Category Archives: General

Interview with Edu Marin

Over the years I’ve been incredibly lucky to witness and photograph some incredible climbers and ascents. During my visit to Hanshallaren in September 2018 I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing Edu Marin, Spanish rock-god and all-round great guy.

Edu Marin cruising through the roof section of Odin’s Eye whilst attempting the second ascent of Adam Ondra’s Valhalla, a 60m F9a/+ at Hanshallaren

Midway through his trip, whilst climbing in bad conditions, he slipped off sloping handholds at the start of the route and took a 4m ground-fall. The climbers around him, myself included, watched helpless, as Edu hit the boulder-strewn cave floor flat on his back; landing with an almighty bang the sickening noise echoed eerily around the cave. His back and ankle had taken the brunt of the fall but Edu was back on his feet within a minute or so then, despite the considerable pain, he slowly hobbled across the huge boulders in the bottom of the cave heading back to the campsite normally 30 minutes’ walk away.

His fall would have broken most climbers – quite literally! Edu however spent the next few days resting and stretching then started one-foot climbing on the bouldering wall in the barn. Within a week Edu was back on the route wearing an oversized climbing shoe then, amazingly, he redpointed the second ascent of Valhalla a couple of weeks later.

Edu, having completed Odin’s Eye, is pushing on into the second half of Valhalla (F9a/+)

His efforts at Flatanger was however an hors d’oeuvres for his real mission; a trip to Geta Arch, China, the world’s largest overhanging arch where his target was a 350m long, 14 pitch monster project.

I interviewed Edu for the latest issue (March/April) of Climber Magazine talking to him about the difficulties he has faced throughout his career and what drives him relentlessly forward and how he has developed into the phenomenal athlete he is today.

Also posted in Climbing, Interviews, Photography

So it’s 2020 then; here’s twelve from 2019

Jan 1st; 2020

Another year zips past and the decade is over; 2020 is here!

As the new year/decade rolls in its good to make plans for the time ahead and to reflect a little on what happened during the last year/decade. As a photographer I have hard drives full of images which document times past. Increasingly, every-day images are taken on camera phones and then shared immediately on social media. Likewise, video clips are almost as popular as stills on IG/FB. Compact cameras and mirror-less compact system cameras are rapidly becoming the norm for many photographers although many pro’s still haul around their trusted DSLR’s. In addition to still, there’s videos or short films many of which are shot on a combo of all off the above as well as the long-established camcorders. It’s never been about what camera you use but more about how you use it. That’s true today – perhaps more so than ever before; undoubtedly that’ll hold true during the Twenties.

Here’s a collection of my favourite 12 images taken during 2019 and yeah, they’re taken on a combination of DSLR, compact cameras and my mobile, some are even still frames extracted from video clips. Hope you enjoy!!

Winter colours in Wyming Brook northwest of Sheffield

Winters these days are often wet affairs – fortunately the streams that run though the many ravines in the Peak District are a photog’s paradise. Wyming Brook slices through the woods in the Rivelin Valley northwest of Sheffield; if you get the opportunity it’s well worth a visit.

Melissa le Neve taking the CWIF 2019 Women’s title

The CWIF – a.k.a. the Climber Works International Festival – is the precursor to the season’s comps so not surprisingly it’s a popular event with many on the circuit to check-in and dust off the winter training cobwebs. So popular in fact that it often pulls back climbers that used to compete but have moved on. Melissa Le Neve is one such former comp climber that rocked up in March and smashed it out to take the women’s title for 2019.

Mina Leslie-Wujastyk cruising down the Green Drive in the Burbage Valley

By late March the winter grit bouldering scene is coming to an end and many climbers are rummaging through their gear cupboards for their sport climbing kit. The Burbage Valley get lots of attention year round including from runners too; hardly surprising given how close it is to Sheffield and how stunning it is! Mina Leslie-Wujastyk is captured running past the quarries on South Burbage for Base Magazine.

