Photographer’s guide to shooting rock climbers

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Photo: Photo: This particular tip is relevant to all types of photography, but when shooting a sport like rock climbing, people think that the thrill of the climber's movement will make up for poor lighting. It might, but a great photo in poor light ends up being only “good” while a good photo in great light can be amazing. Shoot when the sun is lower in the sky; the light rays will be scattered by the earth's atmosphere providing a beautiful glow and soft shadows to the image. Ben Horton

TO PHOTOGRAPH CLIMBING EFFECTIVELY, you must first be a climber. Not only to be able to capture the right moment, but also what you are feeling when you are out climbing is exactly what you should be trying to capture with your camera. I have always said that a camera is your way of showing the world how you see things. Your view is unique, and if you can successfully show someone your perspective, then it will be new and interesting for them.


Shoot the location.

Photo: We don’t climb rocks just because it’s good exercise. We climb because it challenges us to overcome our fears and our self doubt; we climb because it puts us in amazing positions overlooking beautiful natural landscapes. Climbing is merely a reason to spend time in these places that we find so inspiring, and we aim to be better at it so that we can reach new vistas. If we were only interested in a workout, a gym would suffice. Any good climbing photograph will convey all of this. Show the place, show the struggle, and show the reward.


Shoot down or across.

Photo: It's tough to inspire with a photo taken from directly below a climber. Besides the fact that it’s not the most flattering view of him or her, you’ll also be dealing with something called the foreshortening effect. It happens when you take a three dimensional view and compress it down to two dimensions. The route no longer looks as steep, and the climber is too far away to convey any sort of feeling. To get a perspective that really shows what is happening, you have to be either across from, or above, the climber, showing some perspective on where they are, how they got there, and what they are going through in that moment.


Pay attention to light.

Photo: This particular tip is relevant to all types of photography, but when shooting a sport like rock climbing, people think that the thrill of the climber's movement will make up for poor lighting. Shoot when the sun is lower in the sky; the light rays will be scattered by the earth's atmosphere providing a beautiful glow and soft shadows to the image.


Tell the full story.

Photo: Not every image needs to be of a climber tackling an unimaginably difficult physical challenge. Sometimes to tell the story, all that you need is the right image of someone organizing their gear, or perhaps utterly exhausted lying in the dirt. These images tell the story of what climbing is all about, and often times can relay more of the story than the hero shot.


Convey risk.

Photo: Knowing the moment that best reflects the struggle that the climber is going through is key to understanding when to take the picture. When the climber has placed protection above them and the fear of taking a fall is gone, they relax, their body language no longer conveys the thrill that it did a moment before they placed their protection. A thrilling image will show that the climber is taking a risk, it will show their motivation in spite of the danger, it will give the viewer a rush by forcing them to imagine that they are the one in the precarious position.


Pick the right lens.

Photo: I was leaving for a shoot that would take me three thousand feet up the side of a cliff in Yosemite. I only had room for one lens, and wasn’t quite sure what to take. I asked my friend who is in my opinion the greatest climbing photographer of our time, Jimmy Chin, what lens he most often uses on his adventures in Yosemite. His choice is a 24-70mm lens. It’s not so wide as to distort the image, but is wide enough to get up close and personal. It’s not so long that the climber has no connection to the photographer, but it’s also long enough to make up for some of the difficulties of getting into position. That lens is all I take with me now.


Be as prepared as possible.

Photo: Perched up on a wall, high above the ground, the photographer is undergoing his or her own struggle. Getting into position requires an intimate knowledge of rope work, safety systems, and substantial physical effort. We must align ourselves with the climber to capture the image, while staying out of the way so as not to be a danger to those around us. Now, imagine you get into position, the light is perfect, the climber is in position, and you are using the wrong lens, or your camera battery is dead. The moment is gone, and most likely the climber is going to be pretty frustrated with you. Being successful as an adventure or climbing photographer is dependent on you always being ready, and never making the climber wait for you.


Find simple backgrounds.

Photo: It always helps to find a background that lets the climber stand out in the frame. Large blocks of color help create separation between the climber and the background. A complex background with many colors or shapes will hide the climber, making it hard to distinguish them from the surroundings. My personal favorite technique is to shoot from an angle that sets the climber against the sky, and slightly under expose the image. This creates a silhouette and simplifies the image down to its basic shapes and movement.


