Second Place, Magazine Photographer of the Year

Randy Olson, Freelance/National Geographic

"Putorana Plateau Expedition"
[Enter gallery]

This land is a primeval expanse of volcanic rock and pristine waters where man has made barely a ripple. The Putorana Plateau, a wild, uninhabited tableland the size of Nevada, is located 200 miles north of the Siberian Arctic Circle. Putorana was closed to the world during the cold war because of the entrance to this wilderness were nuclear missiles pointed at the United States. Also, precious minerals and diamonds were hidden in the hills. The Russian Geographic Society obtained a permit to explore this unknown territory. Preparing for a month-long exploration, they load a helicopter with crates of potatoes, wood stoves, tents with wood windows, oven mitts stuffed with nails and other survival gear. Testing the helicopter's maximum weight limit, the pilot hovers at 10 feet. If it doesn't crash back onto the tarmac, he assumes it's safe to continue.