UKClimbing and UKHillwalking are proud to announce the winners of the 2017 Marmot Photography Awards.
An automatic selection of five photos from each of the categories on site was made based on the votes from the previous 12 months. Users were then asked to vote for the overall winners of each category from this selection. In addition to the category awards, we also have three overall winners (1st, 2nd, 3rd), which were selected by professional photographer Tim Glasby. Tim has worked closely with Marmot for many years, with images of all their key athletes to his name - Steve McClure, Lucy Creamer, Neil Mawson, Jack Geldard, and Leah Crane - just to name a few. Alongside his choices he will be including a paragraph on why he has made each selection, just to provide a bit of background on his thinking.
Winner of the Winter Climbing Category: Greg Boswell on the exposed top pitch of Hanging Garden by Hamish Frost
I spent the first two weeks of February working on a winter climbing and skiing film in the Scottish Highlands for Rab. The unseasonably mild conditions meant there was almost no snow on the hills when we began the shoot, however on the third day a storm front rolled through and winter finally arrived. We headed up to the Ben, where Greg had his eye on a variation to the route 'Rock of Ages' on Number Three Gully Buttress. Taking up position on a static rope near the top of his intended line, I figured that there could be a great opportunity for a wide shot as Greg was topping out, which would hopefully show off the exposure on the top pitch - it was just a case of waiting for the opportune moment. The light that day was completely flat, however I've shot enough skiing in Scotland before to know that you can still produce a great image even in appalling visibility, and if anything it can add a lot of atmosphere to photo. This was actually the first time I'd properly photographed winter climbing, so I was chuffed when the plan came together and I came away with a shot which did justice to the route!
Winner of the Landscape Category: Suilven Wild Camping by James Grant
Suilven is a prominent mountain in Assynt and anyone who has been to the area should recognise it's shapely profile. On a mountain photography trip back in March, aiming to capture the area, I made the arduous but fun 12 mile trek (round trip) with a overnight camp. My legs were already tired from a mountain climb the previous night up Sgorr Tuath but with an unpromising forecast for further into the week it was then or never. I could never have expected waking up to a full-on cloud inversion though, with no signs in the forecast. I have never shot out of bed so quickly, dashing back to the summit to overlook my tent just sticking out of the mist. It was just one of them moments where you knew you had lucked out but also felt very special to be there. Once the photos had been taken I had to just sit and watch the cloud swirl and appreciate what was going off around me.
Sony A7R, with a 16-35mm F4, f/11, 1/125 sec, ISO 100, 35mm, 3 exposures blended at 3 stops apart.
Winner of the Trad Climbing category: A Mournes classic, Parallel Lines (HVS 5a) at the Devil's Coachroad by Craig Hiller
It was a beautiful October day in the Mournes and with the rising sun, the temperature was pleasant. The aim of the day was to film my friend Jonny Parr for a local media company who were documenting his work as a rock climbing instructor for a tv series following different people in and around the Mourne Mountains.
This was the autumn shoot and my plan was to get some footage of a classic route on a big dramatic mountain crag. They wanted wide shots so my obvious choice was the large granite bulk of Slieve Beg with its commanding position at the head of the Annalong Valley. I already had an idea for composing a shot of a climber on the classic HVS, Parrallel Lines.
I had climbed the route many years prior to this and always wanted to get back to capture it on camera. The route is situated on a 50m slab in a huge eroded gully known as 'The Devil's Coachroad' and with a grand backdrop of Slieve Donard, it is certainly a dramatic mountain scene. I took a tripod and attempted to steady it in the crumbly gully floor and let the guys climb away at their own pace.
I took multiple clips of footage and in between fired off some stills when Jonny was in a good position. A great day with footage in the can and stills as a bonus! Thanks to Eamon Quinn for the ever-reliable belaying and Dave Buchannan for the extra banter!
