Paragliding Ngorongoro Crater National Park, Tanzania
Photograph by Thomas de Dorlodot, Red Bull Content Pool
Spaniard Horacio Llorens is seen paragliding over Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater National Park. This was one stop along a four-month expedition from Egypt to South Africa to find the best, most remote places to fly. The active volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai is on the left.
“On this day, I landed in the top of the volcano and I couldn’t take off again because of strong winds,” recalls Llorens, “so I had to spend the night on top of the volcano, alone, without any food. But it was a thousand-star hotel room.” He used his paraglider as a mattress and sleeping bag on the sharp volcanic rock. “It was actually pretty comfortable,” he says. When he finally took flight when conditions allowed, he had an incredible view of the valley below. See the story in this video.
Getting the Shot
“Taking the picture is not as difficult in the end. The main challenge is flying,” notes photographer Thomas de Dorlodot. Flying at 2,800 meters, Dorlodot photographed Llorens sailing near the giant volcano. “I wanted to get both Horacio and the volcano in the frame. Horacio’s glider gave scale to this mighty volcano,” says Dorlodot.
“The biggest challenge for me was to shoot pictures and fly a paraglider at the same time. It feels like shooting from a motorbike. You drive, frame your photo, and control your settings, all at the same time,” says Dorlodot.
Dorlodot used a Canon 7D and Canon 24-105mm VR lens, with a UV filter.
Speed Climbing the Nose, El Capitan, Yosemite, California
Photograph by Paul Hara
“Wow, I’m surprisingly tired,” thought rock climber Alex Honnold, 26, at this moment while speed climbing the Nose on El Capitan with Hans Florine, now 48, to set a new record on June 17, 2012. “This was actually the hardest move on the final bolt ladder, a really long pull over a slight bulge, and my one arm was kind of wilting,” says the 2011 Adventurer of the Year, seen in the shade on this 90-degree day. Florine and Honnold set a new record of 2 hours, 23 minutes, and 46 seconds, shaving almost 13 minutes off the previous record set by Dean Potter and Sean Leary in November 2010. (Watch Honnold free solo in this video “Alone on the Wall.”)
“Hans was an awesome climbing partner. We both climb in a similar style, so it was easy to work together,” says Honnold, who had just completed a solo linkup on El Capitan, Mount Watkins, and Half Dome in less than 19 hours a week before starting on the Nose. “And to be fair, I learned most of what I know about speed climbing from his book on the subject.” Florine has held the Nose speed-climbing record eight times over the past 22 years.
“Once we both made it to the top, we just sat and smiled for a while. No real celebration, but we felt some pretty deep contentment,” notes Honnold, who is shifting his focus to bouldering. “Hans partied with his family the rest of the day—it was Father’s Day afterall.”
Getting the Shot
“It was very exciting to be hanging 3,000 feet in the air and hear the cheers of spectators in El Capitan meadow, as [Alex Honnold and Hans Florine] completed each milestone,” recalls photographer and climber Paul Hara.
Two weeks before the record-setting climb, Hara began setting up his shot, stowing camping gear and setting ropes to rappel the last pitch of the climb. The day before the attempt, he rappelled into place to ensure he had the right lenses for the job.
Originally, Hara planned to communicate with Jackie Florine, who was tracking the climbers’ progress, but the excitement of the moment broke communication. Luckily Hara was able to tune his radio to other spectators and track Alex’s ascent. “When we were told that Alex had cleared the Great Roof, I decided to rappel down, into position.”
“I could only start to see the climbers when they were about 200 feet from me. The crowd was cheering loudly, and I realized the old speed record was likely going to be broken,” says Hara. “When Alex saw me hanging near the top he said ‘good morning,’ in a casual, but breathless voice.”
Hara photographed with a Nikon D4 and 24-120mm, f/4 lens.
Surfing Cloudbreak, Tavarua, Fiji
Photograph by Thomas Servais, A-Frame
On June 8, 2012, the Volcom Fiji Pro competition was temporarily called off due to dangerous conditions—which was good news for the handful of big-wave surfers who had traveled to Tavarua to watch and wait for the world-class oceanic lefthander Cloudbreak to go huge. Here Hawaiian surfer Reef McIntoshis seen on a massive wave. Photographer Tom Servais was there to shoot the action.
“It was unusual that so many big-wave surfers showed up for this swell. It’s always a gamble relying on weather reports,” says Servais, who was already in Fiji to cover the contest and surf. “It was one of the biggest swells ever,” he recalls. “A few waves at the end of the day were considered some of the biggest waves ever at Cloudbreak.”
Cloudbreak is located two miles off Tavarua and is the best and closest spot to access the wave. “The hardest part about shooting Cloudbreak is getting there,” says Servais. The trip included an 11-hour flight from Los Angeles, a taxi to the beach, and a boat ride to the wave break.
Servais watched the swell grow all day and captured surfer McIntosh courageously surfing the explosive waves. “It was exciting watching the swell get bigger and bigger all day,” recalls Servais, who captured the action from a boat.
Servais photographed with two Canon bodies, a 300mm f/2.8 lens and 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, all kept safe in a Pelican hard case.
First Descent of Marble Fork Gorge, Sequoia National Park, California
Photograph by Jared Johnson
“The rivers of California’s Sierra Nevada are to kayakers what the big walls of Yosemite are to climbers,” says expedition kayaker Ben Stookesberry. “And Marble Fork Gorge was one of the great unfinished puzzles.” Located on the Kaweah River in California’s Sequoia National Park, the 2,000-foot-deep canyon’s walls are sheer and often overhanging for a thousand feet—making an exit impossible.
