Wednesday, 31 July 2013


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10 Surprisingly Dangerous Animals
By Ron Harlan,
Listverse, 31 July 2013.

Some wild animals aren’t considered dangerous creatures, but sometimes even stereotyped as friendly. Other animal aggressors are so familiar that we may never consider how dangerous these common creatures can become. (They’re called “wild” animals for a reason, right?)

10. Leave It To Beaver

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Beavers are widely recognized for their nearly human skill at felling trees and manipulating waterways. These giant rodents possess sharp, always-growing front teeth. Their massive incisors act like living saws on trees, but we seldom imagine beavers as a threat to humans. However, beavers are territorial and defensive, and they will not hesitate to use their teeth.

As once-depleted beaver populations recover across Europe, the animals are faced with limited habitat and widespread human settlement. The overlap in territory is causing an increasing number of confrontations with humans. In addition to a string of injuries, a fisherman in Belarus bled to death when a beaver chomped down on his leg, severing an artery. The man had previously attempted to grab the animal to pose beside it for a photo, as if it were just another fishing catch - bad move.

9. A Whale Of A Tale

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We usually reserve a level of respect for marine mammals due to their awesome power and size, but we don’t consider them mean-spirited. The short-finned pilot whale, actually a large dolphin, stands out as a fearsome exception to the rule. Resembling a small sperm whale, it has a personality worthy of the Herman Melville novel.

This sea animal is notorious among marine biologists as a dolphin that has a problem with us. Short-finned pilot whales may display scary behaviours such as jaw snapping when encountering humans. The pilots aren’t bluffing, either. In one disturbing case, a pilot whale broke away from the pod and seized a swimmer by the thigh before dragging her 10 meters (33 ft) below the waves. The swimmer was eventually released - fortunate to survive the near drowning.

8. Deer

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We tend to think of deer as harmless herbivores; however, diet has absolutely nothing to do with personality. Plant-eating ungulates possess powerful hooves and massive antlers that can inflict grievous wounds on those who cross a territorial deer. Encounters with wild deer have resulted in humans being charged in the most random and unexpected circumstances, such as one women who was waiting for a bus.

While wild deer attacks have led to serious injuries and even death, human interactions with supposedly “tame” deer have led to equally devastating attacks. In one high-profile case, a Canadian man who owned 11 white-tailed deer was trampled and gored to death by the dominant buck. Deer have social orders of dominance and high mating aggression - just like wolves - and will protect their young in a manner worthy of a mother bear.

7. Red Fox

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Wolves get all the blame and trigger unparalleled levels of fear, but a smaller canine may actually pose more of a threat to humans. The red fox is widely considered cunning, but disturbingly, young humans may be treated as potential prey. Foxes may even invade human dwellings to stalk their victims. In a freakish case, two nine-month-olds were attacked while sleeping in their crib and suffered arm injuries. As if that weren’t enough, an infant had his finger bitten off by an aggressive fox in a similar incident. Fortunately, doctors were able to restore the digit.

6. Raccoon

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We may be inclined to view raccoons as adorable troublemakers, but these small carnivores launch attacks more like a miniature bear. Raccoons are somewhat doglike animals native to the Americas and have adapted with exceptional success to urban environments. With powerful teeth and razor-sharp claws, habituated raccoons can inflict terrible injuries on both humans and pets. In one of the worst recorded cases, an American woman was badly mauled when a pack of raccoons viciously attacked her. She sustained numerous bites that required staples and anti-rabies injections. In a more recent case, a Canadian city-dweller was charged by a raccoon, which raked her legs with its claws before it was scared off.

5. Red-Backed Jumping Spider

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The red-backed jumping spider, an arachnid native to Western North America sports a compact, rounded body with a red abdomen. This species can move at seemingly impossible speeds and, if disturbed, will not hesitate to inflict an exceptionally nasty bite, causing massive swelling and intense pain that may last for several days. Red-backed jumping spiders exhibit excellent memory for an arachnid and possess outstanding stalking abilities.

4. Catfish Sting

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Many freshwater catfish such as stonecats or madtoms possess razor-sharp spines that inject potent toxins into its prey. The “stingers” are modified dorsal fins. A wide range of nasty aftereffects include swelling, irritation, and even nausea or weakness for several days. In a limited number of terrifying cases, tissue necrosis and gangrene developed, requiring amputation of digits.