Mark Richardson involved with the business of Tequlia Mockingbird (F7c) at Chee Tor

Anyone looking to get some early season sport ticks in the bank in the Peak should keep an eye on Chee Tor. It’s quick-drying and although it’s predominantly a trad crag it has a number of absolutely cracking sport pitches on its walls. Ron Fawcett’s Tequila Mockingbird (F7c) is just about a sport route, assuming you pre-clip the first bolt and can handle the stout run-outs along the way. Mark Richardson is captured fully embroiled with the upper section of the old classic.

Steve McClure starting the headwall on GreatNess Wall (E10 7a) at Nesscliffe

Every year stunning routes get done in the UK and Steve McClure’s first ascent of GreatNess Wall (E10 7a) at Nesscliffe was one of the best from 2019. Whilst it’s very definitely a trad route it’s sporting credentials are only just beneath the surface. Super sustained and uber crimpy, the crux headwall tested Steve nearly to the max. Here’s a shot of Steve starting the headwall sequence that appeared in Climber Magazine.

Steve McClure run-out on the headwall of Nightmayer (E8 6c) during his on-sight ascent in July

Steve was back in action on the famous Cromlech walls in early July; audaciously on-sighting the super run-out Nightmayer (E8 6c). Perched on the top of the Left Wall I was well-placed to watch Steve inching his way up the crucial headwall; it was one of the most impressive pieces of climbing I’ve ever seen Steve do. The image of Steve completing the run-out to the pockets is a still frame from a video shot for Petzl/BMC. That’s currently doing the rounds as part of the Brit Rock Tour but it’ll be on general release in spring 2020.

A peaceful harbour scene in Britany

Mid-summer involved a trip to Britany for a week’s surfing. I’m very definitely a summer-only in the sea person and it was a cracking trip. The shot here was taken at one of the nearby harbours in a moment of peace and quiet.

Arnside and Silverdale has some cracking coastal photo opportunities

Arnside and Silverdale AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) is a bit off the beaten track but the coast there offers some amazing photo opportunities that are well worth checking out. The shot here is near Jenny Brown’s Point.

Impending rock in the Madness Cave at the Motherlode

My big trip for the year was to The Red River Gorge in the USA. I’ve been very lucky to have climbed at many amazing locations around the globe but The Red is simply jaw-dropping given the quality and quantity of the climbing in the area! The Red is famous for super steep and strenuous climbing on impressive cliffs such as the Motherlode. Here’s a shot of a climber pulling through the steepness that is typical of the Madness Cave.

Early morning mist at Lago Linda Hide-away

The ‘season’ at the Red is remarkable short but by November connies are usually just about perfect. We stayed in a cabin at Lago Linda’s, less than five miles from the Motherlode, and the morning light on the lake there was staggering. The first shot was taken as the temps started to dip down.

A wintery morning at Lago Linda’s

My second image at Lago Linda was captured the morning after we had a 20 degree (centigrade) drop in ambient temps and 5cms of snow overnight!

Manny pulling down hard on Zookeeper (5.14b) at The Zoo

My final image is a perfect example that not every climb in The Red is on a jug-ladder, far from it in fact. The Zoo, close to Miguel’s, is one venue that has some pretty gnarly intense routes; here’s a shot of Manny pulling pretty darned hard on Zookeeper (5.14b/F8b+).

Here’s to Twenty Twenty then!

Also posted in Bouldering, Climbing, Running, Travel, Uncategorized, Year Roundup

A Decimal Dozen from 2018

So, as a climbing photog I shoot mainly outdoor subjects right. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t shoot other subjects as well as I’ve always figured that shooting different subjects is a good challenge which ultimately drives creativity. Likewise a year-end review one’s own work offers a good opportunity to see what you did in the year which you like in retrospect and/or what you’d do different if your kit, like The Dr’s, included a Tardis.

