Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Climbers: Photographers Journal

Climber Portrait

Mike Camp – Lake City Ice Park

I've been photographing around for a while now and love shooting most all things...all
subjects. But one stands out with me. You'd think it would be because of the spectacular settings,
the beautiful locations, the challenging approaches, the challenge of finding the right place
to set up, careful not to loose track of my footing. Where I am in relation to rock and
abyss. Careful not to make a mis-step up there in the vertical world where there is no
forgiveness. Where there is a paper-thin line between "all is good" and "all is not good".
Especially when there is the distraction, both physical and mental, of the camera and the shot.

I'm most attracted to photographing this strange sport by the people who are
obsessed by it. They're a unique breed, for sure.

The Climbers

Canon 5DMII w/ 85mm f:1.8

Oh, Really 5.13b

No, thats actually the name Rob Pizem gave to this micro-crack up on Mt. Garfield near my home in Grand Junction, Colorado. It's actually closer to Palisade, which is the grape growing area of our quaint little Western Colorado valley.

Oh, Really is a desert sandstone overhanging finger crack, rated at 5.13b, that ripped a hole in the
back of Robs hand his first time up. We shot this for CAMP USA and it should be appearing in their spring campaign. I've been shooting quite a bit with Piz lately. He understands my ends and needs, as a photographer, and puts me on rock that lights well and has great landscape values.

Canon 5DMIII w/ 24-70 f:2.8

Sarah Watson

Clipping Away 5:10

She is difficult to describe and my words will lack the range of
color needed to tell her story. 

Sarah came to me as a climbing model for an editorial piece I was
doing on Fit Women. Sarah is "on the loose". She resides in and operates out of her car with her dog Charlie, and travels from one group of her friends (and she has many) to another staying a while and moving on. All bracketed by her love of climbing...and base jumping. It's a dangerous enough lifestyle in climbing, then add in jumping off of a perfectly good cliff. Sarah is trained as a biologist, and may go back to that one day, but opts for this way of life right now instead.

I recall the days when if you couldn't fit all your junk into the trunk of your car,
you had too much junk.

My how things change and I envy her. 

Canon 5DMIII w/100-400mm f:4.5  

Pick Detail

To the person I have never met a rock or ice climber that I didn't like. Or more 
accurately, respect. There is a certain calm and self assuredness that runs through them all.
All are self-reliant individuals engaged in an energetic approach to all things.

Whether up there or down here.

Hasselblad 500C w/ 80mm on Tri-X (asa 400)

Code Red Seven 5:13

One totally tough girl is Cecilia , CC, Dembreski. 

In shooting CC on this rose colored slab of granite, I was concentrating on her through the barrel of
my lens more than actually shooting her. I watched as she moved up, a small section at a time, 
working hard with each move. She peeled off the wall a couple of times, falling double the length of her last belay, maybe 12 or 15 feet, only to shake it off and start again. I was totally impressed
with her toughness and determination.

This beautiful rose colored granite is in Unaweep Canyon, south of Grand Junction. 

Canon 5DMIII w/100-400mm f:4.5  

Old man of the Tetons

Al Reed, in his day, was an elite member and guide for EXUM Guides in Teton Park and when
I met him there while on an assignment for Hemispheres Magazine, he was still 
involved with EXUM as their Executive Director, living part time in South America. What a
life. I don't know what Al is up to these days and as this blog post makes it's way around, I hope
others will comment with some news for me. The last time I saw Al, I was up on the side
of Teton Mountain with a climbing group anxiously awaiting some important news from home and
left Wyoming, abruptly, when the news came.

You loose track of people in life, but always remember their essence.

Shot w/ Deardorff V8 (8x10) on Portra NC 160

Climbers Portrait

Craig Blakemore, aka Mad Dog, climbed on the Lake City ice wall for us a couple of years back
and we were able to shoot some unusual set-ups with him because of a huge overhanging
stalactite, or hanging icicle, that formed as part of the wall. Very sheer and precarious, although
it didn't deter him from helping us get our shot. One of the shots below illustrates this nicely.

Canon 5DMII 

Jeffrey is grown now, but it seems like yesterday we were out shooting this. These kids grow           up so fast. Climbing and bouldering is such a great way for a father and son to bond. For Dad           to show his son "the ropes". 

I shot this photo on Portra NC 160, on a tripod with an old Speed Graphic Pacemaker and
a retrofitted rectilinear barrel lens. The old barrel lenses have no shutter mechanism so you need
a camera with a rear "curtain' shutter. I have not shot with these cameras for some time, but
am about to reintroduce them to my quiver of equipment one day soon.

