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Design, Photography, & Fashion

Photo Studies: Shooting at the Top

Jimmy Chin

Lesson time 10:22 min

Join Jimmy as he breaks down two sky-high photoshoots from his career: one from the top of the tallest building in the United States, the other from the peak of the tallest mountain in the world.

Jimmy Chin
Teaches Adventure Photography
National Geographic photographer teaches his techniques for planning, capturing, and editing breathtaking photos.
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I'm going to be working with Sam Crossley, who I have worked with for several years. And I'm going to walk you through a couple real-life scenarios on two images that I shot. The first image of that I'm going to talk about is the image here of Kit DesLauriers on Everest. I took this image about a couple hundred feet from the summit of Everest. So here we are at around 28,500 feet. The tricky aspect about skiing Everest is that you really can't crush yourself when you're getting to the top. Because really, when you get to the top. You have to be on your A game, if you're skiing it. So we did a lot of training, getting into shape to climb the peak. This moment is probably 10 minutes after we summited. Kit, here, standing right above the Hillary Step; Rob DesLauriers, her husband, is right below. And we're about to repel this 40 foot section. Then we have to ski across the south ridge here over to the south summit on the left. It kind of drops off 9,000 feet into Tibet, and then on the right, it's 7,000 feet into the western coon. The reason this image has always stood out for me is that when I went to Everest to ski it, I always wanted to shoot an image that I hadn't seen before. And getting Kit in her skis, getting ready to ski off the summit, this image was the one that kind of stood out. The thing about skiing Everest and shooting at the same time is that you're pretty focused on the skiing. It took us two days to ski from the summit back to base camp, and I actually only fired, maybe, 10 frames total. That's very uncommon when I'm shooting, that in two days, I only shoot 10 frames. But I was pretty focused on keeping my edges on the ground. In scenarios like this, where there's fairly high stakes and you really have to stay focused on, in this case, being a skier and a mountaineer, you really have to choose your moments carefully. When I'm in a situation like this and I don't really have too much bandwidth to think about manual features on the camera, I have everything set on automatic and program, where I could just pull the camera up, bang the shot. I knew that in its automatic settings and program settings, that the camera had always been very good at getting the right exposure. The lens I was shooting was really good at focusing. It was the camera I was very familiar with, so I was able to kind of trust the camera system in that situation. And in this moment I remember, skiing down to Kit. I just shot her skiing off the summit. I get to the Hillary Step. I'm looking down. There are these clouds kind of coming over Lhotse, which is the peak in the background, the fourth highest peak in the world. And this is one of the few moments that I actually had a moment to pull out the camera and take this shot. [MUSIC PLAYING] This image I shot on top of the World Trade Center. I got a call from Kathy Ryan, one of the great photo editors in the business. I'd met with her before and she'd always said, hey, I want to take...

Push the limits of your photography

Jimmy Chin has built his career taking photos at the top of the world, earning him the cover of National Geographic and multiple awards. Now he’s taking you on location to teach you techniques for capturing breathtaking shots. In his photography class, learn different creative approaches for commercial shoots, editorial spreads, and passion projects. Gather the gear—and the perspective—to bring your photography to new heights.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

First, I would like to thank Jimmy for his pearls of wisdom. I gained much in this class, but what I particularly honed in on was his approach to the creative process. Creativity is incredibly difficult to teach. Thank you

This Jimmy Chin Masterclass has been my favourite one. It's just about what a person knows, but also their ability to communicate the inner workings of their craft.

Absolute genius! Very detailed and technical photography.

I learned a lot of practical information, and things that would boost my confidence.


Jenny T.

Excellent lesson, it's about so much more than good pictures. This is making me look at photo articles differently. Thank you.

Diana N.

This was really uniques lessons, never before you could hear on NatGeo image selection process in such a detail. Loved Jimmy’s excitement in the editorial room. Normally you would think, that a person who reached so much in the photography, just feelA himself so experienced and confident, that no editor on this planet can be skeptical to the photo outcome. But in this Chapter, Jimmy showed that he is a regular person, living through his assignment which in editors opinion can be less catchy. He also showed all the emotions on picture editorial choices. It is so true, down to Earth, so universal. Excellent lesson, like all of this master class serie.

A fellow student

Loved this lesson. I wonder how many frames he took during the last few days of each attempt on Meru.

Elizabeth E.

Amazing. On so many levels. Your ability to work within the moment and be creative is ingenious - you improvise like a champ and pull off incredible work. I have a feeling that if I were to ski off the top of Everest it would be my last run. Those drop-offs are no joke. Ten frames is incredible under those intense circumstances. Wow. Remarkable.

Jim C.

Be interested in how he kept his batteries warm. If the temps affected the working of his camera, lenses, .... Still like to know the ISO on the various shoots.


Funny how he downplays the fact that he climbed the 400' tower of a 1,776' building, and a 29,029' glaciated peak--and skied off the top! 'Cause heck, we do this kind of stuff every day, right? Hahahahahahahahaha! I can't imagine the focus required to haul all that gear, not fall, and not die, never mind getting even one good shot while dealing with all the unexpected challenges that arise in these situations. I'm thinking about how I would hold the camera steady with limited oxygen, in subzero temps, with 9,000 feet of air between me and the bottom. I might be a little shaky.

Rolando N.

Excellent lesson! I love seeing real world applications on the principles being taught in the class.

chris C.

I"m curious the settings on WTC nighttime photo. Jimmy mentions 1/30 shutter speed in the video but what was the F stop and ISO? Thanks in advance. Killer class.

diogo P.

The image itself is incredible and getting to know how you shot it, it makes even more amazing. thanks for sharing

Jorge B.

The element of unpredictability in any creative endevour or adventure. Things might not work, nothing works as planned. Listening to Jimmy talk so candid about problem solving is amazing, makes it a more relatable teacher.