The Best Adventure Photography: Exposure 2015

Photo: Andrew Peacock

High concentrations of calcium carbonate turn the water a vibrant blue-green in Havasu Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River, near Grand Canyon National Park. Peacock captured his wife, Sabina Allemann, and expedition guide Jon Imhoof on inflatable SUPs last June during an 18-day, 278-mile journey from Lees Ferry to Lake Mead. “That section is one of the world’s iconic river journeys,” says Peacock, who lives in Santa Barbara, California, and Queensland, Australia. “The color was screaming out to be photographed.”

THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark III, 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 640, f/6.3, 1/800 second

Photo: Grant Gunderson

Last year, February storms dumped about six feet of snow over the Coast Mountains in western British Columbia just days before world-champion free skier Josh Daiek arrived to heli-ski for the first time, with plans to descend a 3,500-foot line on a local glacier. “For some people, dropping off a glacier is crazy, but Josh has the experience, and only a small section of it wasn’t covered in snow,” says Gunderson, who lives in Bellingham, Washington. “Once he dropped back into the powder, he was definitely amped up.”

THE TOOLS: Canon 1D X, 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 100, f/6.3, 1/1,000 second

Photo: Alex Manelis

To capture his friend Michael Shen climbing the Red Dragon route on Moon Hill, outside Yangshuo, China, Manelis traveled 7,000 miles, braved freezing December winds, and chambered a few guards who didn’t want to let them onto the 164-foot limestone arch. “We told them how far we’d come, and they said, ‘OK, but the minute you see other tourists, you have to come down,’” says the Palo Alto, California, photographer. “Getting there was like meeting a celebrity you’ve been obsessed with for years. I was above the clouds.”

THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark II, 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, ISO200, f/5, 1/125 second

Photo: Ben Gavelda
Photo: Jon Griffith

Last July, Griffith’s longtime friend Ueli Steck, the elite alpinist, invited him to scale four peaks in the Mont Blanc massif, on the border of France and Italy, in a single day—part of Steck’s attempt to climb all eight-two 4,000-meter summits in the Alps. They were done by noon, with Griffith having captured Steck at the top of Grand Pilier D’Angle around 8 a.m. “When you’re with Ueli, there’s no hanging around,” says the British photographer, who lives in Chamonix, France. “You have to shoot quite literally from the hip.”

THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark III, 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 200, f/14, 1/250 second

Photo: Ben Gavelda

Gavelda was among the first to ride the newly built Peak to Creek trail on Reco Mountain, in British Columbia’s Selkirk range, when he joined pro mountain biker Darren Butler there in August. “I hadn’t had a trail start at the literal peak of a mountain before,” says the Durango, Colorado, photographer, describing the 360-degree view and 100-foot shale face on either side of the path. “The rest of it is an alpine pump track—you can just float through it. I’ve never ridden another mountain-bike trail like it.”

THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark III, 24-70mm f/2.8L lens, ISO100, f/7.1, 1/200 second

Photo: David Carlier

Growing up next to 14,295-foot Dent Blanche in Hérémence, Switzerland, mountain guide Gilles Sierro always wanted to ski the mountain’s remote east face. Last April, when conditions became safe enough, he finally got the chance. Carlier captured him from a helicopter on a morning run. “He said he couldn’t deny feeling some apprehension when he got to the top,” says the photographer, who lives in nearby Aubonne. “He’s been gazing at it all his life, but once you’re on the face, you realize how steep it really is.”

THE TOOLS: Leica S Type 006, 35mm f/2.5 lens, ISO 100, f/4.8, 1/4,000 second

Photo: Dave Lauridsen
Photo: Nick Kelley

Last May, Kelley spent four days on the Colorado River in a 40-year-old wooden dory with photographer Ryan Heffernan, Outside senior editor Grayson Schaffer, and OARS crew member Blake McCord. Halfway through the third day, the group stopped at the Vishnu Basement Rocks—at 1.7 billion years old, the Grand Canyon’s most ancient—and McCord set to work. “I got the sense that Blake likes climbing even more than he likes guiding,” says Kelley, an associated editor at Outside Online. “When climbers see rock that unique, they can’t help themselves.”

THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark III, 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 160, f/5.6, 1/250 second

Photo: Ryan Moss

In 2014, Moss, who lives in San Jose, California, overcame his fear of heights while solo-hiking the two-foot-wide paths of Hawaii’s Koolau Range in five days—record time. Last February, he captured his friend Hunter Williams summiting the steepest peak of the nearby Olomana Trail. “Just as he reappeared, the clouds parted,” Moss says. “Seeing him along that crumbly, dangerous ridge line reminded me of what I’d gone through and of everything I was doing as a mountaineer in Hawaii.

