Continuing our series on action sport photographers who put their lives on the line, we catch up with 25-year-old Australian Krystle Wright. Last year, while shooting Red Bull paragliders in Pakistan, Wright and her tandem pilot crashed on take-off, suffering multiple injuries.
Pepote, my tandem pilot and I began to run but found ourselves running sideways due to an unexpected crosswind. I remember looking down to see my feet were off the ground and that we were on a collision path with a group of boulders. My last thought was 'Oh shit...' before I blacked out!
Woh! Sounds nasty.
I was stretchered off the hillside and driven about seven hours to a military hospital with one stop where I had to be stretchered across a makeshift bridge because the river was so high. My two cameras smashed into my chest and I was heavily bruised internally throughout my torso. There was ligament damage in my left shoulder and elbow, bone bruising in my left hip, two fractures and a torn ligament in my right foot, a glorious red eyeball and ten stitches in my forehead…
All in a day’s work then?
Risk will always be a factor in my work. It’s important to minimize it as much as possible but Mother Nature will always be supreme. But photography and adventure go hand in hand – it’s a dream combination for me.
What was the idea of the project?
It was in May-June last year. Three elite Red Bull paragliders Tom De Dorlodot (BEL), Horacio Llorens (SPA) and Hernan Pitocco (ARG) wanted to break the world altitude record which currently stands at 7750m. Their support and help during the accident was crucial and I can never express enough gratitude.
Talk us through the challenges of shooting from the air?
As with any adventure sport, there can be a myriad of logistics to deal with. It's difficult to get into position as you’re limited by nature and it also takes time. If the opportunity arises to set-up a shot then I'll talk to the pilots over the radio but I prefer to communicate with the athlete before taking to the sky. I always have an idea of what I want but so many times my favorite image has been unplanned and unexpected.
How do you and your gear cope up there?
My Canon equipment has always dealt really well. I make sure to never change lenses in the sky because I half expect that I will drop something! Once I felt hypoxia coming on as we climbed to 7,000m and started feeling drowsy — we had to turn up our oxygen intake. Another time, my hand became so cold I worried about frostbite. The pain as the blood rushed back was the most intense I have ever felt, I opened my mouth to scream but no sound came out.
Are you a pilot yourself?
I’m in the process of learning. I’m also learning to kite surf and I want to focus more on mountaineering this year.
What gear do you use?
I work with the Canon 1D Mk IV and 5D MII. All my lenses are Canon.
What are the highlights of your career so far?
Camping with 23 BASE jumpers on Baffin Island for a month will always be special to me as I was challenged physically and mentally in so many situations.
What other projects are you working on?
I've just returned to land after living at sea for two-and-a-half months in Antarctica. As soon as I've thawed out, I’m keen to get back into some projects involving rock climbing, BASE-jumping and a few other things.
Will you be entering the Red Bull Illume contest?
Most definitely! I wish it would run more often as there are so few competitions that properly recognize adventure sports photography.