The Basics - New to the blog? These posts may interest you:
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
Udo's shots can be found regularly on the cover of climbing magazines around the world. He is also an accomplished film maker, having made movies like Evolution Revolution 1 & 2, Climbing at the limit of human performance and Psicobloc 101. He has also participated in the production of BigUps' hit King Lines.
His work features famous climbers like Chris Sharma, Toni Lamprecht, Klem Loskot or Adam Ondra. He is also the author of the rock climbing books "Lizenz zum Klettern - License to Climb", "Performance Rock Climbing" (with Dale Goddard) and "Der Elfte Grad - Climbing at the limit of human performance". Especially the latter is pure gold for climbing photographers, a fantastic "coffee table" book, full of climbing and bouldering images, mixed in with great stories from Udo, Klem Loskot, Toni Lamprecht and others. I bought a copy years ago and I still love browsing through it when looking for inspiration. You can order Udo's books and DVDs at his online webshop, I suggest you have a look!
Currently Udo is working on a new book focussing on bouldering all over the world. It will be in the style of a coffee table book again, offering loads of cool bouldering images from around the world, mixed in with short text passages. I'll keep you informed on this project, totally psyched myself!
Now without any further babbling on my part:
Many, not for sheer photographers competence though, but for an eye for situations. Martin Parr comes to mind...
• How did you get started in photography?
Early 80s, took pictures of white water kayaking, printed them and sold them to the paddlers
• What was your most memorable moment related to photography?
Any moment, I love hunting for good shots! I'm always amazed how much I enjoy the sheer act...
• Before going on a shoot, do you ever get nervous that you might not be able to fulfill your own expectations (or that of others)?
• Best suggestion you ever got about photography?
• Is there an aspect of (climbing) photography that is often overlooked or not given enough thought?
Static, posed and tightly framed doesn't do it for me, I like to see where the climber comes from and where he/she is moving next. If you catch an off-balance move, that's even better!
• Do you read any climbing / photography related blogs? Anything you would recommend?
Vincent Laforet's Blog, Joe McNally's Blog (very interesting for strobe technique!) and a lot more, depending what I'm interested in!
• Talks about photography often turn into talks about photography equipment. How important is the technical aspect of photography to you?
Well, faster (lens and frame rate) is always better, higher ISO is always better, so if a technical development allows me to do what I couldn't before, I'm very interested. Otherwise, zero!
• How much do you shoot on a typical climbing day or session?
A lot nowadays, sometimes a couple of 100 to allow for interesting sequences for use in film or panoramic shots!
Started with film in 1981, had a darkroom and everything, digital since 2004, for me, film is over...
• Your work often features quite some amount of post-processing. Where do you draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable alterations / manipulations?
A shot has not much to do with reality, but tries to squeeze the whole experience into a tiny 2- dimensional picture. To help, I work the colors, curves and contrast. All darkroom techniques mainly, or things that I did with film too, like cross processing. I very very rarely paint or clone though!
• What software do you usually use for post-processing work? Do you have a specific „workflow“?
Do 90% of the work on a shot with Capture NX (see above) and only the rest with PS. Photo management is a BIG issue since I have about 100.000 to take care of nowadays!
• Your favourite photography gadget? (clamps, lenses, lighting equipment...)
THE STUFF I HAVE WITH ME!!! I love the lensbabies, the strobes, the fast glass, all that, but we have to carry it all! So, even if I have just the smallest camera with me, I'm still stoked to take pictures! I love the "hunting" aspect of photography, the "being in the moment", if you are too much in love with any one gadget, you tend to loose that!
• You once wrote that the tradtional „static“ style of climbing photography didn’t satisfy you anymore. Your Book „Der 11. Grad“ displays a slightly unconventional style as it focuses more on displaying a sense of motion instead of going for the clean (almost sterile) look of most climbing photographers. From a financial viewpoint, does having your own recognizable style make it easier or harder to publish your work?
