UKH

Climbing Photography as Art

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.
 MikeTS 29 Mar 2018

I have retired from climbing and focusing on photography by taking a year course at a college. I chose climbing photography as my project for the year. I showed some initial work to my instructor and she was most interested in the idea of pictures that blended the climber into the rock/climbing wall. The idea I think is that most climbing photographs separate the two to make the action look more dramatic. But she suggests trying the opposite. Does anyone here have some inkling of what this means? And if so, are there examples of photographers and photographs they can point me to?

In reply to MikeTS:

I'm guessing she means that the photograph has to be pleasing to an audience other than a climbing one and that the climber isn't the be-all and end-all of the photograph.
Ray Wood is perhaps a good example of a photographer that can do both - especially the ones of Redhead in '...and One For the Crow'. 

 Greasy Prusiks 29 Mar 2018
 Paul Evans 30 Mar 2018
In reply to MikeTS:

Interesting post. I spend all of my time trying to get the climber to stand out from the rock. As I shoot for guidebooks, I want to show not only the climber on the route but also the surroundings, so the viewer gets a "sense of place" - but that's not what you've asked. As GP says, distance will help, but also colour - wearing muted clothes that blend with the rock tones. Shooting black and white would also be a major help, I would have thought. I often shoot from a rope so I'm looking across the crag and you wouldn't want to do this, you'd want to shoot looking straight on at the crag, so you didn't silhouette the climber against the background. Getting the climber in a shady chimney or corner might also help. Not having them in the middle of an obvious leading line or feature, but somewhere in the frame that the eye is not drawn to. Shooting the cliff and its surroundings will help. So it becomes more of a landscape shot and less of a "just the cliff" shot. You could post a few examples - kind of a "spot the climber" type thing! 

Cheers

Paul

 MikeTS 30 Mar 2018
In reply to Paul Evans:

thanks Paul. You gave me some good ideas. I have submitted some example pics to UKC, so when they are up some critique would be great.

some of my better examples of merging with the rock have been with the climber shirtless and wearing shorts. Male of course. Note that I am shooting in israel which combines sunshine with machismo. (Secretly I think these have a homoerotic look,  which is definitely not my scene. But the truth is, the best climbers of both sexes are seriously buffed) 

I am also working indoors, which is a different problem. There is bad light and lots of colour. 

 

1
 Tricadam 30 Mar 2018
 stp 30 Mar 2018
In reply to MikeTS:

I think any photo where there's a climber then the climber will automatically be the subject of the photo. That's because as humans we're naturally interested in seeing what other humans are up to. If you try to blend the climber into the rock too much then to me that sounds like a recipe for a poor picture. Contrast is an important ingredient in most images and making the subject of the photo obvious to the viewer is the usual way to go.

The picture of Poetry Pink that Greasy Prussiks suggested I think is an absolutely brilliant photo but the reason is precisely that the subject/climber stands out strongly and doesn't blend in. Strong contrasts help separate the climber from the smooth grey wall. There are contrasts of colour, tone and shape. The eye is even more strongly drawn to the climber (ie. the subject) by the fact he is positioned on the intersection of 2 lines too - the line of the rope and the curved line of the rock.

I'm not sure if this is what your teacher had in mind or not. It might be an idea to get further clarification from her on this point. I have to admit I'm rather confused by her suggestion.

In reply to stp:

The climber on Poetry Pink is a contributing factor to making the photo good in that it provides something pleasing for the eye to follow and that the climber isn't the main subject of the photo.  If the photo was cropped to be more focused on the climber, then it would become just another generic climbing photo and only of interest to another climber.
That's my interpretation of what the teacher is after and essentially follows what makes most art/photography aesthetically pleasing. 

 stp 30 Mar 2018
In reply to FactorXXX:

I also forgot to mention that the climber in that shot is positioned according the rule of thirds - a popular location for the subject of a photo. I think if you took the climber out of this photo it would be a completely different kind of photo - an abstract photo. But I think I can see what you're getting at. I suppose an impressive piece of rock archecture somewhere where the climber or person is added, perhaps to provide a sense of scale.

 MikeTS 01 Apr 2018
In reply to stp:

I working on some rules of the game. 

Like

composition is more important than documentation

black and white is good

colours and shapes of the climbers and their environment should be mutually supportive

do closeups that only show body parts

conversely, long shots are also good

look for rock/wall features that combine with the climber

others?

 

 

 

 

1
 Paul Evans 02 Apr 2018
In reply to MikeTS:

Tonal values should be similar - a bright climber against a dark rockface, or vice versa, will always stand out. 

Climbers should not interrupt the flow of a leading line in the composition - e.g. a climber on an arete will always stand out.

Interesting to see where you get to with this...I reckon if you go for the opposite of most of your rules, you'll end up with my rules

Paul

 MikeTS 02 Apr 2018
In reply to Paul Evans:thanks will add to the list!

 

Post edited at 11:56
 MikeTS 02 Apr 2018
In reply to Paul Evans:it would be interesting for some UKC photographers to try these new rules 

 

 MikeTS 02 Apr 2018
 MikeTS 02 Apr 2018
In reply to MikeTS:

I mean rules not files

 stp 02 Apr 2018
In reply to MikeTS:

If I were you I'd maybe read a good book on photographic composition. The first general advice is to learn and understand the rules - better called principles of composition. When you understand and practice how, why and when to the use these principles you'll then know when not to use them and understand why.

I recommend The Photographer's Eye by Michael Freeman as an excellent read that you'll probably want to refer back to over and over again. Unlike many of the more technical photography books, this kind of book will never go out of date.

 Solaris 03 Apr 2018
In reply to MikeTS:

If I've understood your instructor's suggestion, I'd suggest having a look at Ken Wilson's and John Cleare's photography, eg in The Black Cliff, Rock Climbers in Action in Snowdonia, and Hard Rock. Wilson was, iirc, an architectural photographer before he turned his gifts to the climbing world, and his photos show his keen eye for overall compositional drama. His pics of Drummond on Great Wall, or of Dream of White Horses are masterpieces.

 MikeTS 03 Apr 2018
In reply to stp:

I have been studying at college and using these principles for years. What they are is not in question. The question is how to apply them to a somewhat unconventional view as to what climbing photography is about 

 MikeTS 03 Apr 2018

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.
Loading Notifications...