THE TOOLS: Canon EOS 7D, Tokina 10-17mm f/17 lens, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/250 second

Photo: Mallory Roe
Photo: Darrell Parks

Near the end of the fifth stage of the annual Amgen Tour of California, held in May, riders fly through the orange groves of Grimes Canyon, near Fillmore, at nearly 50 miles per hour. It’s a favorite spot for Parks, who has photographed the race for the past ten years. To get the shot from this year’s event, the Virginia-based photographer traveled by motorcycle, then walked up a roadside deer path to this vantage point. “I’m passionate about landscapes, and the tour is full of curvy roads and wide-open spaces that I love,” he says. “As soon as they came around the first corner, I was almost giggling with delight.”

THE TOOLS: Nikon D810, 16-35mm f/4 lens, ISO 640, f/8, 1/640 second

Photo: Grant Gunderson

Last winter was unusually dry in Bellingham, Washington, where Gunderson lives. But in late February, ten inches of new snow blanketed the North Cascades, and in the first week of March, the 35-year-old photographer headed into the backcountry with professional skier Adam Ü and Ü’s girlfriend, Tess Golling, captured here carving a spine on Mount Shuksan. “It was a bluebird day, the kind you wait all year for,” Gunderson says. “Clear skies, fresh powder, and Tess skied it beautifully.”

THE TOOLS: Canon 1DX, 70-200 f/2.8 LIS lens, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/1,000 second

Photo: Forest Woodward

During a three-month climbing trip last summer, Woodward, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, made a stop in the North Cascades to shoot photos for a climbing guidebook. At Washington’s Colchuck Balanced Rock, he caught Jenny Abegg leading a route called West Face, 600 feet above the ground. “We’d just made it to the top when I found out she’d only been climbing for two years,” says Woodward. “I was blown away.”

THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark III, 14mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 320, f/5, 1/500 second

Photo: Niles Grey
Photo: Krystle Wright

Last October, during a three-day expedition to the Bonneville Salt Flats, Wright took this shot of Utah’s Shane Denherder 100 feet in the air, paragliding with a powered motor at 30 miles per hour. Wright first encountered the flats while driving through western Utah in 2012. “Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated by the changing textures and colors of the salt ponds,” says the nomadic Australian. “It’s a photographer’s dream.”

THE TOOLS: Canon EOS-1D C, 24mm f/1.4 lens, ISO 200, f/8, 1/2,000 second

Photo: Joey Schusler

Last February, Schusler spent a week scouting sandstone-cliff jumps around Green River, Utah, with his Yeti Cycles teammate Shawn Neer. On the morning of their last day, Neer sent the biggest jump of the trip: a 40-foot gap between the Book Cliffs, 60 feet above the ground. “It was great to hit something like that in natural terrain,” says Schusler, who lives in Boulder, Colorado. “I wasn’t quite in the mindset to ride through it myself, but when I caught Shawn in the air, I knew it would be a highlight of the season.”

THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark III, 24mm f/1.4 lens, ISO 2,000, f/4.5, 1/8,000 second

Photo: Stuart Gibson

Gibson traveled three hours by car and on foot from his home in Hobart last July to Shipstern Bluff, a world-renowned swell in southeastern Tasmania that he visits as often as he can. He arrived just in time to capture his friend Mikey Brennan surfing this 30-foot wave, which doubled in size when it hit the granite reef and appeared to double-break in a way that Photoshop could only imitate. “For Shipstern, it wasn’t a big day, but then this huge thing came out of nowhere. I caught Mikey just in time to get out of the way.”

THE TOOLS: Nikon D4, 7-200mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 400, f/4, 1,250 second

Photo: Michael Schaefer

During a weeklong shoot last June, Schaefer joined climbers Tommy Caldwell and Sonnie Trotter on a route called Coelophysis—a 2,000-foot-high series of overhanging limestone walls on the Wendenstöcke, in Switzerland’s Uri Alps. “The fog was so thick that when I looked down, I could barely see Sonnie 40 feet below me,” says the photographer, who lives in Redmond, Oregon. “He could be 30 feet off the ground for all you can tell, but he’s really 400 feet in the air.”

THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark III, 24-105mm f/4 lens, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/640 second

Photo: Ben Herndon

Two women float a cold East Lostine River on inlfated sleeping pads in the Wallowa Mountains. The iconic Eagle Cap Peak is in the background.