• Do you feel that making a living in professional photography is becoming more difficult? Does the internet have a positive or negative effect on the chances of professionals to make a living?
If you are a photographer because you own some nice gear, good luck! If you are documenting a vibrant scene and/or have a talent for story telling, I think the opportunities are bigger than they ever were!
• Have you ever had problems with people using your images without permission?
Of course, but I try not to be bothered ;-)
• Do you still remember the first time you got paid for a photograph?
see above: Early 80s, took pictures of white water kayaking, printed them and sold them to the paddlers
Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview! I owe you one!
Saturday, June 27, 2009
In practice, it's amazing how big a difference a single sheet of orange plastic can make. In the above shot I put the camera in manual mode, exposed for the background and dialed the flash to half power. The warm light from the left is simply my SB600 with a 1/2 CTO gel taped over it. I put the flash on a monopod and held it close to the left side of the frame. Done.
Where to get them...
Below are two shots from my first attempt with gels... I used a thick sheet of orange plastic I found lying around somewhere; Colours turned out to be all over the place and the result is definitely unusual :-) Those images are a little extreme even for my taste but it did get me excited to keep on experimenting!
Friday, June 26, 2009
Also I'm currently trying to get a grip on using twitter. Follow me if you'd like to be notified of new posts and other news concerning my blog.
Have a great one!
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
So what is so hard about climbing photography?! First, not every location is the Yosemite Valley, Cerro Torre or Ceuse. We mortals spend most of our time in dark wooded areas with little in the way of a view, blue sky or even green grass. I'm not saying that creating shots like Simon Carter, Heinz Zak or Corey Rich is easy, but with Half Dome or El Capitan as a backdrop the chance to deliver a really abysmal shot is a little smaller.
In this and future posts I'll try to convey to you the experiences I made in the (limited) time that I have been shooting climbing. First lesson: When shooting climbers, try aiming for the torso as it's easier to hit. (Kidding, sorry about that)
So the first rule of shooting climbers is this: Shooting a climber from below is almost never good. The face is usually not visible, you have trouble conveying a sense of dynamic or motion and -most importantly- most people's behinds are not that great to look at.
There are exceptions, especially when shooting bouldering, but as a general rule:
shooting from below => butt shots => no no
Instead, look around. Most climbing areas offer rocks, trees or other elevated terrain that will give you better shooting angles. If you want to go to a little more trouble, fix a rope in a neighboring route and shoot from there. (Having a GriGri or similar device pays off for that.) -more on that in an upcoming post-
above shot: got this by climbing a small rock to the right of the route. Not a great image but much better than what I would have got by shooting from below.
When shooting rock climbing I like to be shooting downwards to the left or right from the climber. Straight down is also possible, but if you're hanging from a rope you might have a harder time getting all your gear out of the way (Shoes, legs, rope etc). Depending on the climber it can also be more difficult to capture his or her face as many climbers often don't look up.
Creating a sense of height and depth
The above image was shot at 200mm. The problem with this image is that due to the shortening effect of the long lens, the background moves closer to the subject. It looks like the climber has just left the ground when in fact he was some 200-300 feet above the ground. One way to counter this effect is by shooting at larger apertures (smaller f-numbers). This way, the ground below the climber will be out of focus and not weaken your picture. Using a wide-angle lens has the opposite effect. The ground seems to fall away, giving the viewer a sense of the height. I prefer using a wide angle lens, but you do have to get close enough. (Which sometimes means hanging 1-3 feet above the climber --> accidentily kicking the climber is a very real possibility, I am not kidding!)
In any case, if you see the great light happening, grab your climbing buddy and get him on the nearest boulder or route. A lost shot is lost forever.
Plan your shots and tell the whole story. Include shots of the whole crag / mountain / boulder, the climber as he's getting his gear together, buckling up, doing the route etc etc.
the gistbutt shots - don'twork on your timingthink faces, story, details, motionthink about lighthave fun and be safe!