3. Parrot Bites

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Parrots are extraordinarily intelligent tropical birds that are also stereotyped as companions of eyepatch-wearing pirates, but in reality, parrot ownership might place you in the market for an eyepatch. Large parrots - such as Amazons, African greys, or macaws - possess extremely powerful bills, capable of removing digits. They are sometimes prone to hostile behaviour, which can be directed to the owner. Parrot owners have reported injuries including lost eyes and even amputated fingers. There are also reports of traumatic lip wounds, partial ear lobe loss, and serious facial damage. Fortunately, sound bird-handling practices will usually prevent injury.

2. Wild Geese

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Wild geese, especially Canada geese, have become increasingly accustomed to urban ponds and golf courses and are often more numerous in these human environments than their original habitats. However, geese that abandon their wild habitats maintain their territorial nature, leading to potential conflicts with humans. Canada geese attacks have led to broken bones, head injuries, and flesh wounds.

1. Hyenas

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Credit: Ikiwaner/Wikimedia Commons

Being attacked by a hyena might be the worst way to have your day (or life) ruined. Africa’s most abundant large carnivore, striped hyenas possess truly astounding biting power. Contrary to their portrayal as slinking scavengers, hyenas are top predators and aggressive territory defenders that won’t hesitate to attack live victims. Targets sometimes include humans - to horrendous results. One case involved a university student who was killed and eaten, with only his skull and some teeth remaining.

[Source: Listverse. Edited.]


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The World's Biggest Islands
By Elizabeth Howell,
Live Science, 30 July 2013.

Find out what island stands as the world's biggest, and how the isolation of islands can yield spectacular arrays of endemic species.

Big Islands

Earth's biggest islands have various origins. Some of them were part of larger continents that broke apart. Others formed at the boundary between tectonic plates, or rose in an area of intense volcanic activity.

Their isolation from the mainland provides opportunities to study unique kinds of wildlife, as well as to see how climate change affects a smaller area. Read more about the 10 largest islands and their geological origins in this slideshow.

10. Ellesmere Island

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75,767 square miles (196,236 square km)

Ellesmere Island is Canada's third-largest Arctic island. The region is mostly mountainous, with some of its tallest peaks covered by ice caps that themselves generate glaciers that flow into the sea, according to the University of Guelph. The island, as well as the region around it, was shaped by a massive glacial ice sheet that covered Canada during the last ice age.

Much of the island is carved by fjords, while the northern coast is dominated by the ice as well as the Mountains of Grant Land, sedimentary rocks that are about 100,000 years old, according to the Canadian Encyclopaedia.

9. Victoria Island

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83,896 square miles (217,291 square km)

Victoria Island, Canada's second-largest, lies in the Arctic Island region of the country. Like much of the surrounding area, the island was underneath a vast glacial sheet during the last ice age and is still the site of a lot of ice today. Given its remote location in the north, the island is not very populated and is mostly an area of windswept tundra.

The bulk of the island is made up of sedimentary rock, according to the Canadian Encyclopaedia, but there is a portion with Precambrian rock that is lined with copper, a resource frequently used by a band of Inuit, or aboriginals, in the region. Glacial areas on the island are complex due to the island's variable geology: it includes a large river (Kuujjua), mountains and cliffs.

Victoria Island is also the site of the world's largest island-in-a-lake-on-an-island-in-a-lake-on-an-island. The tiny sub-sub-sub-island is unnamed and has likely never been visited by humans, given that Victoria Island has a population of just 2,000 people.

8. Great Britain

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88,150 square miles (228,300 square kilometres)*

Great Britain is a heavily settled island just northwest of the continent of Europe. However, as recently as 600 million years ago, what we now consider one island was separated into two parts that were very far apart, according to the BBC.

Scotland and northwestern Ireland were part of the Laurentia continent south of the equator, a portion of a large landmass that includes modern North America. Ireland, England and Wales were a part of Avalonia, a small continent (including today's Newfoundland) that was close to the Antarctic Circle.

The two continents gradually moved north over millions of years and merged in the supercontinent Pangaea. Later, Great Britain became a part of Europe and evolved into an island when sea levels rose.

*Including Ireland

7. Honshu

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87,992 square miles (227,898 square km)

Honshu is Japan's largest and most populated island, forming the bulk of Japan's landmass. Japan lies just east of North Korea and South Korea in the Sea of Japan. Honshu and the rest of Japan are part of a very active tectonic region called the Pacific Ring of Fire, the zone where about 90 percent of the world's earthquakes (and 80 percent of the biggest ones) occur.

