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.
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.
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Up the mountain, to a world apart
Featuring: Renan Ozturk
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