Exposure

A Year in the Life of Pro Photographer Emily Polar

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Photo: Emily Polar

Most adventure photographers have an enviable travel schedule, and San Francisco–based Emily Polar is no exception. Enamored by India, having circled its borders on previous trips, Polar dedicated half of 2014 to the country, which she thinks of as “the grad school of travel.” A road trip from California to British Columbia, another through New Mexico and Colorado, and a few weeks in Sri Lanka and Bali topped off a year that would make anyone jealous. Here, Polar highlights a few of the best moments from a 2014 on the road.  

Photo: A group of young boys from a village outside Agra, India make the best of the fading light with a dusty cricket match. I could taste the dirt as it went up my nose and into my mouth. The kids and trees were covered in it but didn’t seem to mind.

Photo: Emily Polar

Agra is home to the Taj Mahal. Camels and their drivers walk the streets in search of passengers willing to pay for a ride. These streets are the perfect place to watch life go by.

Photo: Emily Polar

Dust sparkled in the early morning rays as the sun warmed our bare feet on the cool floors of the Taj Mahal mosque.

Photo: Emily Polar
Rafters go by as we stand on a cliff above the Ganges. Some yell and wave while others watch from shore. We jump with our hands in the air, screaming as we fall into the currents of the holy river.
Photo: Emily Polar
Nine floors up the Trayambakeshwar Temple in Rishikesh, I was waiting for my time-lapse while watching groups of Hindu families come and go to pray and make offerings. A large group of women rounded the corner in flurry of excitement and smiles. They gathered together and began asking for photos. Of course I took a couple shots and kept my camera handy, shooting as they left and walked down the stairs. One woman curiously trailed behind and smiled at me dearly.
Photo: Emily Polar
It was hot and dusty as I walked through a small desert village near Jaisalmer, India, when this man appeared. I froze in awe and fumbled for my camera before he stopped long enough for a few snaps of the shutter.
Photo: Emily Polar
We bouldered our way through the rolling landscape of the never-ending granite rock that stretches across Hampi in southern India. Morning and evenings were reserved for bouldering, and the midday heat was spent reading, slacklining, and hanging out with new friends.
Photo: Emily Polar
Our chosen mode of transportation on the dirt roads of Hampi. I considered it part of our warm-up: core, arms, and thighs! Dodging the road ruts while on the verge of falling over from laughing was half the fun.
Photo: Emily Polar
Lying on the warm rocks under the night sky while the fire warmed our toes and our friends played music.
Photo: Emily Polar
I got a quarter of the way across this bridge when I noticed a man below waving his hands, gesturing for me to come down. The bridge looked old and shaky, but I thought it looked sturdy enough to hold for at least one pass. Once I got down, a local boy crossed the bridge and nobody made a fuss.
Photo: Emily Polar
Chugging up the second-highest pass in the world, Taglang La, we rode behind the bike shuttle as it made its way to the top. Reaching 17,500 feet in elevation, this is a rough and dusty road where adventure means horns, exhaust, dirt, and altitude.
Photo: Emily Polar
A break along the road can be an opportunity to catch your breath and watch people fly. It’s a sweet thing even if you’re 18 hours into the bumpiest trip over mountain passes in northern India.
Photo: Emily Polar
On watch in Bali, waiting for the best time to paddle out. A popular way to pass time on the cliffsides of Bingin Beach.
Photo: Emily Polar
In Oregon, a dirt road shortcut didn’t lead me to the waterfall I was looking for. The more I drove past “No Trespassing” signs and metal gates pierced with bullet holes, the more uncomfortable I got. Like any good horror movie, I got out of my car to look around before getting spooked and driving away. It wasn’t long before I decided I had to go back. I parked at the same spot and set up my tripod and timer to shoot every two seconds. After I captured this shot, I felt like I got away with something and hopped into my car with a smile.
Photo: Emily Polar
Green, lush, and alive. I love Oregon.
Photo: Emily Polar
In Sedona, Arizona, we made it up the trail just in time to play along this amazing rock bridge in the final minutes of sunlight.
Photo: Emily Polar
Joshua Tree, California, and a slice of Americana. I stop in the national park and nearby town whenever I have the chance. I’m convinced there is some sort of magic in those rocks and trees.
Photo: Emily Polar
We pulled into World’s End in Sri Lanka’s Horton Plains National Park early one morning when this deer approached our car. I rolled down the window and took a few photos as he seemed ready to start a conversation.

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