While the area is heavily cultivated by human populations and agriculture, there are some prominent natural features on Honshu that host wildlife. Among them is the Shinano River, which is the longest in Japan, and the Japanese Alps.

Large earthquakes have been recorded throughout the history of human habitation on Honshu. Most recently, a devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake in March 2011 struck Japan from an origin close to Honshu. Ecologists are still determining the long-term impact on wildlife after a nuclear plant, which failed amid the earthquake and resulting tsunami, sent contaminated water into the ocean.

6. Sumatra

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185,635 square miles (480,793 square km)*

Sumatra, which is geographically a part of Indonesia, lies just below Malaysia in the Indian Ocean. The island is most famous for its volcanic activity. It has a dozen active volcanoes and 170 recorded eruptions since AD 1000, according to a 2004 presentation at the 32nd International Geological Congress on Cenozoic volcanic geology. In the region, the famous explosion of Krakatoa volcano in 1883 destroyed an island that was there at the time.

The region's active tectonics also gave rise to an unusual earthquake in 2012, when the quake actually moved across four faults, including three that are perpendicular to each other. The strike-slip earthquake, which occurs when parts of Earth's crust glide along each other horizontally, generated an 8.6-magnitude quake in the seafloor just west of Sumatra.

Through plate tectonics, Sumatra came to be at the boundary of two tectonic plates: the Indian/Australian plate that is just southwest of the island, and the Eurasian plate upon which Sumatra and neighbouring islands sit.

*Figure includes adjoining islands

5. Baffin Island

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195,928 square miles (507,451 square km)

Baffin Island, in the far north of Canada, is part of the Arctic Archipelago. The island is the largest in Canada and the fifth-largest in the world. Much of the island is covered in thick glacier ice, but that is melting away due to climate change. At least one Canadian study has identified the island as a potential resource for mining, particularly for precious metals, base metals and diamonds.

The island contains both isolated glaciers and an ice cap, that is a leftover of the Laurentide ice sheet, a massive ice block that extended over most of Canada during the last ice age.

Baffin Island is of particular interest to climatologists because it has shown how ice sheets expand and retract in response to temperature changes. Glaciers in the Arctic, including in Baffin Island, expanded quickly during a cooling event 8,200 years ago, that only took place over 150 years. Temperatures dropped 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius) in just 20 years during that period.

4. Madagascar

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226,658 square miles (587,041 square km)

Madagascar lies just off the southeastern coast of Africa. It has been separated from the coast for about 88 million years, but underwent a complex geologic history before it broke off.

About 170 million years ago, Madagascar was part of the huge supercontinent Gondwana, according to the University of California, Berkeley's Museum of Palaeontology. As the Earth's crust shifted, Madagascar (which was then attached to India) separated from Africa and South America, then from Australia and Antarctica. Eventually, India crashed into Asia and created the Himalayas. Madagascar was left on its own in the Indian Ocean.

Because of its long isolation, a wide array of unique creatures evolved on Madagascar, making it one of the most bio-diverse places on Earth. More than 80 percent of the island's species are found nowhere else. Extensive deforestation is wreaking havoc with the biosphere on Madagascar, but conservationists are making efforts to help. Some researchers are suggesting that tortoises be imported on to the island to replace extinct ones. However, other species - such as the island's palm trees - are still facing extinction.

3. Borneo

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292,000 square miles (755,000 square km)

Borneo lies in the South China Sea in between Singapore/Malaysia on the west, Indonesia on the east, and the Philippines to the northeast. The island itself is divided between several countries.

The island is particularly noted for its primates, as it is host to at least 10 primate species, according to Ohio's Miami University's earth exhibitions program.

The orangutan has caught the attention of conservationists since it is rapidly losing its habitat, and only lives on Borneo and Sumatra. A "secret population" of orangutans was discovered on Borneo in 2013.

While Borneo is surrounded by water now, for much of the Tertiary period (from 65 million years ago to about 1.6 million years ago), it was likely connected to the Southeast Asian mainland, according to the World Wildlife Federation. Changes in Earth's tectonic plates about three million years ago caused Borneo to break off the larger land mass.

2. New Guinea

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309,000 square miles (800,000 square km)

New Guinea lies just north of Australia and is split into two different countries: Papua (the Indonesian region of the island, in the west) and Papua New Guinea in the east, an independent country since 1975.

