Think your workplace is tough on your nerves? James Balog's office is hundreds of feet in the air. In order to create dramatic forest portraits, the nature photographer dangles on ropes, rappelling slowly down the trunks of old-growth trees without a safety net, shooting pictures as he goes. "My whole life is hanging on two carabiners [oval rings] with a diameter of steel no bigger than your pinky," says Balog. "If the upper rope breaks, you're dead."
The results of Balog's derring-do are on display in Tree: A New Vision of the American Forest, which captures stunning images, often montages, of 92 trees. At right is Stagg, a 242-ft. giant sequoia located near Nelson, Calif., that is the world's fifth-largest tree. Balog, 52, a contributing editor for National Geographic Adventure, spent two days shooting the conifer, rigging it with ropes with help from three fellow climbers (one is pictured near the treetop). "It takes guys with very specialized skills to make it safe," he explains.
Not safe enough for Balog's wife, Suzanne, 37, who lives with their 3-year-old daughter Emily Joy in Boulder, Colo. (he also has a 16-year-old daughter, Simone, from his first marriage). When her husband starts dangling from tree branches, "that's when I walk away," she explains. "It's better not to know."
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