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Sometimes I find myself in a philosophical mood. Some of the thoughts floating around in my head in these occasions I'll be posting in this blog. I'll label them "Big Picture". Feel free to skip them if you're here just to look at the pictures or if you just want to learn things directly related with climbing photography. I won't be offended :-) I'd be happy to hear your thoughts, though!
So here goes, you have been warned! ;-)
There are some 4 billion shots posted on Flickr with 4000 new images incoming every minute... Seeing these numbers I find myself wondering why I still bother picking up a camera...
Looking at the issue from this angle it seems unreasonable to keep on taking photos. Why should I work hard on becoming a better photographer when my photos drown in a steady stream of billions of other images anyway?
But let's not look at it that way! This isn't the end of photography. It is a chance to evolve. Stop playing it safe. Nikon won't send you free gear for taking safe shots. Don't be afraid to blow it. What have you got to lose? With so many shots around, all the pressure is off. All the obvious images are taken anyway, so you don't have to worry that the world may find itself without enough photos of sunsets, waterfalls or beautiful models. Realize that and stop being afraid. Don't feel pressured, feel free instead.
Take risks. Don't be afraid to blow it. Create something new. Something that hasn't been done to death a million times. You have a license to go crazy. Who says you can't do a portray with a fisheye?! Who says images have to be sharp? Who says blown-out highlights are evil?! Who says your images have to be loved by everyone?! What do you have to lose?!
No-one will notice if you stop making safe images. No-one will miss you. Stop bitching about it, it's your big chance! Stop playing it safe. Make mistakes, make 'em big and create something new.
Monday, June 22, 2009
For those getting started with DSLRs, the choice of "first" lenses can be overwhelming. (It was for me...) I'll try to give you a little advice based on the experiences with the gear I bought so far. As a rule, investing money in lenses is always better (and safer) than investing it in camera bodies. Cameras become obsolete faster than you can leave the store, while a good lens will last you years if not decades.
What lenses to buy first:
Wide or Tele? For bouldering I use an ultra wide-angle lens (10-20mm) most of the time. You'll usually be very close and the distortion of wide-angles (or even fisheyes) can bring dynamic to your climbing shots. I also use wide-angles often for sport climbing, providing I can get close enough. For the long shots, of course, having a tele zoom is nice, but if you're just starting out I'd consider a wide-angle more important. The 18mm found in the usual kit-lenses is a good starting point, but an upgrade to ultra-wide lenses like the Sigma 10-20mm is worth the money if your budget allows.
Very fast glass (f 2.8 lenses etc) is not that important in climbing photography (at least for an amateur like me) as in other sports because the light is usually good or you will be using flash when the sun goes down. Of course if you want to shoot inside climbing gyms you might want fast lenses...
Depending on your interests, I'd consider going for the allround-zoom (should you want one) first, as it will give you more flexibility for general photography and 18mm is quite wide to begin with, anyway. Lens sharpness is talked to death, but let's be honest: you can get sharp images with any camera and any lens, period. If you want 100% razor sharp at 200% magnification when watched on a 30 inch cinema display you have my permission to buy something better.
Let me know if you'd like to know more!
Friday, June 19, 2009
On June 11, 2009, the bodies of climber Jonathan Copp (35) and videographer Wade Johnson (24) were removed from a broad gulley among avalanche debris on the southeast face of Mount Edgar. The body of the third missing climber, Micah Dash (32) was not located during the week-long search. Some of his equipment however, was located at the scene and he is believed to be dead according to the search team in China.
The bodies of Copp and Johnson were discovered after partial emergence from fresh avalanche debris. After days of effort, the searchers agreed that frequent rock fall and near-daily avalanches made further efforts extremely dangerous. The vast search area and deposition of new avalanche debris further diminished the probability of locating Dash's body.