The island is a hotbed of volcanic activity, particularly when it comes to Ulawan, a volcano located on Papua New Guinea's New Britain Island. Due to its closeness to human settlements, the nearly 1.5-mile-high (2.3 km) volcano was declared a "decade volcano" by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior. (This designation means it is one of 16 volcanoes worth further study due to its eruptive history and proximity to people.) That volcano alone levelled the city of Rabaul twice, in 1937 and 1994, according to the CIA World Factbook.

New Guinea is quite young, geographically speaking, because it was formed in the area between two tectonic plates: one belonging to the Pacific Ocean, and the other a part of the ancient continent of Australia, according to the Embassy of Papua New Guinea to the Americas in Washington, D.C.

Its volcanic and seismic activity arises from this combating plates, which also make it part of the "Ring of Fire" that circles the Pacific Rim.

New Guinea is also a place of spectacular biodiversity and unique creatures, many of which have only recently been discovered.

1. Greenland

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836,330 square miles (2,166,086 square kilometres)

Greenland is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean just east of the Arctic islands of North America, and west of Iceland. The island, in fact, is connected to North America through a submarine ridge about 600 feet (180 meters) underneath the water. Greenland is considered a part of the Canadian Shield, which is a vast area made up of some of the oldest rocks on Earth.

The island is perhaps best known for a huge ice sheet that, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, is only dwarfed by Antarctica in physical size. With an average thickness of 5,000 feet (1,500 meters), the ice sheet lies over more than four-fifths of Greenland's area. As snow falls on the sheet, the ice layers compress and form glaciers that flow out to sea. Jakobshavn Glacier, considered one of the fastest-moving glaciers globally, moves 100 feet (30 meters) daily.

Scientists are currently keeping a close eye on the island for how climate change is affecting the ice. Right now, the picture is mixed: An April 2013 study suggested that future ice melting may slow due to narrow fjords that block ice flow, and other natural processes, but a March 2013 study suggests that isolated glaciers are melting quickly.

[Source: Live Science. Edited.]


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Extreme Photo of the Week
National Geographic, 28 July 2013.

1. Ski Touring the Ruth Gorge, Denali National Park, Alaska

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“The slope below us had some avalanche potential, so we had regrouped to assess it,” recalls ski mountaineer Andrew McLean, seen here with Noah Howell and Mark Holbrook on a final descent back to camp after a long ski tour in the Ruth Gorge area of Denali National Park. “I ended up going first but did so very cautiously by ski-cutting the slope and trying to get it to slide. There was some surface sluff but not much else."

“The Ruth Gorge is an incredibly scenic place with tons of climbing history and iconic peaks - Moose’s Tooth, Bear’s Tooth, Dickey, Huntington, and more - all packed into one tight area. It is also very easy to get to," says McLean when recalling the ten-day exploratory trip. "In terms of ski mountaineering, it is kind of all or nothing - either flat or vertical, which makes it a tough place to ski. Still, in the right conditions, there are some amazing lines in that area.” McLean moved to Park City, Utah, 25 years ago. He has made steep, remote first ski descents on all seven continents.

Getting the Shot

“It was cold, definitely the most sustained cold I have ever dealt with,“ says photographer Garrett Grove. Throughout the trip the temperature hovered below zero, reaching minus 25°F at night.

Anticipating the challenge of working in such frigid conditions, Grove gathered tips from long-time ski photographers Jordan Manley and Christian Pondella before the expedition. “The two essential tips were: Keep your camera bodies and lenses outside in the cold but sleep with all and any batteries," says Grove. "Every night my camera and lenses would just sit out there, and I would nestle in with about five to six batteries, a hot Nalgene of water, and my ski-boot liners.”

2. Surfing at Teahupo'o, Tahiti, French Polynesia

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“While surfing you see so many different angles of the waves,” says Aussie Mick Fanning, seen here on the world-class surf break Teahupo'o off Tahiti. “Jon [Frank, the photographer] really captured one of those moments with this shot.” Fanning won the Billabong Pro Tahiti in 2012 and is currently training for this year’s competition at the legendary surf break in August.

“Teahupo'o is one of the heaviest, most perfect barrels in the world,” says Fanning. “There is so much adrenaline flowing through the body - it's very high energy.”

Getting the Shot

“Shooting from the water is my preferred perspective because there is a much greater chance of capturing something unusual and unexpected than when shooting from the beach or from a boat,” recalls photographer Jon Frank, who had arrived with long-time friend Fanning in Tahiti two weeks before the surfing world tour competition in 2009 to test the waves at the famed Teahupo'o surf break. “There is a much higher risk you may not be in the optimum position for the best wave of the day or might miss the best action altogether, but I firmly believe that low risk equals low reward.”