Have the climber wear bright colors.

Photo: One great thing about outdoorsy people is they tend to wear brightly colored jackets. For some it’s a fashion statement from the 80’s, while others do it so that if they are in trouble they are easier to find. Even though my personal choice is to wear black, I always bring a few neon jackets with me to throw on the climbers. It’s especially relevant when shooting a climber that’s far away. That one little bright spot of color can draw your eye right to the climber. Don’t assume any color will work though, a red jacket photographed against red sandstone will work more like camouflage.


Look for memorable moments.

Photo: If all you are doing is photographing the act of climbing a rock, you’re missing a huge part of the story. The story is what makes photography interesting, look for the moments that are the ones that we will want to remember long after we’ve forgotten the climb itself.


Use lines to draw the eye to the subject.

Photo: Our eyes are not as steady as we would like to think. They move around an image, following contours, colors, shapes, and brightness in a predictable pattern. A good photographer knows how to use this to create a story that unfolds over time. Our eyes will move between bright and dark spaces, and they will follow the lines in the image to do so. The lines in this image converge on the woman, standing on a ledge 100 feet up the side of a cliff. But she is also positioned between the shadows and the bright flare of the sun. You see her, but your eye is forced to constantly move around the image.


Stay out of your own way.

Photo: There’s nothing worse that putting all of your effort into getting into position ahead of the climber, and then finding that your shadow is draped across them, or your rope is dangling into the frame. A good image of a climber makes it look like they are all on their own up there, that their only path to safety is to continue moving up. Seeing the photographer's shadow or rope shatters that illusion.


7. CLIMBING IS MUCH MORE ABOUT TECHNIQUE THAN BRUTE STRENGTH . Any experienced climber will tell you that being a GOOD climber is key when you are just starting out. Learn good movement, careful footwork, balance, and body positioning before worrying about getting stronger.

8. LEARN HOW TO USE YOUR FEET EFFECTIVELY . Careful, intentional foot placements can increase the control you have over your climbing. Great climbing begins with great footwork – watch any expert and you’ll find their foot placements are always silent and deliberate. A great way to practice is by adding footwork drills into your warm up.

9. TRY TO KEEP YOUR ARMS STRAIGHT and make use of your skeletal advantage. Holding yourself up with bent arms (a lock-off position) is extremely tiring and will build up the lactic acid in your forearms, pumping you out in no time.

10. KEEP YOUR CENTER OF GRAVITY (COG) LOW, CLOSE TO THE WALL, AND ABOVE YOUR BASE OF SUPPORT . This will help you to use the big muscles in your legs more, dissuading you from pulling in too much with your arms. It will also make it easier to maintain stable balance while resting and while moving.

11. LEARN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STATIC AND DYNAMIC CLIMBING . Static climbing is slow and controlled and most moves are essentially reversible. Dynamic climbing utilizes power and momentum, and is useful when you need to move your COG over larger distances before resuming stable balance. Dynamic moves are usually irreversible. Both static and dynamic climbing are useful movement strategies.

12. GET YOUR MENTAL GAME DIALED IN . The mental aspects of rock climbing are arguably as important as the physical aspects. Learn to focus and concentrate, deal with fears, accept failure, handle your ego, engage in positive self-talk, and more. The Rock Warrior’s Way is a fantastic resource with tons of applicable exercises.

A Photographer’s Arduous Climb to the Roof of the Jungle

A technologist works in rainforest canopies to track illegal logging. To document that work, you can’t take pictures from the ground.

Times Insider explains who we are and what we do, and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together.

Ulet Ifansasti had hoisted himself halfway into a jungle canopy when I called out to ask how he was feeling.

“I can’t feel my hands!” he yelled back.

For his sake, I didn’t mention that he was only halfway to his destination — or that his arms were trembling like Jell-O.

Weeks earlier, when I proposed an article about a start-up based in California that uses treetop artificial intelligence software to track illegal logging, an editor on The Times’s Climate desk said the project would require a good photographer.

