Climbing photography is a specialist art. Of all the genres of action sports photography there is something especially challenging about it. For one thing photographers can’t move around and change positions like they can with both feet on solid ground. Getting into position means being able to haul themselves up a rope. And then there’s the small matter of vertigo. Clearly, this is a genre for those with a good head for heights – and personal safety.
Since he won Red Bull Illume with his spectacular climbing shot, we thought it would be fun to invite US-based Will Saunders over to the Austrian mountains to show us how he works. We also invited the Austrian freeskier and climber Nadine Wallner to be his model.
As he explains in the video, Will says a great climbing shot begins behind a screen. “I did a lot of research, seeing where the sun is going to be,” he says. “Another thing that’s super important is working with the athlete, making sure they’re comfortable and they’re climbing something within their grade. Nadine has climbed this before a bunch of times so it was the perfect opportunity for me to go up and find the best angle and have her work it a few times.”
Going up involved ascending a fixed rope set up by another climber. But once in position – Will was able to work his magic in the evening light. Because you can’t move around, he says it’s a good idea to focus on nailing one climbing shot, then think about the portraits and lifestyle shots when you’re back on the ground.