This expedition explored the rainforest and tepui mountain formations of northwestern Guyana in South America, while also documenting the ecosystems and animal species unique to the region. The journey included transport by bush plane, an all-day ride in a dugout canoe up a river, and a 60-mile, week-and-a-half-long walk through the jungle.

Photographer Renan Ozturk was joined by Alex Honnold, whose ascent of Yosemite’s El Capitan without ropes was featured in the documentary Free Solo; Mark Synnott, a professional rock climber and author; and Bruce Means, a conservation biologist who has dedicated his life to studying the area and its wildlife. The team heavily relied on the expertise of the Indigenous Akawaio people to navigate the landscape and build shelter.

“Getting to the base of the tepui to complete this vertical transect was some of the most difficult terrain that any of us had been in,” says Ozturk, who over the years has mastered the dual role of expedition climber and photographer to capture wildlife and epic landscapes.

“It’s always the balance between not slowing the adventure down when you’re shooting these things, especially when you have these different story elements,” he says. “You hope that over time you learn not to think of the shooting and the adventure as two separate things but be able to shoot seamlessly.”

The extreme terrain presented physical challenges that took a toll on Ozturk and the crew as they hiked, climbed, trudged, and camped. Getting the perfect shot had its own risks. While hanging from a harness, Ozturk says his legs went numb as he waited for hours for the sky to clear.

Artist Bios

  • Renan Ozturk

    Renan Ozturk lives to tell stories about our connection to the natural world, and they’re often set within the most challenging environments on Earth. He’s constantly searching for projects that move him—films that have a strong visual identity matched with some deeply compelling human element. He began his career as an expedition climber and landscape artist, spending years living in a tent beneath the big walls of U.S. national parks and in the snowy Himalaya. All of his paintings were created on expedition. He carried large cotton canvases on his back and sometimes even used natural pigments pulled straight from the earth to capture these wildly beautiful landscapes. He was named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2013 for his combination of cutting-edge first ascents and visual storytelling.

    Currently, Renan works as a commercial and documentary filmmaker, an expedition climber for the North Face, and a photojournalist for Sony and National Geographic. The films he’s made over the years have had a global presence. He’s best known for Meru (cinematographer/subject), which won the 2015 Audience Choice Award at Sundance, and the critically acclaimed Sherpa (cinematographer/co-director), which screened at TIFF and the Telluride Film Festival.


  • National Geographic

    National Geographic

    Established in 1888, National Geographic is a trusted print and digital publication offering stories that illuminate, inspire, and reveal. Our mission is to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of cultures, the sciences, and the natural world. We advance that mission by creating visually stunning, richly reported photojournalism and distinguished, impartial coverage of the globe’s most pressing issues. National Geographic (@natgeo) has more than 284 million followers.

  • NYC Parks

    NYC Parks

    NYC Parks is the steward of more than 30,000 acres of land — 14 percent of New York City — including more than 5,000 individual properties ranging from Coney Island Beach and Central Park to community gardens  and Greenstreets. We operate more than 800 athletic fields and nearly 1,000 playgrounds, 1,800 basketball courts, 550 tennis courts, 65 public pools, 51 recreational facilities, 15 nature centers, 14 golf courses, and 14 miles of beaches. We care for 1,200 monuments and 23 historic house museums. We look after 600,000 street trees, and two million more in parks. We are New York City’s principal providers of recreational and athletic facilities and programs. We are home to free concerts, world-class sports events, and cultural festivals.

Up the mountain, to a world apart

 archive : 2023

Featuring: Renan Ozturk

Presented by: National Geographic
  • National Geographic
  • NYC Parks


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