So a Times photo editor assigned Mr. Ifansasti, a talented photojournalist, to join me and my colleague Muktita Suhartono on a reporting trip to the Indonesian island of Sumatra . The idea was to follow Topher White, the founder of the start-up, Rainforest Connection, on an excursion to install treetop monitoring software outside four remote villages.

I would fly from Hong Kong, Ms. Suhartono from Bangkok and Mr. Ifansasti from the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta, where he lives.

“So I have to climb a tree?” the photographer asked. The answer was yes, and Mr. Ifansasti, 36, assumed that would be easy enough.

But the tree in question — a Seussian-looking hardwood with a giant trunk — turned out to be far bigger than he had expected.

Climbing the tree was important because the article’s primary subject was Mr. White, a technologist based in San Francisco who installs the surveillance systems in jungles across Asia, Africa and Latin America. My editors wanted a picture of him doing just that.

Mr. White, 37, typically hoists himself into treetops using rock climbing equipment. He showed Mr. Ifansasti how to use the gear, and the plan was for the two men to climb together on tandem ropes, rendezvousing at a tree limb overlooking the jungle canopy. After that, Mr. White would install a solar-powered surveillance system that continuously uploads audio data online, where A.I. software listens for the sounds of chain saws and other telltale audio signatures of illegal activity .

Before they set off, Ms. Suhartono and I joked that if Mr. Ifansasti got stuck on the limb, he could always drop his memory card. But the joke assumed he would make it that far, and after watching him climb for a few minutes, I wasn’t sure that he could.

(I had declined Mr. White’s invitation to join the climb above the jungle canopy, ostensibly because I didn’t want to prevent a local forest patroller from having the opportunity — and also, if I’m honest, because the idea sounded more terrifying than exciting.)

From the ground, I noticed that Mr. Ifansasti was relying too much on his arms, instead of his legs, to pull himself up, and at turns letting go of the rope entirely and flailing around like a pinwheel as he dangled from his harness. Ms. Suhartono said it looked as though he were practicing kung fu in midair.

Soon, howls of fatigue and frustration were filtering down through layers of jungle vines. Mr. Ifansasti was clearly in pain and trying to muster his last reserves of strength to carry on.

Also, the late-afternoon sunlight — a key ingredient for what photographers call the “golden hour” of shooting — was fading fast.

“Ulet is still dangling,” Ms. Suhartono said at one point. “Where’s Topher gone?” It turned out that Mr. White had already reached the tree limb, nearly 200 feet above the ground, but that Mr. Ifansasti’s arms had given out entirely.

“Topher, I’m sorry,” the photographer told the technologist. “I can’t move.”

So Mr. White, who has a rock climber’s upper-body strength, backtracked and ratcheted both himself and Mr. Ifansasti into position on the tree limb. From a distance, the maneuver looked like a two-man circus act.

Above the tree canopy, Mr. Ifansasti’s cellphone, which had been out of range on the forest floor, began to ring.

“Are you back from the forest yet?” his wife asked when he picked up.

“No, I’m in the tree,” he said.

Mr. Ifansasti’s wife told him to hang up and focus on his job, which he did. And the portrait he took of Mr. White a few moments later — framed by the tree, the tropical foliage and the hazy outlines of Sumatran mountains — would become our article’s lead image.

When Mr. Ifansasti finally returned , it was nearly dark and he was beaming with satisfaction. What were the specific difficulties, I asked, of shooting a portrait at the roof of a jungle?

“Difficulties?” he said with a laugh. “It was all difficult!”

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Joshua Tree Rock Climbing – Rock Climber’s Guide to Joshua Tree National Park

Few physical exercises can engage a wide range of body muscles like climbing does. Your quads, biceps, and heart all have to perform optimally as your torso and hips strain to hold the lower half of your body against a boulder. As you extend your hand to get a hold of the next grasp, your arched back, calves, and thighs begin to burn with the effort of holding a steady balance. Then you have to shift your muscles once more to keep a steady climb upwards. Now imagine that you are enjoying the quick rush of adrenaline that follows this activity while viewing one of the most panoramic sites in the United States.