Photo: Tait Trautman

Last November, Trautman and professional kayaker Gerd Serrasolses traveled 600 miles from Santiago to Entre Lagos, Chile, to paddle the Golgol River, which was swollen with record floodwater. “It rained as much as two inches a day during last winter’s storms,” says the Driggs, Idaho, photographer. Two weeks into the trip, Trautman shot this photo of Serrasolses running a 20-foot waterfall in a heavily bouldered section of the river, normally impassable were it not for the endless days of heavy rain. “I was pretty sure Gerd was one of the first people ever to paddle it,” Trautman says.

THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark III, 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 640, f/6.3, 1/8,000 second

Photo: Nick Kelley

Last December, Kelley, an associate editor at Outside Online, spent a week with his family on the Chimehuin River near Junín de los Andes, Argentina, where he captured this photo of his sister, Bryn, casting in the early-morning light. Fishing is religion in the Kelley family, and this trip in particular has become an annual one. “We’ve fished a lot of rivers together, but we keep coming back here,” says the photographer, who lives in Santa Fe. “There are still a few fish we haven’t caught.”

THE TOOLS: GoPro Hero4 Silver mounted on a DJI Phantom 2 drone, ISO 100, f/2.8 lens, 1/1,000 second

Photo: Justin Lewis

During a ten-day trip through San Luis Potosi, Mexico, last February, Lewis, who lives in Fairfax, California, and his friend Michael Holland rappelled into this 300-foot-deep cave outside the Huastec village of La Laja. “It had been foggy all day, but it pulled back within moments of Mike unclipping from the rope,” says Lewis. “That was when I could really feel the scale of the cave. From the bottom, every sight and sound seemed larger than life.”

THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark II, 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 125, f/9, 1/3 second

Photo: Braden Gunem
Photo: Forest Woodward

In December 2013, Woodward rafted the Grand Canyon with his father, Doug, who had paddled the same stretch in a homemade kayak with a group of Explorer Scouts in 1970. Though camping restrictions are tighter now, and motorized rigs are more popular, the river hasn’t changed much. “Everything has been so incredibly preserved over the years,” says the Brooklyn, New York, photographer. “The height and colors of the cliffs evoke the same feeling of smallness for everyone, no matter the age.”

THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark III, 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 100, 1/4,000 second

Photo: Andrew Peacock

Last October, Peacock and his wife, Sabina, traveled from Santa Barbara, California, to Yosemite with plans to climb the steep south-to-north traverse of Matthes Crest, a fin of granite that tops out at 10,918 feet. Due to strong winds, however, they opted to hike a mellower portion. That didn’t stop Sabina from walking out onto an exposed platform. “The thought of being blown off the ridge at any moment didn’t appeal to us,” says the photographer. “But she’s solid on her feet. Having an ex-professional ballerina for a wife has its advantages.”

THE TOOLS: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-105mm f/4 lens, ISO 160, 5/6.3, 1/2,000 second

Photo: Elliott Bernhagen

After four days of climbing in Utah’s Zion National Park last November, Bernhagen, who lives in Sandpoint, Idaho, took a rest day at a nearby house with views of the park’s iconic sandstone spires. He was supposed to be taking it easy, but instead the photographer drove back to the park just before sunset and sprinted up a hill, hoping to capture 1,488-foot Angels Landing, a desert cliff in the middle of Zion Canyon. Explains Bernhagen: “When the light is that good, you’ve got to go for it.”

THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark III, 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 200, f/9, 1/100 second

Photo: Chris Burkard

Burkard, who lives in San Luis Obispo, California, traveled to Yosemite last October to hike 4,800-foot Half Dome but made a detour to Glacier Point Road, where the dome suddenly comes into view after a series of undulating curves. The 16-mile road is closed in winter, due to snow, but on this particularly quiet autumn afternoon it made a perfect surface for skateboarder Anders Johnson to carve up. “It’s fine to see Yosemite from your car,” says the 29-year-old photographer, “but I’m always looking for new ways to experience it. This was one of those moments.”

THE TOOLS: Sony Alpha a6000, 24mm f/1.8 lens, ISO 160, f/1.8, 1/200 second

Photo: Cody Tuttle

Last September, Cody Tuttle captured Yosemite native Lonnie Kauk on the Bachar-Yerian route, halfway up 9,900-foot Medlicott Dome, a wall of granite in Tuolumne Meadows, California.“It’s one of the scariest climbs in Yosemite,” says Tuttle, who traveled to the park from nearby Mammoth Lakes, where he lives, and rappelled down to Kauk as he worked through the second, most daunting pitch. “There were moments when there was no room for error, and Lonnie was either going to take a 100-foot fall or press through. But he kept his cool.”

