On Location: High-Angle Rock Climbing Photography Shoot
Before I was a photographer, I was a climber. I spent years focused on climbing rock faces fromYosemite to the Himalayas. Now I focus on photographing this sport and, as any sports photographer will tell you, the more you know about the sport, the better you’ll be able to photograph it.
This shoot involved working with a climber who would climb up a face but stay within 25′ feet of the ground. Staying at this level allowed me to use special tall light stands that extend to 24′ and can support Elinchrom Quadras dangling in the wind. Here, my studio would be 24′ off the ground on a vertical rock wall.
The first part of any outdoor shoot is evaluating the available daylight. In this case, the rock face was in deep shade, which produces flat, low-contrast images—the wrong light to capture the tension of rock climbing.
Despite the shade, this location had some advantages. First, I could anchor a rope above the cliff, which would allow me to ascend the rock face and get above the climber, generally the best angle for photographing rock climbing (no butt shots!). Second, the cliff base was flat with lots of room to set up my heavy-duty light stands. And third, the climber felt very comfortable on this route. This is critical, since I’d be asking him to literally hang on while I shot images. Safety is always the first priority of adventure sports photography.