The Setting Game

The Setting Game

For the past year I’ve been working under the guidance of Alex Lemel, head route setter at one of the Climbing communities oldest centres, at Mile End in London’s east end.

Whilst route setting is my newest venture, I’ve managed to balance it with my passion for photography, bringing my camera to most days and capturing the other setters as they create problems for customers to enjoy. Most days are very similar, but last month, we held a training day for the Great Britain bouldering team, something that Alex has had in the pipeline for some months.

The trio in charge of creating the 16 blocs are Alex Lemel, Alex Fry and Gav Symonds. All boast respectful resumes and were certainly up for the challenge. 

Capturing the two days of setting gave me a vision for how I wanted the images to look, I scoped the right angles and knew the shapes that the climbers would be forced into on certain problems. It wasn’t just the shapes the athletes would make whilst on the blocs that stood out in my mind, but also the problems themselves, I think as both a photographer and a setter I really love the aesthetics of a boulder problem. This made things a little easier for documenting the event, although I do love capturing the in between moments, both on and off the wall. 

Although I normally have a vision for my images, and spending two days being a fly on the wall with the setters you can never fully prepare for every situation. All three setters may Climb a problem with the same or similar beta, then one (or all) of the climbers could come and break that beta, thus changing the outcome you wanted for that image. Sometimes this works out amazingly and you capture something incredible that you weren’t expecting  but on the flip side it can also ruin an idea that you hoped would pan out, but this is the nature of action photography.

On the day of the event I made it in before the team arrived so I could scope the lighting and logistics to work around the spectators. I love composition and knew I could have access to all areas which meant shooting from angles that nobody else would have or think of.

I love the colour scheme of the walls in the secret garden area of Mile End, which were all co designed by Alex himself, the change in colours shows off the angle changes and the choice of colours allow the holds to stand out. These factors all help make the climbers stand out that extra bit more and give a really striking background that isn’t too distraction.

London based climber, photographer & film maker