Climbing and photography have both been good to me – and both float my boat. Yet it remains very difficult, read next to impossible IMO, to do both in the same time continuum; you need to concentrate on one or the other to get the best out of either. A trip to Spain in January/February, as a climbing boot-camp, has become something of a ‘must-do’ activity. I go with the firm intention to climbing lots and lots and lots but take the camera along as well – just in case.

Paul cranking up the excellent Oceano (F7b) at Wildside

Photo opps on a ‘climbing’ trip are typically minimal but a day at Wildside towards the end of my trip in February offered a fleeting opportunity to get high up and so get a suitable angle. A single opportunity in a whole week isn’t much but you have to grab what you can when you can on these trips.

 

A boarder cruising one of the slalom’s at Risoul

I came to skiing late in life; however, if it wasn’t for climbing I could become a ski-bum for sure! Last year we rocked up in Risoul in early April; thankfully there was plenty of snow about despite it being the end of the season. As with climbing photography, ski shots need to be planned; very occasionally something does pop-up that worth nabbing. Shooting from a lift isn’t the norm but it can give an interesting alternative with luck.

 

Mina on the top roof of Totally Free II, Malham

By May we were well into the Malham season and in May last year Mina was taking a bit of time out from her long-term project to get a bit of mileage done. Totally Free II is one of the longest single-pitch routes at Malham as well as in the country and it’s a stonker. Catching Mina on the top roof had entailed a hell-for-leather run up the plethora of steps on the left of The Cove; it was worth it though even if I had to hang over the edge without a rope to get an angle that I wanted to show the totally out-there feel that pulling over the top roof can only entail!


That candid moment after the wedding ceremony when you’re alone – apart from the photog – and crack out the big smiles!

Also in May I shoot a wedding! My Dad used to shoot weddings and yet it was a gazillion miles what I ever wanted to do. However, when you’re asked by very good friends what the heck can you say but yes!! I argued with myself that shooting digitally at least I’d be able to review the shots as the day progressed – what could go wrong?! It was still a stressful business though; definitely can’t go for a re-shoot afterwards!! Will I do more then? Hmmm, maybe, maybe not – pleasure though to capture Graham and Helen’s big day though…

 

Abersoch Harbour at dusk

Fast forward to August and a surfing trip to Abersoch in North Wales. I’d been threatening to take my girls surfing for a couple of years – going ‘public’ meant that it would be harder to bottle and duck-out. Like many photogs, I’d dabbled with surfing shots – albeit from the safety that the shoreline offers! I’d love to have a go catching surfing from actually in the water but I suspect that will be one item that remains on my bucket list for some time. Arriving at Abersoch late on the Friday we were treated to a storming sunset. Fortunately, I made the effort to get down to the harbour and rattle a few shots off as dusk fell; just as well given the two days of solid rain that followed!!


Katherine Choong pulling down in the Hallshalleran Cave

Flatanger, Norway has gotten under many peoples’ skin; certainly it’s firmly embedded under mine! My second trip last September was the usual mixture of amazing conditions; amazing good and amazingly bad! It’s one heck of a locale is Flatanger – not only a stunning venue with some amazing scenery but its (obvs) got a stack of stunning climbing too.

 

The sunsets are often spectacular; maybe not literally to die for but pretty darned good!

It’s a tough gig though; don’t even consider it if your into apres climb and can’t handle day after day of rain and wind. I’ll be writing a piece for Climber Magazine later this year to if you’re interested keep an eye out for that!

 

Airbnb is definitely a thing these days and images for accommodation listings are an integral part of that process

Come September I had a request to shoot a flat for an Airbnb listings; something different again so off I went! It’s an interesting exercise in balancing perspective and lighting.

