National Geographic adventure photo editor Adrian Coakley spends most of his week looking at the portfolios of adventure photographers. It can be torturous to sit at a desk scanning photo after photo of the world’s most daring climbers, skiers, kayakers, and hikers. “I’ve been known to get serious envy,” says Coakley. Each week, he selects the most arresting photo—the one that will grab attention and share the adventure on his screen with our readers around the world.
What makes a good adventure? Boldness helps. But in a field already so intense, quieter, more contemplative images stand out. As does originality. A lot of adventure photographers will shoot the same subject, the same location, the same angle, over and over again. It can become repetitive. “I get excited when I see something I’ve never seen before like this photo of a kayaker dropping off a glacial waterfall,” says Coakley. “My first thought was, Wow, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do that before. And it turns out it was actually the first time it had ever been done.”