To capture this unusual composition, Frank had a bit of luck and great placement in the water. “There is a very tight window of opportunity with a picture like this; everything is moving so quickly. There is certainly some luck involved. It makes up for the other one hundred times that I have just missed out on the peak moment because my timing was off by a tenth of a second,” says Frank.

Frank photographed with a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III and a 15mm lens.

3. Kayaking Over Santuario Waterfall, Amazonas, Brazil

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Getting the Shot

“Santuario is definitely not your average waterfall,” says kayaker and photographer Chris Korbulic. “It almost seemed like a waterfall M.C. Escher would dream up, with different channels and water coming out of the walls.” Korbulic and long-time kayaking partner Ben Stookesberry, pictured here going over Bazil's Santuario waterfall, spent seven weeks exploring the waterfalls and rivers of Brazil, Venezuela, and Guyana.

In order to get this shot while helping Stookesberry set up at the waterfall's lip, Korbulic used a remote camera. “I needed to be over at the lip with Ben to help secure his entry into the water, but I didn't want to give up this shot," says Korbulic. "So I left the camera on a tripod, tied it to some slick roots hanging over the falls, and brought my remote shutter release and another camera out to the lip."

The region had been hit by heavy rainfall, and the brown water thrashing below the falls prevented the kayakers from knowing what what was beneath the water's surface. “As Ben went over the lip the front of his boat caught a rock edge, stalled his forward momentum, and sent him barrelling upside down into a pretty awful looking cauldron,” recalls Korbulic. “After Ben came out safely, I was almost just as worried that my camera didn't fire as I had been about Ben! I rushed over and checked my camera to find what would be my favourite shot from the trip, setting a great precedent for the next six weeks of travel.”

4. Cycling Corsica, Tour de France

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Spain's Alberto Contador, centre in blue and yellow, speeds down Vizzavona pass, which runs between Corsica's Monte d'Oro and Monte Renoso, during the second stage of the 100th Tour de France on Sunday, June 30. Stretching over 156 kilometres (97.5 miles), this stage starts in Bastia and finishes in Ajaccio, Corsica. This year marked the first time the tour route included the mountainous French island.

5. Night Surfing at Keramas, Bali, Indonesia

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“It was quite weird surfing with the lights blaring in my eyes,” says Australian surfer Adam Melling, seen here night surfing during a non-competitive expression session at the Keramas wave break off Bali. “All you can see is what’s on the top of the water. It’s hard to tell where the reef is shallow.”

The Oakley Pro Bali was held here June 18 to 29, 2013, because it is a great wave for high-performance surfing, allowing for aerial moves, big turns, and getting barrelled. But surfing the break in darkness is a different challenge. “It was hard to see the waves coming - they just pop up in front of you, then you got to swing and go. If you look into the lights you go blind until your eyes adjust again.”

The stadium-style lights illuminating the scene attracted an unexpected surfing spectator - bats. “There where a bunch of bats flying around the lights,” recalls Melling. “I don’t want to know if anything else was drawn to the lights in the water bellow.”

Getting the Shot

“We were not able to see any of the waves coming at us in the night,” says Russ Hennings, head photographer for the Oakley Pro. “Being in the spot to obtain the photos put us in a very dangerous place.”

Shooting from a Jet Ski, in the dark, Hennings and the water patrol put their experience to the test. “There were waves breaking in different spots and in different sizes,” recalls Hennings. “Several times we were caught off guard and had to bail from our position to avoid the breaking waves.”

Hennings decided to push the limits of his Canon 1DX and rely solely on the ambient light from massive stadium lights, set up at the nearby hotel. “The lighting was very difficult to capture. I was limited to my exposure and film speed. I was able to push the ISO 12800. I have never used this setting before, but the conditions forced me to it. I was really quite happy with the results.”

Hennings photographed with a Canon 1DX and a Canon 70-200mm, f/2.8 L series lens.

6. Windsurfing on the Pistol River, Oregon, USA

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"I remember being really cold, but I wanted to get a few more moments in with the helicopter before the sun set," says windsurfer Levi Siver, who was shooting for the upcoming film WindBoost. "I felt very blessed sailing late into the sunset having that beautiful canvas behind me."

