo, and some 400 bird species. "It's one of the most entrancing natural regions in Africa," says the South African photographer, "not unlike an English park—with lush lawns (immaculately mowed by herbivores) and tall canopy forests—but all interspersed with immense lakes and secret pans."

    For this shot, Bailey used 50-speed film and set his 500mm lens at f/4.
  • Photo: Richard Dobson

    Richard Dobson was able to creep terrifyingly close to this adult lioness, a semi-tame but still dangerous orphan of a mother who'd been killed by hunters, in the Tsukudu Game Reserve, near South Africa's Kruger National Park. "I took the picture when the lioness was drinking and playing with a piece of floating wood at a watering hole," says the British-born, South Africa-based photographer. "A second later her head came up, her eyes focused on something behind me, and I knew then that she was going to leap...literally over my right shoulder." He set his lens to f/11 and his shutter to either 1/30 or 1/60 second—he doesn't remember which. "As she passed over, her tail hit me so hard I was knocked backwards into the sludge."
  • Photo: Charlie Riedel

    Charlie Riedel was covering the Missionary Ridge fire, north of Durango, Colorado, in late June when another fire broke out nearby. "The wall of flames was immense," says Riedel, who is based in Kansas City for the Associated Press. "Firefighters pulled out all the stops, though, and saved the house and had the fire controlled in two hours."

    Shooting from the roof of his car, Riedel used a digital camera with an 80-200mm lens and an exposure of 1/1,000 second at f/5.6.
  • Christian F√©vrier has spent more than half a century sailing and photographing racing yachts, but he says these lines of 50-foot waves, which he and the crew of the French naval training ship Jeanne d'Arc encountered in the South Atlantic some 100 miles north of the Strait of Magellan, formed "the most terrifying sea I have ever seen." In gusts blasting up to 80 knots, F√©vrier ventured onto the 600-foot steel vessel's upper deck to snap the shot with a Canon A-1. "Inside, there were a lot of young sailors in bad shape," he says. "It was not smelling rosy."
  • Keith Aleksoff was traversing Montana's Glacier National Park when he stumbled upon this bizarre midday view of smoke-filtered sunlight glancing off McDonald Creek. "It's a deceptive image, because it looks like the reflection of flames," says the 28-year-old Anchorage, Alaska-based photographer. "There was a forest fire in the park that day, but it was miles away."

    Aleksoff used a 300mm lens and exposed 50-speed film for 1/250 second at f/8.
  • Photo: Tim Flach

    Tim Flach set up a makeshift studio in Kapama, a private wildlife reserve near Hoedspruit, South Africa, last May and got up close and personal with this female African elephant. "She got very used to me, so I was able to explore those elements that connected her to me, allowing me to anthropomorphize her," says the 45-year-old Flach, who lives and works in London.

    With a 110mm lens on his medium-format Hasselblad 203FE, he exposed 160-speed film for 1/1,000 second at f/2.8.
  • Photo: Greg Huglin

    Greg Huglin was heli-tracking a pod of dolphins last July near Port Elizabeth, South Africa, when he caught them just as they arced through a crashing wave. "The pilot was ready to go down with the ship if something went wrong," says the Santa Barbara-based lensman, 51. "He couldn't swim—and he wasn't insured to fly over water."

    With a 400mm lens, Huglin exposed 100-speed film at f/2.8 for 1/2,000 second.
  • Photo: Kristian Olauson

    Kristian Olauson witnessed the brutal winter storm that transformed this Burlington, Ontario, lamppost into something resembling a Venus flytrap from outer space, but the 33-year-old photographer waited until it had subsided to shoot the wild ice sculptures left in its wake. "At the height of the storm, it was 30 below on the Lake Ontario waterfront, and winds were at 50 miles an hour. I was near the breakwall, watching 20-foot waves hit and explode into the sky," says Olauson, who lives in Fernie, British Columbia. "I was a human popsicle in minutes."