Sony NEX 5r with 18-55mm lens at 18mm, ISO 100, F11 1/100 sec
Winner of the Expedition & Alpine Category: The Dent Blanche by Ben Tibbetts
When we got up at four the Dent Blanche refuge was still cloaked in cloud. The wind had slightly lessened but was still significant, especially given the temperatures were more Arctic than Alpine. We put crampons on and as we left the terrace were surprised by a stoat that hopped around and looked at us with a bemused expression. With head torches on the cloud seemed even denser and within thirty metres we could no longer see the hut. As we climbed up the snow ridge to Wandfluelücke we began to see breaks through the clouds and the odd star. Thinking it was just a snow slope rather than a glacier we didn't put a rope on until I had nearly put my foot in a crevasse. As we tied our coils and set off the sky suddenly blew clear of clouds and we could see across the beautiful moonlit landscape from Monte Rosa to the Matterhorn. We were the first team to set off from the hut but as we began climbing the South ridge and taking photos in the first glimmers of daylight the three Swiss guides charged past dragging their clients along at an astounding pace. I was more than happy to let them break trail as the track left by the guide the previous day had been buried by the wind. Just as we reached the base of the Grand Gendarme the first glimmers of golden light hit the top of the Matterhorn. Both Valentine and I were still chilled from the morning wind and reluctant to stop, but the light was far too good to miss. We nestled into a patch of snow and I pulled out the telephoto lens. Hunkererd down over my back pack I steadied the camera and rattled off images of all the visible peaks. Billowing clouds were catching the sun above the Zermatt valley and dancing in beautiful forms framing Monte Rosa behind. View more of Ben's photos here.
NIKON D810, 18mm, ISO 1000, 1/60th, f 5.0
Winner of the Bouldering Category: Fish Traverse in the Chew Valley by Mike Delderfield
The shot was taken in April 2017. Springtime is great for bouldering in Chew Valley; the weather is (in theory) less wintry, longer evening light and the dreaded midges have not hatched. I had made the 'short' walk up to the Fish Boulder, just myself and the dogs to do a bit of pottering. It was a really lovely cloudless evening and I started to climb as the sun was making its long descent beyond Manchester in the distance. The light was pretty much perfect, definitely the golden hour.
The Fish Boulder is one of the best in Chew Valley with a number of real class problems on it. There's Fish Arete (and sit start), Fish Groove, Dark Matter and The Coarse Traverse. The photo is of Coarse Traverse, which starts with some nice easy moves on the downhill side of the edge, after which follows a series of slopey slaps (for the weak) and hooks before pulling on to the top at the right end of the shot. There's got to be at least ten or so moves to the problem, so it is one that you can really get into.
I often use a wide angle lens for bouldering photos, often it can be difficult to find the space to get a good shot with a standard or zoom lens and the wide angle gives an interesting perspective. There was plenty of room to compose the shot on the slopes below Wimberry, but the wide angle lens meant I didn't have to hike any further up the hill! I set the camera up on a tripod with interval shooting (every few secs), which meant I was free to climb whilst the camera did its stuff, again a really useful feature.
Winner of the Sport Climbing Category: Ben Moon attempting Northern Lights, 9a, Kilnsey Crag by Steve Lewis
There's not many UK sport climbing crags where you can get really good shots from the ground. Kilnsey's North Buttress though is one of them. I wanted a long lens to get in close and lessen the angle of view when shooting from the ground. But there's few such lenses available for my Panasonic camera so I used a cheap lens adapter and an old Pentax 135mm I found on eBay for £40. Because of the crop factor this was the equivalent of a 270mm lens on a full frame camera.
It was a particularly dark and gloomy day. After taking about 30 shots I gave up to focus on my own climbing. Looking at the shots on the camera screen was uninspiring. There was so little light there was almost no contrast in the photos. They just looked flat and unexciting.
At home, looking at the images on the computer, wasn't much better. However, messing about with the RAW settings I was pleasantly surprised at just how much detail I could bring back. Maybe I could salvage something after all.
This particular shot was simultaneously both the best and the worst of the bunch. It was the best because the body position and facial expression seemed to capture the intensity of hard climbing. But it was also the worst because I'd misframed it and completely cut off the lower foot making it unusable. I looked through the other photos to see which other ones were good but I kept getting drawn back to this one. Eventually I saw that on the frame before, taken just 1 second earlier, the feet were in exactly the same position. This meant I could stitch the lower part of that shot to this one to compensate for the poor framing. After that more time was spent messing around in Photoshop and 13 layers later I finally had my shot.