I'm always fascinated by people who can be creative on demand. Professional artists can't afford to have that many bad days (as I had yesterday, glad I'm not a professional!). When they're on assignment, they have to deliver or they won't be hired again. Commercial photographer Chase Jarvis describes himself as a cultural junkie, subscribing to a huge amount of magazines, going to art galleries and taking a load of pictures every day with his iPhone to keep his creative juices flowing. Have a look at his iPhone portfolio, it's stunning!
So in the spirit of doing something new, I'd like to show you some pictures I took on a hiking trip with my girlfriend. She had a fantastic patience for the annoying guy following her around, holding a camera in his right and a flash in his left ;-) Thanks!
"When I see a man chasing a woman, holding a D90 in one hand and an SB-600 in the other, I shoot the guy. That's my policy!"
Let me know what you think! I'd love to hear your thoughts!
See you then!
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Paul doing cool moves while being let down by his photographer....
It's days like this that I get afraid I may have lost my mojo, talent or brains (did I ever have any of those?!). It's not that I didn't realize I was shooting crap. The worst thing was that I was fully conscious, burning through frame after frame, creating one catastrophic shot after another and not being able to do anything about it. And all the time hearing Joe McNally's voice in my ear, saying: "Ladies and Gentlemen, I present you a guy who has officially run out of ideas!"
Hats off to Paul for almost sticking this cool line, though!
In my head I know there'll be better days and better pictures again and maybe it's good to be reminded every so often, that you cannot force yourself to be creative. Maybe I should look at this as a wakeup-call to get some fresh ideas and try out something new...
So I think I'll browse through some great climbing shots by Corey Rich and try to get my mojo back. Feel free to come along, it's worth it!
In case you haven't heard of him yet, Corey is an accomplished climbing / outdoors photographer for Aurora Photo Agency. He's shot some of the greatest climbers in the world, including Chris Sharma, Tommy Caldwell and Beth Rodden. You can learn more by studying any one of his photos than by reading a dozen books, so check him out!
What do you do when you feel like I do today? Or don't you ever feel that way? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
See you then!
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
- Frames per second: One of the things I thought were way cool, until I found out that I seldomly burn away with 5 fps (except maybe when shooting snowboarders or surfers). The reason is simple: no matter how many shots you take, usually the only thing you look for is catching the subject in the one crucial moment. Shooting climbers, for example, this would be the moment where the climber dynos towards a hold and is just a half second away from reaching the hold. With 3, 5 or 10 fps this might work, of course. One of the shots might be the one shot. But there's a good chance that the moment happened right between #7 and #8...
- On the other hand, if you start working on your skills as a shooter and practice hitting your shutter-release at just the right moment, the number of winner shots will drastically increase. This doesn't depend on your camera, you can do this just as well with a $250 D40 as with a D3 or 1D MK III.
- Option to trigger external flash with pop-up flash: One of the features I value the most in my D90... moving the flash away from the subject-lens axis immediately improves the quality of light for your shots. Play around with it for a while and you will find out that the possibilties are endless (even without spending a fortune on equipment)!
- Resolution: The D40's 6 MP would probably be enough for me, but I do love the 12MP of my D90. Usually, resolution is extremely overrated, but a step up from 6 to 12 is noticeable and gives you a little more flexibility for cropping. Let's be honest, I don't always get my framing absolutely perfect (especially when things are moving fast) and a little cropping never hurt anybody. Beware with point-and-shoot cameras, though, the smaller sensor size together with ridiculous MP counts (10, 12 and up) makes for worse image quality. Sticking with lower resolution / last year's cameras might save you money and get you better image quality! I'm not an expert on this stuff, if you think about buying a camera and need some sound advice, visit Ken Rockwell's site and have a look around. His style might not suit everyone, but I can only suggest to check for yourself! His articles might well have been the biggest influence on my choices of camera equipment and so far, I'm very happy with what I got.