 

Chelsea Park in the autumn

Brincliffe Woods and Chelsea Park are literally right on my doorstep; it seems wrong not to capture autumn which is a fantastic time of the year. Again, it’s about selecting a subject, then a viewpoint then having the lighting to tell the story. I spotted these tucked away in a corner of the park so got down low and included a brightly coloured distant tree to contrast the foreground.

 

Mark stretched out on one of NW’s classic Font 7a – Elephantitus

I’m always pretty keen to get away to North Wales bouldering so when a decent dry spell popped-up in the forecast it was an easy decision to pack and go. We had three days of cracking weather and came back utterly spent. I (finally) got to go to an number of areas that I’d been meaning to check-out for some time including Sheep Pen and The Elephantitus  Cave. Sheep Pen is utterly brilliant and the setting leaves absolutely nothing to be desired. Defo a venue to check-out if you’re not been and yeah, there’s plenty – like tons – to go at! The Elephantitus Cave couldn’t be different to be honest; a small, lake-side venue but the blocs again are brilliant – especially Elephantitus itself.

 

The eagerly anticipated Statement of Youth didn’t disappoint the KMF audience

Finally then, Kendal Mountain Festival. This is another ‘thing’ which is very much on many climbers’ annual calendar. Last year, the weather was absolutely cracking and I, like many, simply couldn’t resist getting out onto the rocks for a bit. KMF is, of course, all about films and literature and last year they were some pretty stout films and books knocking about. I’m biased, having lived in Sheffield at the time the Hunter House Road houses were the place to hang, but Statement of Youth was a splendid trip down memory lane. Any other year and New Dawn, the film about Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s battle royal with The Dawn Wall, might have scooped all but last year it was up against Free Solo which centred on Alex Honnold’s utter audacious solo of Freerider on El Cap; that was captivating.

So that was a decimal dozen of subjects from 2018; no not a dozen, or a Baker’s Dozen but a decimal dozen! Yeah sure there’s 11 pixs – value for money egh!! More this year!!

Also posted in Adventure, Bouldering, Climbing, Photography, Scenic, Skiing, Travel

­­­­­­­2015 – Captured

Light years past the roll-over into 2016 I’ve finally pulled a selection of images together that I shot during 2015. It’s always an ‘interesting’ exercise to rummage through the hard drives and pull a selection of shots together that collectively sum-up a years of photographic effort. Even the best made photographic plans change – sometimes, it seems, no sooner than they’ve been hatched. And so it was for me in 2015 when a couple of major projects rolled effortlessly over the threshold into 2016. No matter really, that offered opportunities for others to come forward.

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Apart from capturing some winter scenery, my first photo shoot proper in 2015 was F-BO15; otherwise known as the Foundry’s 2015 Bouldering Open competition. Shooting climbing comps is more often than not nails; the action is fast moving, the ambient lighting at best challenging and the use of artificial lighting difficult in crowded locations. Finally, getting a good angle/shooting position is usually nigh on impossible. It’s usual therefore to ‘shoot on the fly’ which is pretty difficult but when it works it’s pretty satisfying. The year before, at F-BO14, I’d caught Stuart Littlefair attempting one of the 2014 problems feet-first. There was none of that in F-BO15 but there was some ‘swinging ball action’ that was pretty interesting to shoot. Shooting super-low, I managed to capture Ethan Walker just coming off the swinging ball. A suitably positioned chalk bag provided some nice foreground interest and hence depth in the shot; result! In F-BO14 Stuart had taken Ben Moon’s place in the final but Ben Moon v.2015 was there in force – in fact he crushed all before him turning in a (well-deserved) winning performance. Ben’s company sponsors one of the walls at The Foundry and I managed to get a shot Ben powering up the hardest bloc with his logo on the wall behind clearly in shot; I thought it was a nice bit of ‘later wow’ though I doubt many other folks even spotted it. C’est la vie…05_2015_Beddgelert_DSC_0074_capture

Following F-BO15, a wet and soggy walk down an in-spate Padley Gorge seemed to signal the end of winter. Spring always seems so fresh and the light so clear after the misty, muggy days of winter; the woods turn blue with blue bells and it was all rather pleasant. Even a cloudy day didn’t spoil a rare solar eclipse – in fact it gave it a haunting look. Spring 2015 went past in a flash to be honest; I find that’s what happens when I get engrossed in a climbing project. Success nearly came in April but I managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of success so the process of turning up and trying hard soaked up time; time that should really have been spent elsewhere. Finally, following a trip to a scenic Wales, the Eastwood Double was done and I could move on.