Ben has still not done the route but got very close in 2016 falling above the last bolt. But any route that takes Alex Megos more than a few tries to do (he took 12 in total) ain't gonna be easy.
Panasonic G3 with Pentax 135mm taken at f/2.5, 1/500 sec, ISO 250
Winner of the Winter Walking Category: Exploring the Mamores on skis by Hamish Frost
Winter 2016/17 was a challenging one for snowsports enthusiasts in Scotland, with mild temperatures bringing some of the leanest snow conditions in 25 odd years. Opportunities to get out on skis were generally few and far between, and when they did come, the skiing wasn't really much to write home about! It had been over two weeks since the last snowfall but eventually the forecasts suggested another period of cold weather and precipitation, followed by a period of high pressure and settled good weather. With this in mind, we pulled together a plan to head out into the Mamores, a range I'd never really explored before. Taking a tent, we camped high on the shoulder of Stob Coire a'Chairn, which gave us a perfect base from which to explore the area. On the second morning we set out from our camp to explore the eastern facing bowls on Binnein Mor and I opportunistically caught this shot of Tom hiking along the summit ridge of Na Gruagaichean. I don't process images in black and white too often, however in this instance, I felt the high contrast in the sky and the texture of the wind affected snow lent themselves to a simpler, monochromatic image.
Sony A7RII, Sony FE 16-35mm @ 16mm, 1/1000s, f/10, ISO 200, handheld
Winner of the Hillwalking Category: Dawn at the foot of Crib Goch by Jethro Kiernan
The Photo was the result of an early start to get some pictures of Crib Coch, the original plan was to get onto the ridge for Sunrise, however the clouds were still covering the tops so I decided to play around getting some shots lower down. I set the camera up on the tripod and pre focused it, set the 20 sec timer and without tripping over my crampons put myself in the picture. Always ignore the weather on early start photo trips, if you turn back the weather will always break just as you get back to the car.
Winner of the Scambling Category: Sunrise on Crib Goch by Mark Bullock
I was guiding (small G) the Welsh 3000ers for Climb South West, and leading a group of 4 keen and fit runners (who maybe weren't confident with nav or hadn't done much scrambling before). Relatively intimidating leading runners that are fitter than me, I sought solace in the fact that - I have the map, and they don't know where they're going, so they can't drop me! We started at early o'clock and in clag at Pen y Pass (a slight change to the official route for this event), but the forecast for this mid-June day was very warm and clear. As we got to Bwlch y Moch I had a suspicion we might punch through the clouds and sure enough, as we went up the East Ridge, views started to appear. I took about a hundred photos; views across the Horseshoe were spectacular as clouds flowed like water around Lliwedd and Snowdon. Obviously none of them did those moments justice as the whole group were spellbound and giggling like excited school-children. Ideas of running went out the window and we all stopped and gawped. But this picture seems the nicest of what I shot as it has an 'evolution of man' aspect to the postures - and it's a woman at the front. The scale of the group above the clouds makes it look quite Alpine as well, even though it's only 15 minutes from the car park!
The photograph was taken on an iPhone 6S
3rd Place - Climbers topping out Bamford edge at sunset by Jonathan Bean
Jonathan's words: It was a last minute decision to head out somewhere for sunset in July. I have a few favourite spots to go in the Peak but hadn't been up to Bamford that much so headed there. Running out of daylight I parked up and literally ran up on to the edge as the sun poked its head through the clouds. As I hit the plateau they two, still unknown climbers, had just topped out their last route of the day and we're standing silhouetted by the sun waiting to be photographed, so I did just that. Within two minutes of arriving the sun disappeared and midges came out so I retreated back to my car. Fast.