    Olauson used a 24-120mm lens, exposing 100-speed film at f/16 for eight seconds.
  • Photo: Nick Brandt

    Brandt encountered this elephant cooling itself with a trunkful of dust while he was traveling through Kenya's Amboseli National Park. "This image taught me that there's no such thing as a bad time of day to take a shot," says the 38-year-old photographer, who lives in Topanga, California. "I had blasting midday sun, but even with minimal darkroom work I ended up with this gigantic beast crashing through clouds."

    To ensure high contrast and a darkened sky, Brandt, using a medium-format camera, added a red filter and a heavy graduated neutral-density filter to a 105mm lens.
  • Photo: Manuel Presti

    Manuel Presti was in a park in Rome when he captured this flock of starlings fleeing a peregrine falcon. "The birds come here at dusk to roost in the trees," says the Rome-based lensman, "and they gather in huge formations to distract predators." With this image, the 38-year-old Presti beat out 17,000 other entries to be named the 2005 BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

    Using a tripod to steady a 500mm lens set at f/5.6, Presti shot digitally, with an exposure time of 1/50 second and an ISO of 800.
  • Photo: Corey Arnold

    Corey Arnold had never seen such a concentration of seagulls before he took this photo aboard a Norwegian cod-fishing boat in the Barents Sea. "The crew was downstairs gutting fish, and every new carcass dropped into the sea boiled into a frenzy of wings and snapping beaks," says the 30-year-old Oslo- and San Francisco-based lensman. "I was trying to get as many birds in the frame as possible; they all lined up in unison."

    Arnold, who's working on a book documenting the world's fisheries, used a 55mm lens on his Mamiya 645 medium-format camera, exposing 400-speed film at f/5.6 for 1/500 second.
  • Photo: James Balog

    James Balog stood 15 feet away from a lava flow on Hawaii's Mount Kilauea to create this five-image panorama. "Normally, I try to keep the wind at my back" when hanging around molten rock, says the 54-year-old photographer, who lives in Boulder, Colorado. "But to get the right light and angle here, I had to stand downwind. The heat was unbelievably fierce."

    Balog, who's been documenting volcanoes since Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, used a Nikon D1X with an ISO of 200 and a 35mm focal length, exposing each frame for 1/250 second at f/5.6.
  • Photo: Melanie Metz

    Melanie Metz was tracking a supercell across northwestern Iowa when she captured this tornado bearing down on a farm near Ayrshire. "Every year from May through August, we chase at least 20 storm systems across the Midwest," says the Minneapolis-based Metz, 31. "This one was especially twisty."

    Shooting digitally, she used an ISO of 64 and an 84mm lens set at f/2.8, exposing the frame for 1/200 second.
  • Photo: Peter Hofstetter

    While in Spain to shoot preseason Formula 1 testing, Peter Hofstetter spotted this water spout off the coast near Barcelona. "I rented a car at the airport, got totally lost, and ended up near the beach," says the Swiss photographer. "Then I saw this." After a few minutes, Hofstetter realized the twister was moving closer."I was a bit surprised. I didn't know they had tornadoes in the Mediterranean," he says. "People were getting nervous and started to disappear. Then the hail started. It was time to go."

    THE TOOLS: Canon 20D, 70-200mm f/4 lens, ISO100, f/6.2, 1/320 second
  • Photo: Tyler Stableford

    After a wildfire threatened homes near Carbondale, Colorado, in 2007, firefighters ventured back last spring to mitigate any future danger with a controlled burn. The operation provided a perfect opportunity for Tyler Stableford to capture assistant engine captain Nick Collard manning the fire line."In a true wildfire, it would be nearly impossible to get this shot," says Stableford. "I was on the other side of the line. There's no way they would let me be there in a big fire." The Carbondale-based photographer had been embedded with a crew from Rifle, Colorado, the previous summer and gained a firsthand appreciation for the job. "It's hot and smoky," he says, "and when the wind blows in the wrong direction, you get a face full of soot for ten minutes straight."

    THE TOOLS: Canon 1DsMark III, 70-200mmf/2.8 lens, ISO100, f/3.5, 1/1,250 second
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