- Camera controls / Ergonomics: Ergonomics and software design are often overlooked but extremely important! One example: I always zoom in via the image preview (or is it review?! Well the in-camera thingy to look at the images you took) to check sharpness. With my old D40, when trying to scroll a zoomed-in image, it always took a second of depressing the scroll button to switch from a really slow scrolling to a faster one. The D90 on the other hand is much much faster. This might not seem like a big deal, but after a couple of thousand shots you notice stuff like this. I'm not kidding, I'd be willing to pay $100 alone for the faster scrolling! So, try out different cameras and see what camera works best for you.
- Custom Menu Function (D90): A great option that I would miss greatly if I ever were to switch to another camera body. You can set the D90 to open a customizable menu via a button lying under your right middle finger. In this menu you can put all the things you're changing a thousand times a day during a shoot. It takes me no more than five seconds to switch Auto ISO on or off, change the ISO manually, set the pop-up flash into commander mode, dial in manual flash settings or switch between automatic and manual AF-focus point selection. You get used to this feature in about 10 minutes and will never want to live without it again! Write me in the comments if you'd like a detailed explanation of this.
- Internal auto-focus motor: (Nikon D40/D60/D5000 specific); Nikon's least expensive cameras don't offer autofocus with older (non AF-S) lenses. At the time I bought my D40, I didn't care much about it as I didn't have older lenses anyway and didn't think that I might want to get one someday. But since Nikon offers some fantastic non AF-S lenses, most importantly the fabulous 50mm f 1.8 ($120!!!), this is a feature I consider extremely important. If you're absolutely sure you won't ever want to buy one of these lenses, no problem, but if you're not sure, think about getting a camera that offers this feature! It might save you money long term.
- Sensor cleaning thingy: Another all time favourite on some camera tech discussions. I do have some minor dust problems now and then. (Do you think I wash my hands when switching from bouldering myself to taking photos?! Of course there's chalk on my hands and everywhere) So far, I'm not really impressed with the feature... I have it "clean" the sensor everytime I switch the camera off but I don't see any difference. The little spots I have now and then are taken care of by my trusty little dust-blower. No real problems so far. One of the features I wouldn't miss. (Never did on my D40)
- Live-view: Leave me alone with live-view! I bought a DSLR to get away from this stupid looking posture of holding your camera away from your face, squinting to be able to see anything and waiting a year and a half to achieve focus. Sure, if you're doing macro shots of bugs on the ground, live view might come in handy. I only use live-view for the D90's movie mode.
- Movie recording feature: The D90 was the first to offer this and I don't think there'll ever be a new dSLR being announced without it. I wouldn't buy a dSLR especially for shooting movies, but it is a nice feature to have. And judging from some clips done with the D90 or Canon 5d MKII, the results can be really great! Have a look at Chase Jarvis' website for some examples!
- 3, 11, 51 AF-Areas: Another feature that is found on the more expensive models is the increasing number of AF-Areas. (The spots in your viewfinder where the camera is checking focus) I went up from 3 points (D40) to 11 points (D90). For climbing shots, I use the center focus area 95% of the time. Focus, recompose and shoot - easy. I always feel a little uncertain when using the auto selection, as I'm never sure if the camera will agree with my idea of what is supposed to be in focus. I only use the Auto AF-Sensor selection when shooting blind, holding the camera over my head for example. For shooting surfers I love the 11 AF points, though! Things are moving so fast there and the distance of your subject is varying so wildly that I don't stand a chance to focus, recompose and shoot. In these case I simply put my camera on auto AF-selection and fire away. If I was shooting stuff like that all the time, I'd love to have the 51 points of the D300 or D700/D3.
These are the features that I thought about when choosing my gear. Let me know if you'd like my opinion on other features I might have forgot to mention! Feedback / different opinions are always welcome!
See you then!
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
Saturday, June 6, 2009
- shoot RAW. With all the water reflections, the camera had to pull some stunts to get the exposure right and I was glad I could tweak the highlights and shadows later in DxO Optics Pro
- automatic AF-Area selection: the first time I was happy to have 11 AF - Areas! Even with all the water flying around, the D90 did an amazing job focussing fast and accurate.
- Wait for the sun.
- Keep your equipment dry ;-)