I love the way the old leather and wood smells and the clunky sounds they make.


The Designator is a well known ice fall in East Vail forming off the north side of the East Vail
Chutes. I, at the time this was shot, lived in a little log cabin directly across from the "Des" and,
in the summer months, could lay on my bed and watch the falls. It was so pacifying and 
relaxing to watch the water make its plunge to the valley floor below. Almost in slow motion.

On this day, and many others, I was shooting with Jim Nowak, who was my favored ice 
climber of that time. Jim was a great and trustworthy climbing model and I always knew he would be safe. I have some photos, buried somewhere, of Jim free soloing on the Designator. He was that

Jim has moved on, although I run into him from time to time and he has since founded
the DZi Foundation www.dzi.org, who's efforts move teen aged girls in Nepal out
of a life of prostitution and into the safety of safe houses giving them the opportunity to attend school and better their lives. 

I'm so proud to call Jim a friend. 
Fuji 617 w/ 90mm Fujinon SW on Fuji Velvia.

Escalante Canyon

 On the shoot in the image below this one, Crawford was our belayer. Super important job. When
we wrapped, he wanted to finish off a route that was situated directly above "Milk is for Babies".

It was a bonus for me because it allowed me to show more of the beautiful canyon we were in
so I positioned myself for a landscape with Crawford small in the frame to show scale. The
shadow was moving up in the waning part of this November day so we lucked out and caught
the last little bit of sunlight on the sandstone slab.

The red fleece didn't hurt either.

Escalante Canyon

My friend Rob Pizem, or "Piz" as most know him, is a well known rated an sponsored climber
here in Colorado. When he has a pitch he is trying to put up he'll call and invite me out for some
photos. Piz understands my needs as a photographer as they relate to sun angle and composition
so it's fun to work with him and have him as a resource. 

A window in, so to speak.

"Milk is for Babies" so named by Piz himself, is a sandstone overhanging crack that Piz had been working on. A fingersplitting micro-crack. Once he had it at a certain point, I came out to shoot. We waited until the cottonwood at left was on fire wanting that to be part of the story. Rob was up and down this route several times, usually peeling off and falling on his belay. 

Painful to watch !

Canon 5DMIII w/ 24-70mm 1:2.8 II USM

I hadn't heard that Lake City had it's own ice park until my friend and assistant, Rob Reece, https://www.robbreecephotography.com, took me down there and introduced me to Mad Dog
and Mike Camp.

I have always love the pure cold and warm tones created by granite and ice.

Canon 5DMIII w/ 85mm f:2.8

The look on Piz's face coiling his rope after rapping this pitch in the brisk evening air tells the      story of the satisfaction and peace we all feel when we've completed a challenging task.

From a photographic perspective, I did not set this up. I anticipated the shot while kneeling
down to switch lenses. I swung my camera up and used CC as a nice, soft foreground 
element. A body part. Nothing glamorous, just a sweet moment of peace.

Canon 5DMIII w/ 24-70mm f:2.8

Memories fade over time.

Over the years I've had chance meetings with people of all sorts. With that sometimes comes
an opportunity to photograph something different, or from a different perspective. 

I wish I had been a better record keeper because as I have gotten a little further down the line
I find that I hate not knowing or beagle to recall the names of the people I have shot
with. When I look back upon a photograph I am able to conjure up an entire event that I
have not thought about in a decade. Time goes by so fast.

I do remember meeting this chap and recall thinking how small and skinny he was.

Didn't stay that way for long. 

As soon as he got up the rock I could see how his lithe proportions lent themselves to
getting up the rock.

Canon EOS-1 w/ 14mm f:2.8

Kodak Tri-X


Blowing' and Goin' 5.12

The action of rock climbing is subtle and refined. Not like that of cycle racing or skiing, but
it's there none the less. The great climbing photographers have refined their craft into an
art form utilizing the the landscape and human form to capture this otherwise nonsensical struggle
of man against the immovable force of stone.

Q: Why do you climb ?  A: Because it's there !

As I shoot this sport I am always aware of the moment, or the instant that the action is occuring
through the tunnel of my lens. There are times to shoot and times not to. A time when the static becomes fluid motion...only for an instant.

The use of shadow and high-light, foreground obstruction creating a composition in thirds, looking
down into the face of my subject as he fees rope through his teeth and reaches up to place new

The Starling flying below didn't hurt the image either.

Canon 5DMIII w/ 100-400mm f:4.5 L Ultrasonic

Perfect Knots

There is only entropy in the sport of climbing.

