Thursday, 10 July 2014


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Extreme Photo of the Week
National Geographic, 9 July 2014.

See new extreme adventure photos each week featuring tips from your favourite athletes and photographers. And get the stories behind the shots.

1. Climbing the Great Arch, China

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“We all were absolutely shocked that this wall existed in nature!” recalls climber Matt Segal, seen here about 300 feet above the ground on the Nihao Wokepa route on the Great Arch in Getu, China. Segal, along with friends Emily Harrington and Cedar Wright, joined a National Geographic assignment with photographer Carsten Peter to investigate the region’s diverse karst rock formations for “Exploring China’s Caves” in the July edition of the magazine. “The climbing was very steep and physical - in fact, I think this is the most overhanging wall either Cedar or I has ever climbed.”

The protruding rock on the left side of the photo showcases one of the various rock formations they encountered - stalactites. “The majority of this climb was ‘wrestling’ with those stalactites!" says Segal. "Swinging from one to the next and wrapping your whole body around them is one of the most unique styles of climbing I’ve ever done."

See a video and read the magazine story.

2. Surfing the Wedge, California, USA

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“This particular wave didn't have much of a shoulder on it and was more of a closeout, so I was just trying to get out of its way,” recalls local surfer Bobby Okvist. “I try to surf the Wedge as much as I possibly can,” says the Newport Beach, California, native and resident seen here surfing the break. “It's my home spot, so when we get the right swell, it's the first place I check when I wake up.”

“The Wedge is actually known as a bodysurfing and bodyboarding wave, but on the right days it's very surfable,” says Okvist, who says this was the biggest day of 2013 for the break. “Usually the bigger it gets, the better it is for surfing.”

Getting the Shot

“The Wedge is one of my favourite surf breaks for its size, ferocity, danger, and the sheer craziness of it all,” says photographer Benjamin Ginsberg. Having photographed the Wedge in the past, Ginsberg knew where to set up to get his shot and stay safe at the dangerous break. “I knew my best chance for a dramatic image would be down the beach at an extreme angle, using a long lens.

It proved to be the right decision, as I was able to get the shot of a larger, dramatically pitching wave with Bobby very close to shore, and without a crowd of people or a dozen little cameras on extended poles poking back up and out through the wave face."

With a grey “June gloom” forecast for the day, Ginsberg photographed under less than ideal conditions. “The low cloud cover made for significant background noise and low light levels. It was exceedingly difficult to set the camera shutter at a speed that would freeze motion without producing grainy images," he says. "Fortunately, when the water was as clear as it was that day, the contrast between the colour of the breaking wave and steel grey sky helped create a striking composition."

Ginsberg photographed with a Nikon D300 and a Nikon 300mm, f/2.8 lens.

3. Climbing the Wendenstock, Interlaken, Switzerland

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Getting the Shot

“When we arrived at the parking lot, the face was completely in the clouds. We didn't really know how to get to the base,” recalls photographer Mikey Schaefer. Schaefer set out with climber Tommy Caldwell to tackle difficult routes in the Wendenstock area - pictured here is the Coelophysis route, rated 5.13c, in the Wendenstock crag. “The approaches in Wendenstock are pretty serious and fairly dangerous, so it took us some time to navigate to the start of the route safely. For a while, I didn't think we'd even be able to go climbing,” says Schaefer.

Luckily the weather was manageable, and the climbers set out to climb Coelophysis. “Thankfully for me, Tommy doesn't climb extremely fast. This gave me a lot of time to try different framing and angles. I had actually been struggling with the clouds most of the day, as they were so thick it was hard to see anything. I knew there was a chance I would get something really unique, but I wasn't getting my hopes up too high. An hour or so after I got this shot, it started to rain and we were all forced to go down,” says Schaefer. “I was a bit lucky - I got some shots in.”

Schaefer photographed with a Canon 5D Mark II camera and a 24-105mm, f/4 lens.

4. Skiing the Grand, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming,  USA

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“I think I'm on 17 or 18,” says Jimmy Chin of how many times he has skied the 13,776-foot Grand in the Tetons. “I lost count after 15 a couple years ago. There were a couple years while I was training to ski Everest when I would ski it three times a week.”

“I discovered and fell in love with skiing long before I started to climb. As a kid, I grew up skiing in jeans in Minnesota. Yup…I know…but I lived for it, and I still do,” says Chin, who now splits his time between Jackson, Wyoming, and New York City. “Jackson is totally incredible for skiing. Between the tram at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Teton Pass, and Grand Teton National Park, there is a lot of skiing to do - on piste, backcountry skiing, and ski mountaineering.”

“I was just stoked on life and to be up in the mountains with my friends,” recalls Chin of this moment. “It was a perfect day. We were all moving really well, comfortable with the terrain, and our timing was perfect. Conditions were great. I treasure and appreciate these kinds of moments more and more these days.”

Getting the Shot

“The biggest challenge while photographing this trip was just keeping up with Jimmy Chin. The dude is a beast,” recalls photographer Andy Bardon. Chin, known for his own stellar photography, was captured by Bardon in front of the camera this time. “This photo was made about 750 vertical feet below the summit of the Grand Teton. At this point we had climbed over ice bulges, bootpacked up steep couloirs, and ascended over 6,250 feet from the valley floor, so we were feeling it for sure,” says Bardon.

Bardon had never skied with Chin before but seized the moment: “Jimmy is such an ideal subject to photograph due to his technical mastery in the mountains. The guy is a ninja up there. Swift yet fluid, fast yet safe, and just cracking jokes the whole time. Frankly, I was just trying to keep up!”

Bardon photographed with a Canon 5D Mark III and a 16-35mm, f/2.8 lens.

5. Kayaking the Dudh Koshi, Nepal

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For veteran expedition kayaker Ben Stookesberry, an Adventurer of the Year who is known for running the world’s wildest whitewater, and up-and-coming Nepali kayaker Surjan Tamang (pictured), the original plan was to trek to Everest Base Camp and then check out the Dudh Kosi, a storied yet “tame” river fed from the meltwater of Everest’s infamous Khumbu Icefall and flowing among the giants of the Himalaya. Like all good adventures, things did not go according to plan. And the river was much more than they expected. “I can only describe it as Grand Canyon-size walls with giant Himalayan peaks stacked on top…you begin to feel pretty small on that river,” Stookesberry reflects.

[Source: National Geographic. Edited.]

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