Kayaker Ben Stookesberry as seen in our Extreme Photo of the Week; Photograph by Chris Korbulic

This image of kayaker Ben Stookesberry is featured right now in our Extreme Photo of the Week gallery; Photograph by Chris Korbulic

On a seven-week trip from northern Brazil to Guyana and Venezuela, kayakers Chris Korbulic, Ben Stookesberry, and Pedro Oliva sought out the best waterfalls and rapids in the Tepui landscape. Their first stop on the trip led to the first, and best trip photo at the waterfalls of Santuario in the Brazilian Amazon. Here’s how Chris Korbulic nailed the shot that caught our eye for our Extreme Photo of the Week gallery.

Ben just after losing momentum and getting thrown into a barrel-roll.  lip of Cachoeira Santuario, Amazonas, Brazil; Photograph by Chris Korbulic

Ben Stookesberry just after losing momentum and getting thrown into a barrel roll on Cachoeira Santuario, Amazonas, Brazil; Photograph by Chris Korbulic

Adventure: You had a remote camera set up to capture this photo. How did you pick the location for the remote camera? Where are you located at the moment pictured?

Chris Korbulic: There is always a tough balance between being the kayaker and being the photographer—setting safety and getting a shot … and sometimes you have to seriously compromise one of those sides for the other.

When scouting this set of falls, this angle did almost nothing for me as a kayaker because I couldn’t see the top or bottom of any of the falls. But for a photo it was immediately alluring and kind of mysterious for the same reasons. The falls disappearing, the glowing mist, and the jungle hallway all made it very appealing to photograph—and hard to scout, but I knew it was going to be a cool photo if the shutter fired.

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, 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.

Ben tumbling down Cachoeira Santuario, Amazonas, Brazil; Photograph by Chris Korbulic

Ben Stookesberry tumbling down Cachoeira Santuario, Amazonas, Brazil; Photograph by Chris Korbulic

A: You were also shooting over the lip of the falls, while simultaneously helping Ben setup. How did you manage that?

CK: There were some roots and logs blocking the entry to the falls, so we had to make a little launch-pad for Ben’s kayak, right at the lip. Once the kayak was on the sticky rocks, his boat was pretty stable. When Ben was ready, I grabbed my remote and camera, gave him the thumbs up, and watched as he tumbled over the edge.

Mount Roraima, triple border point of Guyana, Brazil, and Venezuela, and highest in the Pakaraima tepui chain, on a hazy afternoon; Photograph by Chris Korbulic

Mount Roraima, triple border point of Guyana, Brazil, and Venezuela, and highest in the Pakaraima tepui chain, on a hazy afternoon; Photograph by Chris Korbulic

A: The conditions look like you had pretty good light to photograph.

CK: The southern Amazon Basin in northern Brazil is known for its rainfall, but those same clouds often make for really nice, even light. The clouds were thin and bright. Light was reflecting off the whitewater, illuminating the trees where they would have been shadowed if it were sunny.

Ben Stookesberry takes in the view down the Potaro River from the diving board rock next to Kaietuer Falls, Guyana; Photograph by Chris Korbulic

Ben Stookesberry takes in the view down the Potaro River from the diving board rock next to Kaietuer Falls, Guyana; Photograph by Chris Korbulic

A: The water looks pretty gnarly. You mentioned Ben hit a rock and barrel rolled?

CK: This falls was full-on! It had been raining a lot over the last week, so the water was high and brown, making it hard to read and especially hard to see what was at the base of the falls. As Ben went over the lip the front of his boat caught a rock edge, stalled his forward momentum, and sent him barreling upside down into a pretty awful looking cauldron.

en Stookesberry, Pedro Oliva, and Chris Korbulic celebrate hitching a ride after a successful descent of the Potaro; Photograph by Chris Korbulic

Ben Stookesberry, Pedro Oliva, and Chris Korbulic celebrate hitching a ride after a successful descent of the Potaro; Photograph by Chris Korbulic

A: What was going through your mind as you photographed and watched him?

CK: Because of the brown water, we didn’t know if the pool was deep. Ben disappeared for what seemed like a long time in the boiling, highly aerated water in the cauldron before popping out about 40-feet downstream. We’ve been paddling together for about six years and waiting for him to resurface is still one of my most nerve-wracking moments.

After Ben came out safe, 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 favorite shot from the trip, setting a great precedent for the next six weeks of travel.

Comments

  1. jon jacob
    sabah north borneo
    July 18, 2013, 9:32 am

    i like your photograph..excellent and beautiful work..congratulations..!

  2. Bruce Farnsworth
    U.S. and South America
    July 18, 2013, 11:55 pm

    Great stuff! I’ve always enjoyed working in the upper Amazon with my own editorial photography. Saludos! Bruce Farnsworth

  3. Tim Hillsamer
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    July 19, 2013, 3:18 am

    I see a GoPro camera on the helmet in the first shot…where did that video end up? Epic pics…

  4. [...] MORE » [...]

  5. walter carneiro fontes
    sumaré sp brazil
    July 19, 2013, 8:24 pm

    lindas fotos sempre a national geographic inovando parabens

  6. Ilan Moinhos
    Manaus-AM
    July 20, 2013, 1:08 pm

    Cacheira do Santuário – Amazonas…
    Cara! conheço bem esse lugar, já fui guia de alguns passeios para as cachoeiras de Figueiredo entre os anos de 1998 e 2000, e sei o quanto a queda d’água dessa cacheira é PUNK. Já pulei de pé desse mesmo local da foto, isso na época de cheia das águas, pois além das pedras no fundo serem rasas também é cheio de raízes de árvores e troncos… por isso tiro o chapéu pra esses caras, saltar de kaiak dessa cachoeira não é pra qualquer um não. Mereceu ganhar o título… mereceu entrar para galeria de EXTREMA FOTO DA SEMANA do NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.

  7. [...] Behind the Extreme Shot [...]

  8. Carol Blackburn
    Maine U.S.A.
    August 22, 2013, 8:01 am

    Awesome!

  9. Alba Vivas
    caracas.venezuela
    August 23, 2013, 12:29 pm

    Hermoso….pero peligroso, me encanta que se vea en el mundo los maravillosos lugares que hay en Venezuela, y que existan personas únicas como ustedes, continúen figurando,éxitos …….de todas formas son unos loquitos enamorados de los riesgos y de la naturaleza.

  10. shani
    pakistan
    August 25, 2013, 1:19 am

    these pics are awesome.i wish to see them in my life.

  11. shaungave
    bangalore
    September 12, 2013, 6:53 am

    Wow it was an amazing adventure activity done by u guys. I’m so happy to see those water falls photos. I come to know what is kayaking by this article. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  12. Palash modal
    Asansol
    September 28, 2013, 12:23 am

    I am joining to you

  13. kolla.sureshbabu
    chirala,prakasam DT,A.P,India
    October 3, 2013, 12:35 am

    i like photographs wonderful seen

  14. ipey
    garut
    October 7, 2013, 8:06 am

    amazing photos i like

  15. amir
    October 10, 2013, 4:17 am

    i like your photograph…thanks

  16. Prolay Hazra
    Serampur, Bengal, India
    February 7, 9:59 am

    Wonderful moment

  17. maha
    April 18, 2:39 pm

    Hi,

    This trip sounds fantastic and i love your photographs! I have been wanting to do something similar. How did you organize the trip? or did you go through with a tour company?