THE TOOLS: Canon 5D MK III, 16–35mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 320, f/6.3, 1/400 second

Photo: John Wellburn

For ten days last May, Wellburn, who lives in Williams Lake, British Columbia, rode miles of unmapped trails in south Peru with professional mountain biker Chris Van Dine in order to find a new route to the Inca city of Choquequirao. Twenty-one miles from the ruins, the photographer turned back to see Van Dine on an opposing ledge, a few thousand feet above the Yanama River. “It was the only time the mists cleared that day,” says Wellburn. “Right away I knew this shot was unreal.”

THE TOOLS: Nikon D600, 16–35mm f/4 lens, ISO 320, f/5.6, 1/400 second

Photo: Dan Patitucci

Patitucci and professional climber Simon Duverney spent a day on the Greek island of Telendos last November, stopping at rarely visited Crystal Cave.“When we looked out from the back, we knew Simon had to climb it,” says the photographer, who lives in Interlaken, Switzerland. Duverney knocked out the route, 150 feet in the air, while Patitucci took this photo from another route. “He was only up there five minutes, but it turned out to be the best shot of the trip.”

THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark III, 16–35mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 640, f/5.6, 1/250 second

Photo: Nathaniel Wilder
Photo: Steve Rogers

Last October, after more than a year of preparation, Spanish kayaker Aniol Serrasolses paddled 115-foot Keyhole Falls, on the Lillooet River in British Columbia. Since the falls are blocked at the top by a narrow cataract, Serrasolses first had to rappel 300 feet from the top of the canyon, then wait until Rogers’s colleagues released a video drone from below, which was his signal to launch. “He took as good a line as you could possibly achieve,” says 38-year-old Rogers, who lives 70 miles south in Squamish. “It was a magic moment.”

THE TOOLS: Nikon D4, VR 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 800, f/7.1, 1/3,200 second

Photo: Matt Knighton

Last November, while riding with the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team during the nine-month Volvo Ocean Race, Knighton, who lives in Chicago, captured helmsman Adil Khalid as he was hit by an 18-foot wave 1,500 miles west of Cape Town, South Africa. That particular section of the South Atlantic is considered the coldest part of the race, with icy swells that drenched the crew every 20 seconds. “The timing of the shot had to be perfect, since a split second later I got wiped out as well,” Knighton says. “The waves were so cold, they literally took your breath away.”

THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark III, 8-15 mm f/4 lens, ISO 1,000, f/4, 1/2,000 second

Photo: Chris Burkard

During a two-week RV trip through the Canadian Rockies last September, Burkard, who lives in Pismo Beach, California, captured his friend Christian Fernandez standing on a ledge above 75-foot Athabasca Falls, in Jasper National Park, Alberta. “When I finally made it to the other edge of the cliff, he was just this little subject on a diving board,” says the 28-year-old photographer. “It was hard to do justice to how vast and wild the place is until that moment. That’s when it all came together.”

THE TOOLS: Sony A7S, 24-70mm f/4 lens, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/200 second

Photo: Tyler Roemer

Justin Noman, Pond Skim, Moraine, Lake, South Sister.

Photo: Christian Pondella

Last February, to capture pro climber Will Gadd as he established a new route on 462-foot Helmcken Falls, in British Columbia’s Wells Gray Provincial Park, Pondella rappelled from the edge of the chasm and dangled midair over the Murtle River. As temperatures approached 20 below, mist from the waterfall turned to ice. “I couldn’t see the bottom at first,” says the photographer, who lives in Mammoth Lakes, California. “I kept thinking to myself, If you fall, you’re going to just disappear forever.”

THE TOOLS: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens, ISO 800, f/7.1, 1/640 second

Photo: Eric Parker

In September 2014, Parker traveled by floatplane to Clendinning Lake, British Columbia, where he captured pro kayaker Nouria Newman running this Class V rapid on Clendinning Creek. “Right on the lake, there’s insanely steep whitewater,” says the photographer, who lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. “But the higher we hiked, the more we could see these perfectly sculpted granite waterfalls slowly being exposed. Nouria is one of the most talented kayakers on the planet, and a dramatic slide like this really shows what she can do.”

THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark III, 50mm f/1.4 lens, ISO 400, f/10, 1/2,500 second

Photo: Seth Warren
Photo: Jason Cohn

Growing up in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, Cohn says the Ironman World Championship has been an inescapable yearly event for as long as he can remember. But he had a new appreciation for the scale of the race after being invited to photograph the course from a helicopter in October. “From the air is the only way you can appreciate how vast it really is,” says Cohn, who took this shot, of a group of amateur competitors heading back from the halfway point on the Queen Kaahumanu Highway, before landing in Kona to watch the run. “Once you’ve seen the race that way,” he says, “it completely changes your perspective.”

THE TOOLS: Sony a7R, Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA lens, ISO 250, f/11, 1/400 second