Extreme Exposure

Adventure photog goes deep.

Award-winning photographer, director, and lifelong rock climber Tyler Stableford ’96 has scaled glacier caves in Iceland, kayaked fjords above the Arctic circle, and flown in the rear seat of an F16. He recently embarked on a passion project that became his most challenging photo expedition: capturing a model swimming alongside whale sharks off the coast of Mexico. “I’m not intimidated by much,” he says. “But this was a huge challenge. I’d never shot underwater before.”

Stableford traveled with former competitive swimmer Ashley Mosher and a small crew to the Yucatan Peninsula, where whale sharks converge every August. Though docile, the sharks’ immense size and erratic movements made swimming, posing, and shooting difficult. “Ashley had to draw a big breath and plunge deep underwater, swimming hard to position herself perfectly below the shark—all without mask, snorkel, or fins,” Stableford wrote on his blog. “Only then could she begin the graceful dance. She arced and twirled alongside the shark until her searing lungs forced her, gasping, to the surface.”

After five hours—and dozens of failed attempts—Stableford came away with eight images that capture Mosher artfully intertwined with the sharks. (View a slideshow here.) Unlike much of his commercial work, the photos were shot using only natural lighting. “I like to pick projects that help me grow as an artist and a craftsman,” he says. “This project really pushed me.”

Back home in western Colorado, Stableford continues to shoot for clients such as Wrangler, Patagonia, and Canon, and volunteers for a variety of nonprofits and social service organizations. His current passion project is an ongoing series of portraits featuring farmers and ranchers around the country inspired by the documentary work of Dorothea Lange. When asked whether the series will culminate in a book, Stableford demurs. “The joy of mountaineering should be in climbing the mountain, not standing on the summit for 10 minutes. It’s the same with photography,” he says. “True happiness is found in the process, not the goal.”

Portfolio

Alumni Books
New titles from Dartmouth writers (November/December 2018)
A Tough Test
Educator Stephen Zrike ’98 reforms Massachusetts school system.
In the Blink of an Eye

On the salt flats and off, speed demon Charles Nearburg ’72, Th’74, knows just how quickly life can change.

Timothy O’Leary ’97
On running an opera company

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