Located a six-hour drive from Portland, this coastal spot is always windy and picks up swell from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. "It's a pretty remote place, but windsurfers from around the world have been coming here for decades," Siver says.

"Using the wind as your energy, you end up riding five times as many waves as you would surfing," notes Siver, who lives in Maui. "It used to bother me that mainstream America is so out of touch with how progressive the level of windsurfing is now. But popularity means more crowds, which equals less fun."

Getting the Shot

“I shot over 800 images in an hour while in the helicopter,” says adventure photographer Michael Clark, who got this image while on assignment for Red Bull. “With such high winds, the helicopter gets buffeted around quite a bit. Just keeping the windsurfer in the frame can be difficult at times."

A veteran of photographing from a helicopter, Clark worked closely with the pilot. “Cody, of Apex Helicopters, was an excellent pilot and was able to get us down low, only ten feet off the water, and moving at the same speed as the windsurfer.”

As Siver aimed for the highest windsurfing jump, Clark kept shooting. "It was incredible to see him go to work, and his windsurfing abilities were absolutely incredible to watch,” Clark says.

Clark photographed with a Nikon D4 and a Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm, f/2.8G ED VRII lens.

7. Biking the Mama Rumi Trail, Ecuador

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“Decades of foot traffic have worn a path deep into the hillside in some areas that is part foliage tunnel, part natural half pipe," says adventure photographer Dan Barham of the Mama Rumi Trail in Ecuador. "It makes for a lot of fun on a bike."

Jorge Perez, owner of the Ecuadorian tour company Tierra del Volcan, originally ignited Barham’s interest, and the photographer headed down the mountain with local rider Fercho Gaibor (pictured). “Jorge spoke of a trail that was originally an alcohol bootlegging route that had been rediscovered and cleared by the local trail builders,” recalls Barham.

The trail winds down the mountain and through a banana plantation, ending in Telimbela in the Bolivar region. “The trail goes through different climate zones throughout its relatively short course - from high mountain forest through rain forest and ending in a banana plantation,” says Barham.

Barham photographed with a Canon 1D Mark IV and Canon 14mm, f/2.8 L II lens.

8. Climbing New Routes Along the Green River, Utah, USA

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“Just being in a remote place with good friends and learning something new was an unforgettable experience,” says climber Daniel Woods, seen here on an unknown route in Labyrinth Canyon along Utah's Green River. “My goal on this trip was to learn how to trad climb and go into the unknown,” says Woods, whose background is in bouldering, sport, and competition climbing. “The feeling of being a beginner again was humbling, but I had some of the best to teach me - Matt Segal, Alex Honnold, John Dickey, and Renan Ozturk - and they did just that.”

With learning to climb comes learning to fall. “The best part of the trip for me was falling on double 00 TCUs [protective gear placed in the rock] for the first time," recalls Woods, who lives in Boulder, Colorado. "As I was falling, I placed my hands over my head in mid-air, just waiting for the gear to rip and for me to hit the ground. Luckily, the pieces held and I survived.”

Getting the Shot

“You could set up just about anywhere and have a great adventure,” says adventure photographer and climber Celin Serbo of this journey along Utah's Green River. The team kayaked the river and concentrated on two areas Serbo had climbed and scouted on the previous trip. “We were looking for a high concentration of unclimbed routes per location. Photographically, I wanted to highlight the routes these guys put up, while giving it a scene of place.”

Looking to capture the canyon and river, Serbo set up on a nearby pillar to shoot Woods. He had to battle dust and limited light due to narrow canyon walls. “When the light was really good on the canyon rim…we were completely in the shade. This affected timing for shooting and gave us roughly an hour in the morning and evening of great light,” he says.

Serbo photographed with a Nikon D800 and a f/4,16-35mm lens.

9. Climbing in the Verdon Gorge, France

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"This particular area is accessed via kayak because of the immense canyon walls - it's the only way in. It’s a pretty special approach," says climber Jonathan Siegrist, seen here about 225 feet above the Verdon River in France’s Verdon Gorge. The canyon, considered one of the most beautiful in Europe, is not far from the French Riviera and is popular with tourists - and rock climbers.

"This is an amazing route in a very unique cave hidden low in the gorge,” says Siegrist. “The route begins with some very overhanging and gymnastic climbing through mostly good holds, then it pulls the roof and finishes on this immaculate headwall of blue limestone." Siegrist, who lives out of his van parked mostly in Colorado, has been climbing for the last nine years. "This was the first hard route I have climbed in Europe on my first European climbing trip," recalls Siegrist. "Hopefully I’ll be back when the water is warm enough to jump in!"

