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A rockclimber photoshoot: Some tricks and tips how you do it.

8/28/2014 Matt 0 Comments

For shooting rock climbers, there is a bunch of things involved.

Here are some tricks and tips how you do it.

Since rock climbing is in vertical environment, be sure you have the right knowledge about securing yourself before you even think about taking those pictures.

First of all decide which route you want your climber to do and make sure he's capable of doing it.

I always first check he's experience. Explain the climber and belayer what you want to do that day, most of them just want to climb their route, but your main concern will be the right time for the light available on the route you want to shoot. If the route is not in good light condition, just switch to plan B and propose another one.

If you don’t know the sun position for that route, some guidebooks have it written down but I always check it before the shoot.

Be sure to know where the ‘crux’ is in the route… it might have some interesting poses for your climber.

Now, depending on what kind of picture you want, decide to take a wide angle lens or a zoom lens.
Go for a wide angle if you want to involve the scenery and if you can get close to your climber.
If you want or need to shoot from far away, take your zoom lens but try not to shoot on his back but more from the side so you will get more interesting views of the body and facial expressions.

Changing lenses on a rock face is not very comfortable, even dangerous for the people underneath you…. I try not to go weekends where it can be pretty crowded.
So make sure no one is under you beside the climber and his belayer.

In the video I used a 17-55mm 2.8 and I was close to the climber.

Now I wait for the perfect moment to take a shot.

You have to be very alert to not miss the right frame where the climber is in action, doing his move...mostly you have only a few seconds for the shot you’re aiming at.

My way is to have them above the last quickdraw so you won't see a rope above him so this accentuates that he is leading the route from the ground up.

My diaphragm will mostly depend on the available light and if I want only the climber in focus or not.

You want to have your focus on the climber's upper body, and if he's very close you can even go for the eyes. I always have automatic focus on one point that I move around during the climb, for my camera it’s called AF-S .

Climbers don't move very fast so for the shutter speed just make sure you don't have motion blur from holding the camera or go just a bit above it to be sure. My shutter speed will be around 1/80 for wide angle and 1/250 for a zoom. You can go faster but just make sure that if you have to crank up your ISO, you are comfortable with the noise.

In my experience, matrix metering for the light is the best and safest option but be sure you check your histogram before the climber is near you...he might be gone before you were able to do all the settings right and going down is not easy on a leadclimb!

From now on enjoy shooting and be safe!

Thanks a ton Stijn!!!

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