Extreme photography for extreme sports

    11:11 AM, Nov 29, 2012   |    comments
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    UNDATED (CBS) - Over the past decade, extreme sports and the athletes who engage in them have become much more popular. The people who film their superhuman feats are also worth watching.

    The footage can be hard to watch and it's even harder to turn away; human beings doing things at extreme altitudes that have never been done before like climbing mountains without ropes and death defying freefalls in winged suits.

    Just as impressive are the photographers who take risks right along with them. Pete Mortimer says, "In some ways, our job is easy. If we can do it safely and get into position, all we have to do is hold the camera, turn it on and there's magic unfolding."

    Pete Mortimer runs Sender Films out of a modest carriage house in Boulder, Colorado. But his real office is in places other can't, or won't, go.

    Sender Films documenting of free-solo climber Alex Honnold and slackliner "Sketchy Andy" brought the two international fame. Honnold was profiled on '60 Minutes'. Andy performed at the Super Bowl halftime show.

    In Colorado's famed El Dorado Canyon Mortimer was more than happy to show how they create these films. It's easier said than done, to climb up high above the canyon floor with wind gusts up to 40 miles an hour and descend nearly 100 feet. Mortimer says, "The climbs that these guys are doing now, the cutting edge of climbing, has gotten so far out there. And so for us to get into position-it's a bigger challenge. And then visually, we want to shoot things in a new way. We never want a climb to look like something we did last year or the year before."

    Mortimer does all this by working with the smallest and lightest equipment available. Multiple cameras are a must. For our shoot he had four cameras rolling. All of his shooters are experienced climbers and the climber pros like Matt Segal are the best in the world.

    Mortimer and the rest of the crew were working flawlessly until something went wrong. It happened in an instant. With the video slowed down, you can see the rock fall. Mortimer's safety line almost slipped off the rock face. That means he would have fallen too. He says, "Yeah. I've probably been on the Bastille Formation a thousand times in my life. 01:10:58:00definitely, like, just an instantaneous reminder that like even on a fun day out there with friends and a film crew, like it is dangerous what we do."

    Accidents are something Pete's partner Nick Rosen knows all about. Rosen's broken back and neck happened in a climbing accident only three weeks before we arrived. And those risks weigh even more heavily on Mortimer now. He's married with a 2-year-old daughter and another child on the way. Mortimer says, "I think I'm probably just that much more cautious when I'm up there." His wife Joss says, "I think Pete's been doing this since before I met him, since before we got together. I think if I were to worry, I'd be worrying all the time. So I sort of turn off that part of my brain."

    But if danger is part of the equation so too is the passion to capture the perfect image. Rosen says, "We think when people go out there and, you know, push their limits- and really, like, redefine the possibilities of what humans can do, that that's inspirational."

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