Getting the Shot

"It was one of the most spectacular canyons I've ever shot climbing in, perfect in every way,” says globe-trotting adventure photographer Keith Ladzinski. Ladzinski headed to Verdon Gorge with climbers Siegrist and Nina Caprez to explore the roots of French sport climbing.

"When I first saw this cave I knew immediately that it was going to yield a pretty wild top-down perspective," recalls Ladzinski. The trio kayaked to the location, and Ladzinki set up above Siegrist, who had hung a static line from nearby anchors. “It gave the ultimate bird’s-eye perspective of the route he was trying. I used a basic pair of extended painter's poles to boom out from the wall to get the shot - it was an exciting perch."

After returning to their boat they discovered the boat had a hole. “We rowed hard - and laughed harder - and were only mere inches from the surface of the water when we got back to the shoreline,” says Ladzinski. "I thought we were going to have to swim and that would be bad for all of the camera gear in the boat! That sort of adventure makes it a better memory somehow, you laugh about it while it's happening - and for years to come. In some ways, it’s the best part of the job."

Ladzinski photographed with a Nikon D4 and a 14-24mm, f/2.8 lens.

10. Skiing South Bowl, Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada

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“Despite all the risks, nothing in the world can compare to the elation that comes from the mix of extreme joy, adrenaline, and exhilaration you feel when you ski away from a trick like this,” says freeskier Carter McMillan, seen here doing a backflip among the “snow ghosts,” trees coated in rime crystals due to high humidity and sub-zero temperatures, in-bounds near South Bowl at Revelstoke Mountain Resort.

While ski touring, McMillan and friends hiked 30 minutes up from the highest traverse in South Bowl to make sure they were alone. “Revelstoke has a perfect combination of incredibly deep snowfalls, endless and easily accessible backcountry terrain, and a dedicated group of riders and friends to shred with,” says McMillian, a Calgary, Canada, native who skied on the last three Freeride World Tours. “I have skied all over North America and have never found better extreme skiing training grounds than we have here in Revy.”

Getting the Shot

“It was one of the standout days of the season, for sure,” recalls photographer Ryan Creary. Shooting in Revelstoke’s backcountry, near Mount Mackenzie, Creary and McMillan found themselves with a perfect day for playing in Revelstoke’s powder-covered terrain. “There are typically only a handful of sunny days in Revelstoke, so any day the forecast is for sun, I try to get out to shoot.”

Snow ghost trees dot the alpine slopes and Creary used them to frame his photo. “Those trees added depth and texture to the image. I set up on the side of the cliff band, and to the side of McMillan, so I could showcase his amplitude and keep the background nice and clean.” The duo shot this flip before sunset crept in. “He stomped the flip clean, first go, and I was stoked with the image,” says Creary.

Creary photographed with a Canon 7D and Canon 15mm, f/2.8 fisheye lens.

[Source: National Geographic. Edited.]


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10 Best Leap Motion Apps
By Lisa Eadicicco,
Laptop, 29 July 2013.

The Leap Motion controller may sound like a gadget from the fictional world of Minority Report, but its Airspace store is filled with nearly very-real 100 apps and games aimed at bringing gesture controls to everyday computing. Available for Windows and Mac, the US$79.99 Leap Motion peripheral uses two cameras and three infrared LED lights to track your hand’s movements, allowing you to control your laptop with a simple flick of the wrist.

Since the app store is so new, it can be hard to distinguish the smooth and intuitive apps from the buggy applications that still need some work. After perusing through Airspace, here are some must-have apps to help you make the most of your Leap Motion controller.

1. Sugar Rush (US$1.99, Windows and Mac)

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Whether or not you’re a fan of Pixar’s “Wreck It Ralph,” “Sugar Rush” is one of the most impressive games we’ve seen for the Leap Motion yet. The cart racer requires you to hold both hands above the Leap Motion as if you’re grasping a virtual steering wheel and tilt from left to right to steer your vehicle. Since the Leap Motion’s gesture controls vary between apps, each game has its own learning curve, but we find Sugar Rush’s to be among the most responsive and intuitive.

2. PhotoScape (US$1.99, Windows and Mac)

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An app like PhotoScape reminds you that the Leap Motion is for so much more than just casual games. PhotoScape allows you to explore various photo feeds on the Web such as Flickr, Instagram and Tumblr through a 3-D gesture-optimized interface.