To solve the puzzle, Stookesberry and kayaker Chris Korbulic enlisted big-wall climbers Forrest Noble and Jared Johnson. “The first portage into the gorge turned into a sketchy, 700-foot aided traverse and rappel that was definitely the most stressful part for me,” says Stookesberry. “But with Forrest and JJ along, all the rope system changes, routes, and other techniques were super dialed and efficient. It was an amazing learning experience in that respect.”
Once they had lowered their boats into the gorge, Korbulic agreed to paddle first. “We knew the first person to go would have no safety. Chris is one of the only kayakers in the world who could be in this spot,” says Stookesberry. Here they are seen dropping through the Spout below Twizzler Falls and above Yule Creek Slide. “We both paid to play in Marble Gorge,” says Stokesberry, who separated a rib on the last 90-foot drop. Korbulic broke his hand in the Twizzler.
“Chris and I have kayaked bigger drops, but never a sequence like this and never locked into a gorge,” says Stookesberry. “This in concert with the most technical portage probably ever accomplished with a kayak put the Marble Fork at the top of my list as the hardest river I have ever run.”
Getting the Shot
“I’ve never been part of such an epic undertaking to run a section of river. I’m not sure if there has been one,” recalls Jared Johnson, who took this photograph. The expert climber joined Stookesberry, Korbulic, and Eric Seymour to blend expedition kayaking and big-wall climbing as never before. “Forrest [Noble] and I were the climbing guys on the expedition,” says Johnson. “When we both first saw where Ben wanted to enter the river with boats, we both told him he was nuts.”
After eight days of climbing in unusually cold weather, it was time to paddle. Johnson communicated with Stookesberry and Korbulic with radios until they entered the river and prepared to shoot.
“Chris went first on the long first slide we’d dubbed the Twizzler. At the end of the slide, Chris hit the wall on the left hard, flipped forward, upside down, and ran the last part of the slide upside down. It didn’t look good,” says Johnson. Luckily, Johnson was able to tell Stookesberry how to maneuver past the trouble spot. “Ben was only two feet right of Chris’s line, but just far enough to avoid the rock Chris had collided with.”
Johnson photographed with a Nikon D7000 and 70-200mm.
Highlining in Koh Yao Noi, Phuket, Thailand
Photograph by Scott Rogers
“Should I grab the stalactite with my hands or turn around on my feet like a real pro?” recalls slackliner-photographer Jared Alden of this moment on an unusual stalactite highline on Koh Yao Noi island in Phuket, Thailand.
Lured by the country’s unique limestone, ten slacklining friends spent a month in Thailand establishing new climbing routes and highlines—and partaking of the local culture’s fresh, healthy food, world-renowned massages, and friendly scene. “We really got creative with our shenanigans on this trip,” says Alden, who lives with his family in Pennsylvania. “We rigged slacklines at the beach, waterlines off piers and cliffs, high waterlines with tourists kayaking below, and even a highline between the masts of a pirate ship.”
Getting the Shot
After driving through a jungle, wading through a cave system, and climbing the backside of the cave, two team members lowered themselves 120 feet to the base of this stalactite and secured the line about 300 feet above the water. “One of the main challenges for this line was finding an anchor point on the stalactite that was strong enough to hold the slackline … and also wouldn’t drop off the end!” says photographer and slackliner Scott Rogers.
To capture the shot, Rogers hung from a rope adjacent to the highline and used his widest lens to frame both Alden and the cave formations. Rogers had to maneuver around eight other people hanging nearby to get the photo he wanted. But the climate and terrain may have held the biggest challenge. “Thailand was pretty rough on all our gear, from corroded biners to fogged image sensors, but we brought enough of everything to last through the trip,” he says.
Rogers photographed with a Nikon D80 and 16-85mm lens.
Backcountry Skiing in Neff’s Canyon, Wasatch Mountains, Utah
Photograph by Mike Schirf
“I go into auto mode once I’m in the air,” says freeskier Tyler Peterson, seen here in a 360 true tail, a trick that involves grabbing the skis’ tails while making a full revolution in the air. “All the thinking and visualization happens before I ride off the jump.”
Peterson and photographer Mike Schirf hiked for three hours and 3,500 vertical feet to take this shot in Neff’s Canyon in the Wasatch Mountains backcountry. The pair strategically built a jump with a view of Salt Lake City, which has 11 ski resorts and ample backcountry offerings within an hour of the airport. “By this point it was about 6:30 p.m., and it was very difficult to see my landing,” says the Salt Lake City-based ski halfpipe competitor. “But I had already hit the jump several times while the sunlight was fading away, so I knew how long I needed to be in the air to land smoothly.”
Getting the Shot
Photographer Schirf worked carefully to find the right exposure to capture Salt Lake City’s bright lights and Peterson mid-trick at dusk. When the dramatic sunset they had hoped for did not appear, Schirf used gels to add another element to the scene. “Gels are a great way to add a new element to a photo,” says Schirf, who doesn’t typically work with gels. “It definitely has to be the right situation, but I think when used well, they can make a photo.”
Schirf photographed this shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens.
- Volcano activity of July 20, 2012 – Mt. Tongariro volcano, New Zealand (earthquake-report.com)
- Climber Florine knows El Capitan’s Nose (sfgate.com)
- Natural Ngorongoro – Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania (travelpod.com)
- Essay: Rock Climber Alex Honnold Tackles Yosemite’s Biggest Rock Faces (nytimes.com)