My introduction to climbing was—like for many—at the local bouldering gym. It didn’t take long before I was completely obsessed. Everything started to look like a boulder problem! I began searching for all I could to learn more about this new world and bought my first climbing book Beyond The Face by Heiko Wilhelm. I trawled the Internet daily and discovered new climbers and bouldering competitions. I’m not interested in entering comps myself as I am definitely not up to the grade (yet), however as a photographer, taking pictures is something I am able to do and it enables me to combine my two obsessions together. Bouldering competitions are a fantastic place to be. Not only are you able to watch and take inspiration from climbers with abilities you wished you had, but there is also an amazing atmosphere that is utterly absorbing.
As a visual person I find myself transfixed by the various shapes and compositions of the holds on the wall interlaced with the limbs of the climbers. There are also the moments that are taking place off of the wall too. Before I even take my camera out, I walk around introducing myself to people. I love absorbing the atmosphere and getting a feel for what is happening. I soon switch into photographer mode though, shutting out the peripheral noise, observing through the lens, constantly at the ready to capture an image. Taking the best photos requires a similar mindset to climbing the hardest boulders; all the focus becomes about that moment.
Shooting climbers on the wall full length can sometimes feel repetitive and un-inspiring so when photographing at a comp I consciously adapt and try to take a different perspective. I find that the small detail shots of hands, fingers, feet, legs, and arms are the crux of climbing, and can make unique compositions. My aim is to take pictures that tell the whole story of an event, and that is why capturing the moments off the wall are also really important. It takes patience to observe and you need to be prepared to shoot instantaneously, otherwise the moment is gone. It can be frustrating though. There are many times when you know you’ve missed the shot. It’s easy to think too much about the ones that got away but this makes me more focused for the next time to decide on a direction my images will take. I also find it really helps to have a clear idea of what you want to come away with and only shoot for that otherwise you can get caught up in the event and try to capture too much.
I feel really lucky to have found climbing later in life and that I am able to use my skills as a commercial photographer to reflect my passion for the sport, whilst being surrounded by people who share the same obsession.
Thanks to all the climbers for making my pictures happen.
London based climber and photographer