We’re not just talking about scrolling up and down through your feed, however. PhotoScape presents images in a variety of templates, but our favourite one arranges images in a three-dimensional virtual collage that you can explore by pointing and swiping toward the screen. Paired with a dark night sky-themed backdrop, it looks as if you’re navigating through a universe of photos.

3. Touchless for Windows and Mac (Free, Windows and Mac)

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Just likes its name implies, these apps let you navigate your laptop using gesture controls. The two separate apps, Touchless for Windows and Touchless for Mac, run in your notebook’s system tray and can be enabled by right-clicking the corresponding icon. We preferred Touchless for Windows simply because the Windows 8 interface is better optimized for gesture controls, but both apps were equally responsive.

4. NYTimes for Leap Motion (Free, Windows and Mac)

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The New York Times app for the Leap Motion turns your desktop into a full-screen news hub. With a wave of your hand, you can browse through the Times’ top stories for the day without worrying out a pay wall. Twirling your fingertip lets you scroll up or down when reading a story, which can be dismissed by shaking your hand.

The New York Times app demonstrates the potential for reader apps when it comes to gesture controls. We loved the easy-to-navigate interface and the way articles popped forward after selecting them.

5. The Power of Minus Ten (US$0.99, Windows and Mac)

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Science geeks are sure to love this one. The Power of Minus Ten lets you dive into the human body using dynamic 3D-based gesture controls. Pointing your finger toward the screen plunges you forward into the human body, letting you explore cells in the skin and their components.

Pointing at a certain component will pull up information about that specific part, and pulling your hand away from the computer will let you zoom out once again. We were impressed with the captivating science and education apps available for the Leap Motion, and the Power of Minus Ten is certainly among the best.

6. Cut the Rope (Free, Windows and Mac)

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If you thought playing “Cut the Rope” on your smartphone was fun, trying solving those puzzles with just a swipe of your finger. The game is by far one of the most responsive apps available for the Leap Motion, and the experience truly translates to the larger screen.

You can now play one of the world's top casual games, Cut the Rope, using gesture controls alone. Using slight movements, we pointed at areas on the screen with our index finger to navigate the screen and made unexaggerated slashing motions to cute the ropes. The app ran smoothly and wasn’t sluggish at all during our testing, which is a marked improvement from some other apps in Leap Motion’s burgeoning Airspace Store.

7. Corel Painter Freestyle (Free, Windows)

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This app utilizes the Leap Motion as a painting and drawing tool, allowing you to create hand-drawn images by tracing with your finger in front of the screen. Corel Freestyle Painter isn’t as complicated to use as apps that are targeted specifically at artists, such as the less intuitive Deco Sketch, but still comes with enough features to get creative.

The Leap Motion supports 10-finger gesture controls, allowing us to create drawings using multiple fingers at one time. With Corel Painter Freestyle, you can choose to sketch your own works from scratch or upload an existing image to make modifications.

8. Frog Dissection (US$3.99, Windows and Mac)

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As the name implies, Frog Dissection lets you virtually dissect a frog with step-by-step instructions to simulate the laboratory experience. Like “Cut the Rope,” Frog Dissection is one of the more polished Airspace apps with extremely responsive gesture controls. In addition to tearing open a virtual frog, the app also lets you explore the specimen’s internal organs in a 3D panoramic view by swirling your hand.

It may not be the most practical app  for everyday use, but Frog Dissection lands in our top picks for its well-designed interface, reactive motion controls and ability to showcase the educational potential of a device like the Leap Motion.

9. Unlock (Free, Windows)

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This almost seems like a no-brainer when it comes to gesture controls. Unlock allows you to wave your hand over the Leap Motion to gain access to your computer rather than having to type in a tangible password.

When setting up the app, Unlock requires you to perform a variety of different gestures and take a number of hand positions so it can create a detailed map of your fingerprints. During our testing, our Windows 8 notebook unlocked immediately after scanning our hand, but rejected a co-worker that tried to log on to the device.

10. Beautiful Chaos (US$1.99, Mac)

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Beautiful Chaos is one of the best visualize apps for the Leap Motion controller, allowing you to manipulate colourful entities on screen with both hands. One hand is used to control the coloured clouds while the other rotates the camera, taking full advantage of the Leap Motion’s dual cameras. We enjoyed watching colours blend together on screen as we moved our hand from side to side, especially when using full screen mode and hiding the mouse cursor and parameter icons.

[Source: Laptop. Edited. Links added.]