Climb Away‘s vision is to bring people from all over the world together over the love of climbing. Get the organization’s pro tips on climbing photography here.
Rock walls are vast and full of opportunities for lessons and growth. Climb Away, a Canadian organization that employs a variety of outdoor instructors as guides for retreats, facilitates that. And one of the most important topics they cover is how to get beginners comfortable on the wall.
In this article, Alex Eggermont, a Squamish-based photographer and instructor at Climb Away, helps us break down the basics of climbing photography.
Photo credit: Alex Eggermont
Climbing With Your Camera: Dos
Climbing with your camera can be a safety hazard for you and those climbing around you, especially with all the gear that goes along with it. Before going outdoors with professional camera equipment, it’s important to know what the best practices are.
Here’s how to ensure staying light, safe, and agile, while getting the shots you’re searching for.
1. Know what you’re shooting
Ideally, you’ve climbed the route, or at least know when and where the hard parts are. To avoid disturbing the climber during these crux moments, go to the crag a few times and practice those moves with your climbing partner. Make sure you can climb it smoothly before taking it on as a photographer.
2. Take only one or two lenses
Ideally, you wouldn’t even have to change lenses on the wall and even have two bodies. You’re already hauling lots with you while you’re climbing, so only take the essential camera equipment. Remember to stay light.
3. Use static ropes
Redirect whenever you can so that you can see your anchor point and avoid sharp edges that could lead to core shots way faster than you think. Static will give you more control while climbing and help you be more intentional with directing your angles.
4. New point of view
Find that viewpoint you haven’t seen before. The beauty of photographing climbers is that there are so many movements you can capture. Take on a fresh, new perspective, something that’s special to the climber and their style. Try to be original and create some unique content!
Photo credit: Mark Doliner
5. Add some flexibility
Having two ropes attached to different anchors and two GRIGRIs is a great way to have lots of flexibility and movement. You want to have as much free flow of movement as possible while capturing the climber. The last thing you want is to feel limited or restricted by your positioning!
6. Get the look!
The eyes of the climber — that’s what we need to see. What’s going on in their head? The focus and intensity of the climber will be seen in their gaze. Make sure to stay present and look for that look. You’ll know it when you see it.
7. Duct tape for the win
Take it with you and tape sharp edges that the rope is rubbing on. The last thing you want to worry about is having your rope fraying and start cutting due to a sharp edge of the climb.
When you do those practice climbs in advance, make sure you identify where you need to place that tape. Don’t forget to pack it away afterward!
Photo credit: Alex Eggermont
Climbing With Your Camera: Don’ts
1. Don’t bother with lens caps
Use filters to protect your lenses, but you want to avoid the number of parts you need to deal with when hanging on a rope. Remember, stay light! The less you need to carry around with you, the better. Take only the essentials.
2. Don’t let your rope hang underneath you
Pull it back and clip it to your harness, or make it shorter so it doesn’t hang (don’t forget the knot)! The fewer pieces of gear dangling and flying around you, the better.
Ensure you’re staying compact while you’re hanging and moving around the wall to get different angles. No need for any tangling while you’re in action!
Alex Eggermont has over 10 years of global photography and videography experience. He’s traveled and climbed on multiple continents, and worked as a guide in Iceland. He started teaching photography 3 years ago.
Climb Away offers festivals, day trips, virtual classes, and more to help grow — and get people into — climbing. You can learn more about instructor programs with Climb Away here.
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