National Geographic Extreme Photo of the Week


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1. Snowboarding the Pemberton Ice Cap, British Columbia. Photograph by Mark Gribbon

“Being in the backcountry is where I belong and am the most happy,” says snowboarder Joel Loverin, seen here on the Pemberton Ice Cap in British Columbia, Canada, during a three-day backcountry camping and riding excursion.

“Compared to the other lines I rode on the trip, this one was a lot more relaxed, but the end result for the photograph came out a lot better than the others,” recalls Loverin, who is based in Whistler. “I’m drawn to the freedom and isolation of being way out in the mountains and being submersed in terrain that is always changing. I love the adventure and endless exploration possibilities and the quiet serenity of it all.”

Getting the Shot

“The cold nights would turn the snow into a sheet of ice, then we would have to wait until the afternoon for the snow to soften up to ride anything,” recalls photographer Mark Gribbon, who was on assignment for Snowboard Canada magazine when he got this shot.

Gribbon faced tough weather conditions—for both snowboarding and photographing. Toward the end of the session, Gribbon captured this image. “At the end of the season, the sun is pretty high in the sky, which makes for less dramatic photos. It is a balance trying to find decent snow with a feature that is ridable this time of year,” he says. “The ice and shade kept the surrounding snow rideable at such a late hour in the day.”

Gribbon photographed with a Canon Mark IV and a 70-200mm, f/2.8 lens.

2. Climbing Hallucinogen Wall, Black Canyon, Colorado. Photograph by John Dickey

Getting the Shot

“I had never even seen the Black Canyon before this climb. Turns out the Black is infamous for a reason,” says photographer John Dickey, who joined climber Josh Wharton on Hallucinogen Wall in Colorado’s Black Canyon. “I’ve been shooting on big walls for over a decade and when I first stepped over the edge, it took me a minute to get my head right before continuing.

“I knew the Black had some pretty difficult lighting, so I went prepared with gradient filters and a strobe. Once I rappelled in and saw the lighting situation, I put away the filters and milked the contrast for all I could. I toyed with balancing the light using filters and in the end stuck with the high contrast,” he recalls.

In order to get the shots he wanted of Wharton, Dickey started climbing at 4 a.m. His goal was to get a head start on Wharton and then begin the long rappel at around 6:45 a.m. to intersect on the wall a few hundred feet off the ground. Dickey had his lighting and climbing thoroughly planned, but serious routes can give pause even to the most prepared. “The biggest challenge of the day was at the start—those first minutes stepping over the edge of the wall. Whenever I get intimidated like that I focus on the task at hand: Check the harness, make sure the carabiner on my belay device is locked, double check camera batteries, and move on.”

Dickey photographed with a Canon 6D and carried a lens.

3. Winter Surfing in Cook Inlet, Alaska. Photograph by Scott Dickerson

“I would say that surfing up here is not very popular,” says Homer, Alaska, local Gart Curtis, seen here rushing back to the truck, with his friend Mike in the distance, after a winter surf session 30 minutes outside of town. “The conditions are fickle. Weeks can go by without waves. It’s rare that the number of guys in the water exceeds single digits—and we know each other.”

Curtis and his friends were navigating large, broken up pieces of ice formed by packed snow on the shore that gets soaked, refrozen, and then broken by the waves and tide. “They are a bit tricky, but it is faster to go along on top of them than to slog and weave through the heavy snow in between,” Curtis recalls.

Gearing up to surf in Alaska’s biting cold is critical. “You can still feel the cold through the wetsuit, but luckily it’s warmer in the water than on the beach. I’m wearing a 6/5/4 wetsuit, with 7mm booties and mitts. I’m also wearing a thermal rashguard and neoprene trunks,” Curtis says. “Some guys use battery-powered, heated tops, but I don’t have one. And a couple of the guys I surf with put vaseline on their faces to block the wind on the really cold windy days … I might try that sometime.” “Hunting for breaks is a big part of the fun,” Curtis says. “Even finding a new sand bar a few hundred yards from a known spot, or a spot suddenly working at a different tide than what worked last season—that’s a thrill.”

Getting the Shot

“It was just above zero degrees, windy, snowing, and pretty dark outside,” says photographer and surfer Scott Dickerson. “There was no practical way that I could have photographed from the water given the conditions. The current was going much faster than I could swim, and there were large chunks of ice floating through the surf that would have been even more dangerous to me, considering my lack of mobility swimming with the camera.”

The surfers drove along the Alaskan coast, looking for waves that could be surfed at Cook Inlet. While watching his friends attempt to surf, Dickerson fought the extreme weather on the beach. “The beach was a sloped sheet of ice that made it incredibly difficult to get out of the water because it required you to scramble uphill over wet ice between the surging waves,” recalls Dickerson. “I had to be careful to keep the camera lens protected, while also having to run through thigh-deep snow to keep up with Mike and Gart as they drifted down the beach in the strong current.”

Dickerson photographed with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and a EF24-70mm, f/2.8L lens.

4. Ice Climbing in Zirknitzgrotte, Austria. Photograph by Martin Lugger

Getting the Shot

“At the time it was very questionable to climb this ice rock because of the danger that it would break and crash—along with the climber,” says photographer and climber Martin Lugger. After climber Peter Ortner (pictured) told Lugger about the location in Zirknitzgrotte, Austria, the two went to scout and climb. Lugger immediately knew he wanted to light the scene with strobes. “When we came there, I knew I wanted make some shots with flashes. Although it’s dangerous because of falling ice, the area is very nice for lighting.”

Lugger set up the photo he wanted to capture. “I have no standard lighting because every scene needs to be adjusted differently,” he says. “I imagined this frame when I planned my setup and lights. I had three main angles in mind and two of them worked out for me.” For this shot, Lugger lit the scene with a Hensel Studio strobe and blue gel. He also used another strobe to brighten the climber. “The biggest challenge during the shoot was to not get hit by falling ice, and not to slip on the ice with my Hasselblad in my hands.”

Lugger photographed with a Hasselblad H3DII-50, 80mm lens, and Hensel Studio strobes.

5. Surfing Jaws, Maui, Hawaii. Photograph by Fred Pompermayer

Getting the Shot

“I was so stoked to watch through my viewfinder” as big-wave surfer Shane Dorian was in position for this massive wave, recalls surf photographer Fred Pompermayer. “As soon as he made it through the huge drop, I could see that he was going to make the huge barrel.”

Pompermayer originally was going to skip photographing this early season session at Jaws, a Maui surf break known for its ferocious waves. He changed his plans the night before and arrived on the island the next morning. Two hours after landing, he was in the water capturing Shane Dorian’s winning ride for the Billabong XXL Tube Ride of the Year.

“With the swell picking up in the afternoon, the waves continued to grow,” Pompermayer says. “Just before dark a huge set came in and washed every surfer out. Shane was the only one that was able to make through the sets and was able to stay far out.

“It was an incredible moment. Then he disappeared into the spray of the barrel. It was one of those hold-your-breath kind of moments, to see if he would make it out. I kept shooting and was thrilled to see him reappear. Everyone who saw this ride knew Shane had just scored the ride of the year, no doubt,” Pompermayer says.

Pompermayer shot with a Canon EOS 1Dx and a Canon 70-200mm lens, along with his customized water housing.

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