The Joshua Tree National Park’s spectacular sunsets are legendary. Its car-sized boulders and wide range of spiky plants have made it America’s rock climbing and photography Mecca. This otherworldly wonderland named after the Mojave Desert’s scarecrow-esque enduring symbol, Yucca brevifolia or Joshua tree, has tons of breathtaking sights.

The park embraces both the Sonoran and Mojave deserts, two different arid ecosystems in an environment sculpted by thousands of years of strong winds and rains. There is plenty of flora and fauna ranging from 3-foot long chuckwalla lizards to endless carpets of wildflowers. When the night comes, the park turns to a superbly clear night sky perfect for stargazers. Joshua Tree was made a National Monument in 1936 and was designated a National Park in 1994. The park’s otherworldly mishmash of beauty is also ideal for hiking, horseback riding, bird watching, plant spotting, and biking environment.

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A case for weightlifting

I always found it interesting that almost all Division 1 athletes do the exact same exercises: squats, bench press, deadlifts, snatches, clean and jerks, and a variety of derivatives of these core* exercises. Why was the track team snatching? Why was swim team squatting? It’s not wrong to be strong, and a stronger athlete is a better athlete. Period.

*In this case, “core” refers to the lifts being at the “core” of a solid strength and conditioning program due to the complex, multi-joint nature of the movement.

First and foremost, lifting weights, particularly the Olympic lifts, does not guarantee that you will gain a significant amount of lean mass. You can adjust your training regimen to focus on strength development and recruitment instead of hypertrophy (muscle growth).

In general, to gain mass, reps in the 8-12 rep range with a challenging load (approximately 70-75% of your one-rep-max) are the recipe for muscle growth. This scheme results in increased time-under-tension and forces the muscles into the glycolytic energy system (think: the pump or the muscle burn). This also results in the formation of lactic acid, a potent stimulator for muscle growth.

If you keep the volume low and move the weight quickly, you reduce the time-under-tension, minimize lactic acid formation, and the training stimulus focuses on increasing strength, not building size. To get strong, you have to lift heavy weights. But remember that weight is relative. The goal is not to get you to a 500-pound squat. The goal is to make you relatively stronger, without gaining additional mass.

For an athlete that is new to weightlifting, significant strength gains can be made by reducing what is called the strength deficit. Simply put, the strength deficit is the difference between your “potential” strength and your “actual” strength.

Another way to think about this concept is the question:

How strong can you be without gaining any additional mass?

The secret is training the body to recruit more motor units (non-jargon: more muscle fibers). A motor unit consists of a motor neuron and all of the muscle fibers innervated by that neuron.

Using electronics as an example, think of a motor unit as an electrical circuit. The circuit can only power devices plugged into that circuit. So the motor neuron “powers” all the muscle fibers that it connects to. Interestingly, untrained individuals can have strength deficits of 45-50%. This means that they are only using half of their strength potential.

Why this matters: you can add serious strength gains through training your nervous system to recruit more motor units and maximize the strength you already have. All without adding any additional body weight.

Weightlifting can also be used to elicit a hormonal response that can be levered for climbing-specific exercises. When athletes perform compound lifts (squat, deadlift, bench press, snatch, clean and jerk, weighted pullups) large muscle groups are used. When large amounts of muscle fibers are recruited, this can result in increased serum (aka blood) levels of testosterone. Testosterone’s main effects on muscles include increased protein synthesis and interaction with muscular neurons resulting in an increase of neurotransmitters (think of this as making the neurons super conductors).

The magic here is that this testosterone is systemic, and is not localized to the muscles being used. This means that the entire body will benefit from the increased levels of testosterone, as it travels through the entire circulatory system. So you can “juice out” testosterone with the core lifts and then couple these with climbing specific exercises (hangboarding, campusing, bouldering, etc … ).

For example, you could perform a set of heavy deadlifts immediately followed by hangboarding. The circulating testosterone will act upon the climbing specific muscles of the forearms, resulting in more strength gains were the climbing exercises done in isolation. Science.

Watch the video: Learning sports photography


  1. Ike

    Really and as I have not guessed before

  2. Hrycg

    We are waiting for the continuation. Of course, rather exaggerated, however, personal experience shows something close to what is described.

  3. Taugore

    no comments

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