Ask photographer Jody MacDonald what her most adventurous expedition is and the answer is easy. “From hitting reefs to contracting numerous diseases to getting attacked by sharks to some close calls with pirates, sailing for a decade definitely takes the prize,” she says. Things got particularly bad when sailing against the trade winds from Vanuatu to Fiji in a 10-day storm. “We nearly lost the mast, the captain was sick and delusional, and the boat was literally falling apart from getting so pounded,” she recalls.
But those are just her adventures at sea. She’s also gotten stranded on an island off the coast of Mozambique during a paragliding trip, and tried to photograph a huge surf swell during a trip in Indonesia while suffering from typhoid fever. More recently she train-hopped through the Sahara in Mauritania.
These are just a few chapters in a life full of adventures for MacDonald, whose expertise in the outdoors places her among an elite group of adventure photographers. Growing up in Saudi Arabia gave her a sense of wanderlust that she combined with a penchant for outdoor sports, which includes paragliding, surfing, sailing, skiing, rafting, and climbing. And she does all these sports behind a camera.
“Often the sports I’m participating in already have certain levels of risk which you need to pay attention to,” MacDonald says. “Then adding the distraction of the camera and thinking about composition, light, and camera settings can ratchet the risk up a notch.” But the risks have paid off. MacDonald, who now lives in Ketchum, Idaho, has won numerous awards for her work, including being one of only a handful of women to win a 2016 Red Bull Illume award.