Order within the lack of order. Equipment must be reliable, knots correct, but equipment and 
flesh are in a state of continuous abuse...hands, ropes, hardware, but hands especially. 

I have a very large print of this image in my office and it is one of my favorite images.

Reminds me not to stray from an arduous task.

Speed Graphic Pacemaker with a retrofitted rectilinear barrel lens circa @ 1880-1900
Portra NC 160

Ouray Ice Park Portrait.

Kim Reynolds was gracious and kind to let me shoot her at Ouray, Everyone knows about
the ice at Ouray. We did a few different things that day and one of our shots even ended up on
the Marmot Catalog.

But this was my favorite of that day.

Graflex Speed Graphic Pacemaker w/ Graflex Optar 135mm f:4.7 (slight tilt)
Polaroid Type 55 P/N (scanned negative) 


Details within the act and again the testament to a sport reliant of dependable gear. Expensive

This image also hangs on a wall in my office above the end of my desk. It contains such detail that
the viewer is drawn into the image deeper and deeper, the longer they look at it.

Canon 5DMII w/ 16-35 mm f:2.8 L

 Peter Lev

Peter is retired. I ran into him on Jackson Hole Mountain one summer day while attending a climbing
guide orientation for EXUM Mountain Guides. Peter was 72 at the time and I was interested in
guys like him who had had a rich past and were still putting younger men to shame. Lev had
guided for EXUM in past years and was a Co-Partner at Exum still.

When I run into dynamic people like Peter Lev I have trained myself to reach out with questions 
to shoot a portrait if I have a camera with me. This has allowed me to meet some interesting
people and to learn a bit about them. This, I feel, is one of the rich bi-products of being blessed
as a photographer.

This portrait of Peter remains one of my favorites to this day.

Canon 5D w/ 16-35mm f:2.8 L

Lake City Ice Wall, Colorado

This image is one of my favorites, I guess because of the clouds that rolled in and the fact that
this ice had formed free of the main wall creating an additional dimension. Ice forms where water
flows, sometimes emerging right out of a piece of rock where there is a seep in spring and 

Mad Dog knew his ice, otherwise I wouldn't have allowed him to be up there for photos.

Warren Miller once said that a ski models i.q. decreased by 70 points when there was
a camera around.

Applies to all.

Canon 5DMII w/ 16-35 mm f:2.8 L

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Oshkosh - or the Addiction with Getting High in Wisconsin

Matt Lander: Wonderful Machine

Taking a flight used to be an experience. Women wore dresses and men wore suits. Unfortunately for us, the seats seem to keep getting smaller, the prices keep going up, and the class and comfort that used to go along with flying have disappeared with our complimentary peanuts. Thankfully, there are those at EAA AirVenture who are keeping the excitement in flying through the Oshkosh Airshow. Colorado photographer Ken Redding recently got to capture the art and style of it all.

Every summer for more than 60 years, EAA AirVenture has invited aviation enthusiasts to gather and marvel at the accomplishment of human flight. In July of this year, over 10,000 aircraft were on display in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Ken is constantly in search of interesting and inspiring material to add to his portfolio, so when a pilot friend encouraged him to attend the show he knew it would be a great opportunity to create some exceptional shots.

Never having shot planes before, Ken relied on his experience as an automotive photographer to help plan the production of his shoot. Shooting a large event like the airshow left very little control in Ken’s hands. “We had to make sure we caught some early and late light and understood the daily schedule so we were in place and ready,” says Ken, planning as much of the shoot as he could.

During the shoot, Ken had to battle the mid-summer heat and humidity of the cheese state. “Once the sun was up we were wringing wet,” he says. “It was hard to stay hydrated.” Despite the blanket of moisture in the air, the blazing sun, and the fact that they were walking around on a cement tarmac for most of the day, Ken captured some amazing images. He used his background in shooting fast-paced sports like cycle racing and skiing to his advantage when shooting the aerial maneuvers of the stunt pilots.

In addition to capturing the exciting movements of the air planes, Ken was also careful to get some still shots of the structures themselves, gracefully reminding us that the machines are functional pieces of art, made of polished steel, hand crafted wood, and glossy paint jobs.

The freedom of a self-assigned project allowed Ken to pick and choose what he wanted to shoot, and the results left him with a great collection of shots that he is posting on his blog and cycling through promotional materials. His experience at Oshkosh has inspired him to try some air-to-air shooting and he has received an offer to do just that. The Wright brothers would be proud.