Photographing the world's least explored terrain

It's darker than dark. A solid beam of torchlight punches through the blackness ahead where giant, unseen towers of rock point up to a night sky crazed with billions of stars. It's cold, too. Two o'clock in the morning, late winter cold. Breaths of mountain air rasp in and out of lungs as the small group hauls gear higher up the side of the invisible canyon. Lights are positioned. Tripods and cameras assembled. One of the crew, Timur Akbashev, scrambles farther up, finding his way through the night to a perch where his head torch reveals an enormous slab of hillside bearing down upon him. It could be deep space. The landscape resembles Mars and, under a moonless sky filled with constellations and shooting stars, the universe feels close enough to touch.

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