Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Better than Everest

In 2005 I was lucky enough to stand on top of the Everest. People often assume that this must be the highpoint of my life. In fact most of my other expeditions have been more enriching experiences. But now something has come along that easily tops all that...

Earlier this week Ali and I took part in the daily miracle of new life when Suzanna Eve joined us. Now I really do feel on top of the world.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Photo Wise Part 2

For this week's "story behind the image" I thought I'd talk a little about this shot of Zippy climbing Traverse of the Gods, a VS at Swanage. There's a lot of talk about needing perfect light for the best shots, I don't agree. Great light of course can lead to some really beautiful images but there's alot more to life and especially the climbing life than just beauty. On this day the sky was dull and flat, even more the rock was completely soaked. Usually there'd be no climbing and no photos on a day like this but I'd had a vision of an image I wanted.

It's a bit embarrassing to admit but I sometimes dream of particular pictures I hope I might have a chance to photograph. I've always loved that feeling on seacliffs when the water becomes a real presence. Those big sea days when you're racing the tide and the waves are leaping around like wild animals. In most of the seacliff climbing shots I've taken the sea has remained tame; a mere pretty backdrop.

Luckily for me (unluckily for Zips) on this day the sea had been unleashed and the waves were crashing occasionally over the tops of the cliff. I managed to persuade Zips to give the first pitch a try, got the camera ready and waited for the big breaker. Of course I got as soaked as Zips but when you get one of those images you've been dreaming of its all worth it.

The thing I like best about this shot is that nature is most definately the boss. One of the most cringe-worthy attitudes in climbing is the idea of "conquering the mountain" or in more contemporary parlence "crushing the route"! In reality when a climber's at the top of their game they achieve a balance with nature. Nature however can easily bite back as Zippy found out.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Photo Wise Part 1

I thought it might be interesting to talk a little about my photography so in this occasional group of posts I'll try to explain some of the thinking I've made behind the lens. For the last year or so I've been running a series called "Stomping Grounds" for Climb magazine in which each month a well known climber gives a tour of the local area selecting 7 personal fav routes. Its been my job to try to capture the essense of each of those routes in a single image each. Often I have only had one or two days to capture all 7 routes usually at several different crags across the region. Adding to those complex logistics have been the usual photographer's foes the weather and poor light. But I like being tested and these pressures plus the monthly deadlines have added to the enjoyment I've had in rising to the challenge.

The following three pics of Nick Dixon show a little about the way I've been working. I usually run around like a blue arsed fly trying to get the most out of each climb and not just stick with one view. The route is called Sunburst a stunning E7 arete soaring out of the trees and rhododendrons of Nesscliffe. The first two shots concentrate on the amazing technicality of the climbing plus they also fit the format of a possible cover (space at the top for the magazine header plus strap lines at bottom left).

I chose this first view to emphasise the pure straight lines of Sunburst's arete and to line up the beautiful Rhododendron flowers as a back drop to this equally beautiful move by Nick - with all his weight balanced off his heel level with his head.
The end move of the crux sequence is a dyno. Here its crucial to see the concentration and emotion of the climber so I moved so I could see Nick's face and most importantly eyes. The image however that I felt worked best was this one...

I'm always looking for shots I've not seen before. Here the composition gives enough of the technical nature of the route with Nick perched on the arete his right leg flagging in the air but more importantly (considering that the article is more about the climbs than the climber) it brings out the incredible geometry and scale of Nesscliffe. Huge right angled grooves and aretes, a full rope length in height - shooting from this angle felt like swinging around in the tops of the tallest trees of a rainforest canopy and I think captured the granduer of one of the UK's most striking single pitch routes.