South Africa’s Rocklands. What can I say about this place that hasn’t already been said a thousand times? I could draw upon as many superlatives as my vocabulary could source, or wax lyrical about the sights, sounds, colors and flavor of the country. But it would be nothing you haven’t heard before. I could praise the weather and its reliability, the food and its authenticity, or even the locals and their warm-hearted spirit. But again, you’d have heard it before. So do I speak of the climbs? The movements? the aesthetics? Again, it’s all been said before.
Ultimately, why do we go to Rocklands? What leads us to book a flight, a rental car, a place to stay? What makes us spend potentially thousands to visit one place? Motivation and inspiration can come from many sources. We are all different. For one person it might be the chance to experience the best climbs in the world, or the trip of a lifetime. For others its simply a few weeks away from the stresses of everyday life. But I think one thing speaks to everyone—and that is imagery. Pictures specifically are the things that capture attention, be it in a magazine, on a poster or while browsing a website.
A picture can capture our imagination, and it can also allow us to create a world around the frame of the image. This is something that has always interested me. I love poring over pictures, visualizing everything about the climb and the setting. I imagine the texture of the rock, the smell of the grass or the sound of the shuffling of crash pads. I see people in the space, I see the view from the top of the boulder. I imagine the feeling of looking up at the climb from its base. I create the entire space, and I fill in the blanks that a picture can never provide. I carry this little vision around with me, tweaking it from time to time, expanding on it when I see another image that contradicts the original, or simplifying it when my head is full of other things. I do all this until the day I finally get to see it for real. When I arrive, its like seeing an old friend, but an old friend that’s not quite as you remembered them. I experience the climb and its surroundings for a few hours, and then leave.
Hours later I plug in my hard drive to review the pictures I took, and suddenly, my vision is gone. The entire world I created fades, and is replaced with the real world I have just experienced. Sometimes, one is not simply replaced with the other, but the pair merge, as the true image is overlaid on my initial picture. That’s when I’m reminded about how amazing the mind really is, and how amazing a picture really is. To me that’s a special thing, that a picture can allow the mind such imagination, such freedom to expand and create.
Boulderer • Filmmaker • Photographer • Made in Wales •