Tim's words: You could say this image is a bit of a cliche. A sunset, a silhouette, but it's a beautifully executed cliche! Photographs are supposed to evoke an emotional response from us and Jonathan's photo does just that for me and I would guess quite a few readers of UKC. The photo has a familiar feeling about about it. The warm colours of the setting sun makes me feel comfortable and slightly nostalgic for evenings like this. We've all been there, rapping up gear after that final route of the day, talking through the moves with our mates, just enjoying the warmth of those last rays. Days like this are the days we remember. Technically Jonathan's image is spot on. Detail in the shadows and virtually all the highlights. The colours are strong without any one of them being overbearing. The clouds add drama, but the light in the foreground balances that beautifully and leads the eye straight to the climbers - I love this photo Jonathan
2nd Place Overall - Guy Robertson and Greg Boswell on the third pitch of their new winter line on Bidean nam Bian by Hamish Frost
Hamish's words: As usual, Guy and Greg had been casually vague about their objectives for the day – 'we've got some unfinished business on Bidean nam Bian, get you at the Loch Achtriochtan car park at 5.30am!'. It's normally nice to be able to do a bit of planning before going in to shoot a climb, however who doesn't love the challenge of having to improvise it all whilst you're on the hill! We reached the foot of the imposing Church Door Buttress just before first light. Their 'unfinished business' was a variation on the summer line 'Lost Arrow Direct' - an impossibly steep looking series of cracks and roofs leading up the crag. The last time I shot Guy and Greg climbing, I raced round to the top of the route, only to spend six hours hanging on a static rope getting near hypothermic whilst waiting to photograph them on the top pitch. This time I was determined to get my tactics slightly better, so I took some shots of them from the base of the route before moving to an elevated vantage point on the other side of the coire. From here I had a side on perspective, which really showed off the wildness and exposure of the route. Guy pushed through the first pitch easily enough, before Greg pulled out a great lead on the crux roof pitch that leads into the face in the photo.
The weather that day had been generally terrible for photos, however I knew that if the clouds were to clear just slightly, then the west face of Stob Coire nan Lochan might come into view in the background. I waited in my position and sure enough, just as Guy was making good progress on the third pitch, the clouds broke momentarily and I was able to get the shot I'd hoped for. Four hours and two pitches later, Guy completed a sequence of tech grade 10 moves (in the dark!), to pull through a final roof section and top out on the route. Seriously impressive climbing from these two.
Sony A7RII, Sony FE 70-200mm @ 70mm, 1/250s, f/7.1, ISO 250, handheld
Tim's words: Two words spring to mind when I look at Hamish's photo. Dramatic and Classic! With a single "click" of the shutter Hamish has managed to capture the essence of Scottish winter climbing.
I love the monochromatic nature of both the foreground and background, split by just a subtle "splash" of colour from the climbers jackets. I love how the the virtually straight lines of the rocks natural features to the right of the climbers contrast with the softer curves of the mountain to their left. The harsh, almost surreal covering of ice verses the blanket of white snow. Technically the image is bang on. The climbers have been positioned textbook rule of thirds and the exposure in difficult conditions is perfect.
Taking photos in conditions like these is a skill in itself and Hamish has totally nailed it with this image. Great job Hamish.
For me the real battle was for third place. And I'd just like to say to Mac Fae, Ben Tibbetts and Dan Mathewman all your photos were well executed and you all captured your subject exceptionally well. I loved Mac's abstract fence and surreal clouds. Bens early morning foray with its complicated exposure and Dans, almost Victorian looking Midi Arête
Overall Winner - A mournes classic, Parallel lines (HVS) at the Devil's Coachroad by Craig Hiller
Tim's words: Quite simply, for this photographer at least, Craig's photo is virtually the perfect climbing shot and like a lot of things that take a great deal of skill to execute, Craig's picture looks very simplistic, as though he's put very little effort into creating it. But of course that is where the skill comes in.
The colours are subtle and pure, the framing uncluttered, the exposure spot on and even though the climber takes up only a tiny portion of the image Craig has still managed to wait for that optimum moment when the climber gets into a great position and it's no coincidence that the climber is wearing a brightly coloured top which adds drama to the image and directs the eye straight at the climber who could quite easily be lost in a large expanse of landscape.
When I look at this image, I want to go and climb this route. I couldn't pay it a greater compliment. Great photo Craig, well done.
UKClimbing and UKHillwalking would like to thank all the users who have submitted photographs throughout 2017. In total there were 8655 user submitted photos, a real testament to the online climbing community.