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Expert Advice: How to Gear Up & Take Great Climbing Photos


Author: Andy Bowen, Above Alpine Photography

Shooting climbing photos and getting those "banger" shots can be challenging and often requires you to use gear you aren't familiar with.

Gearing up to have everything you'll need to shoot might seem like a lot. It really isn't and once you have it, you're set for a while. You'll end up with ascenders, foot straps/loops, 2 daisy chains, a comfortable harness, a static line/rope, and some carabiners.

If you've jugged big walls, you have a huge lead on getting set up for those great shots, and you probably already own most of what you need. It may go without saying, but making sure you're a seasoned climber with a wide range of knowledge to make sure both you and your climbers are safe is top priority. Having someone to show you rigging, jugging, and different ways of getting up and down your ropes is tremendously helpful—and in my opinion a must.

Here is a gear list I recommend to get you on the wall and firing away gold:

Now that you have your gear squared away, let's talk about taking great photos:

  • Be creative. We all love a good top-down shot on a tough sport route, but the unique stuff that "wows" comes from trying new things.
  • Get that light right. Flat light or creative striking light. Find a way to make it happen. Golden hour rules still apply.
  • Don't forget to crank the shutter speed. Try to stay above 500 unless you're really fighting loss of light.
  • Be sure your camera is secure. Remember to zip that bag back up when you swap lenses. I can't believe how many lenses I've heard jump the bag. Dangerous and expensive.
  • Try to relax. This one's important. Lots of moving parts and expensive camera gear can be nerve-racking. So be aware of your breathing and go through your safety checks if you need to remind yourself you're good to just focus on shooting. Remember to find leading lines and use the rule of thirds. Move your climber to the side of the shot instead of the middle. Try stuff and find what you are most psyched about.
  • Don't forget about your dangling rope. Stack it as you climb and get a system for keeping it out of the way and accessible.
  • Watch your feet. They tend to sneak into pictures if your not paying close attention.
  • Remind your climber to look up often. Get their face. Find the moments where their eyes are saying the most.
  • Encourage the climber to wear bright colors. It matters.

Best advice I can give is to just go shoot, a lot, all the time, and try new things as much as possible!

Happy shooting!

Andy Bowen
IG: @abovealpinephotography and @andybowenab
FB: Above Alpine Photography

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