How They Got Those Shots: Great Outdoors Winners

Aug 24, 2010
Per Breiehagen
Photo Credit: © Per Breiehagen
Per Breiehagen's Grand Prize Winner.
The winners in this year’s  Great Outdoors Photo Contest include outstanding images that made us ask: How did they do that?  The photographers selected as the top winners in each of the five categories describe the equipment they used, what light source they had, the techniques they employed and the logistical challenges they overcame to take their winning photos.

To see all the winners in the Great Outdoors Photo Contest, sponsored by PDN and National Geographic Traveler, visit our online winners gallery:

Per Breiehagen
Grand Prize Winner

Breiehagen took this photo “roughly 2,000 feet above sea level, surrounded by massive peaks and majestic scenery. The sun was setting late this clear June 26 evening, almost midnight sun this far north in Alaska, but no light was hitting this deep down into the glacier moraine.” He had explored Kennicott Glacier in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska on a shoot for Jeep. On the night after the shoot wrapped, he heard about caves deep in the mountain.

“I was lucky to convince a guide to come along at 10 pm to charge down there and try to capture the magic before we had to leave the park early the next morning. This late night was our only chance.

“A steep hike/slide down the moraine scree fields and a massive rock filled world of rivers and caves appeared in the fading light. Water was dripping from the ceiling, rocks were falling around us and we worked fast to secure the image, thanks to immediate digital feedback I knew I had the shot...with film I might have stayed longer to try different exposure combinations.

“This where all the carving action is happening in the glacier, where the landscape is shaped by the massive moving glacier...not your usual blue pristine ice cave further up in a glacier.

“I dragged the shutter for two seconds to get the color of the blue ice(which was quite dark at 11 pm)...and trying not to blow out the exposure around our guide.

“The image came out well exposed, I did a few brackets, but ended up with this exposure which had the details in the dark areas and a nice glow from the outside and no water drips streaking across the frame...

It was processed in Photoshop raw converter and not many tweaks were needed other than opening up a few shadow areas.”

Chris McLennan
First Place: Outdoor Sports and Activities

McLennan photographed rider Levi Sherwood during training on a farm in Tokoroa in New Zealand. “I had the camera mounted on a custom-made bracket that I had made up specifically for this,” as seen in the photo that McLennan provided, taken while he was setting up for the shoot. He adds, “This was attached to the handlebars of the motorcycle and I fired the camera from the ground with a Hahnel Pro remote control. When the image was taken, Levi was approx 50 feet in the air – he also pulled several backflips with the camera on the bike!”

As McLennan notes, when taking a photo like this, “You have to be prepared for the very real likelihood that you could destroy your camera and lens.  The forces involved on landing are huge.  I used duct tape and cable ties for extra support for the mount but they broke every jump.  ııı

“The camera I chose to use for this - due to its light weight - was the Canon EOS5D MarkII teamed up with the Canon 15mm fisheye lens. The settings were ISO 400. F8 at 1/1000 second.”ııı

Chris Sisarich
First Place: Scenics of the Natural World

“You always need a plan, but some of my best images have come about from the things I hadn't planned, like the weather,” says Chris Sisarich, who photographed this sand storm after driving seven hours from Cairo to get a photo for “The White Desert” while he was on assignment for Tourism Egypt. In all, he spent about 3 hours in the area, having planned to shoot in the late afternoon, using available light.  He placed the person in the scene to show scale, he says.  About 15 minutes after he started shooting the figure he put into the scene, a sand storm came up. “It was a complete white out,” he says.

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