What It Took to Capture These Wild Adventure Photos
A few of our favorite adventure photographers share the behind-the-scenes tales of their legendary pictures
In 2010, Wright wanted an aerial photo of a BASE jumper leaping from Moab’s 400-foot Castleton Tower. She couldn’t afford to charter a helicopter, and the era of drones hadn’t yet begun. So she enlisted the help of a few friends and a local motorized-parachute pilot. Wright formulated a plan with jumpers Michael Tomchek and Mick Knurbin the night before and was in radio contact with them just prior to her takeoff. But once in the air, the noise from the chute’s engine made communication impossible. “It’s hilarious to look back on how chaotic it was,” says Wright. “It was sheer luck that Michael leaped as we flew past the tower.”
Ozturk went to Bears Ears National Monument in 2018, shortly after the Trump administration drastically reduced the monument’s size and opened much of the area to oil and gas interests. Ozturk attached a Sony A7 to the wingtip of pilot Chris Dahl-Bredine’s propeller-powered hang glider, and they took off just as the sun rose. “It was our dream to get a shot from above,” says Ozturk, visible in orange behind Dahl-Bredine. “We wanted to help put a face to the name and add to the narrative on why we should respect and protect this place.”
Professional climbers are not models, which is why Kahler has become accustomed to directing his subjects in order to get interesting images. But during a three-day trip to Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in 2016, climber Nina Williams scurried up the highball boulder Plumber’s Crack on a whim. “It wasn’t planned at all,” Kahler says. “Just a candid, relaxed moment. You can get that with Nina. She does everything so naturally.”
There’s an old mountaineering saw: the summit is only the halfway point. In 2018, Hesser made an attempt on the east face of Aguja de l’S (far left), on Patagonia’s Cerro Fitz Roy ridgeline, with his girlfriend, Martina Tibell, and friend Bud Miller. On the way back, the river crossing had become treacherous. “Conditions in Patagonia are constantly in flux,” Hesser says, “and the river was much higher.” As he framed the shot, he also prepared to jump in should his friends lose their footing. Luckily, they crossed without incident.