06_2015_Scotland_06_DSC03468Moving on took the form of starting my limestone campaign for the year plus a couple of trips away; firstly to Scotland and then back to Wales. Scotland first. This was a four-day trip with Paul, a grand master of the ‘quick hit’. The weather was fantastic so for Day#1 it had to be a monster 12-hour outing onto Cairn Dearg Buttress on the North East face of Ben Nevis. Torro, a totally fantastic E2 – maybe even one of the best on a big mountain cliff anywhere in the UK – was our reward. An amazing route up the middle of the crag just left of Centurion; I’ll happily recommend Torro to anyone climbing at that grade and looking for a full-on mountain experience. It’s perhaps worth knowing that sorting a belay at the06_2015_Scotland_44_DSC03726_alt end of Pitch 3 is ‘rather interesting’, that the fourth crux pitch suffers a bit from seepage ad the final pitch is definitely a sting in the tail. Overall it’s a great route; defo a four-star experience. The descent afterwards wasn’t totally straight forward; dropping into the gully which was still full of snow was quite interesting in trainers! The Isle of Skye called next and over the bridge we went; sadly, arriving with the doggie weather. Rain stopped us from getting involved at Kilt Rock but dry rock near Niest Point was duly located along with Bad Dreams (E3 5b, 5c) and that felt more than adequate as a consolation prize. And the views over Niest Point were stunning. Equally excellent was Whispering Crack (E3/4 5a, 5c) at Rubha Hunish – the most northerly point on Skye – which provided the entertainment the following day; a day so cold and windy that a t-shirt, a thermal, a fleece and then an outer wind stopper together with two pairs of trousers seemed scant protection against with the fresh connies yet way too many clothes to be wearing for leading a

Neist Point, Isle of Skye

hard and physical crack pitch. And what a pitch as well; amazing in fact, the best 45m crack pitch I’ve lead for ages. And still the wind blew on Day#4 – so much so in fact that we sacked-off our intended target and instead slunk off to Glen Nevis were we collected a couple of fine E2’s – including Plague of Blazes (E2 5c) – for our troubles before heading south.

I’m embarrassed to admit that in all my years of climbing – 40+ now and counting – Cloggy is one of the cliffs that had passed me by. The forecast suggested a settled period and a plan was duly hatched. We left Sheffield just after 4am. By 7am we were walking into Cloggy up the railway track; a lifelong ambition was unfolding. Occasionally, a photograph of a climber on an iconic route is etched into your mind’s eye. Ken Wilsons’ shot of Ed Drummond on the first pitch of Great Wall was such a photo for me; the cliff all dark and moody and Drummond dressed in seemingly virgin-like white. It didn’t need any discussion; Great Wall was the #1 target. I got the first pitch and Paul lead the second. Both were quite different and thoroughly enjoyable. We could discuss, as hundreds already have, whether Great Wall is a stiff E3 or an easy E4; in a way it doesn’t matter as long as it’s suitably described – either way it’s an absolute crac07_2015_Cloggy_DSC03791_lo resking route, sustained and interesting. Hacking up the vegetation above to top out was a bit of a downer mind you, but it’s not too long a scramble and it’s alright really. The Axe (E4 6a) seemed like a sensible follow-up pitch. Paul’s lead was suitable steady although I think I may have heard a few squeals of anxiety now and then. Seconding, I was grateful that had any of the thin and seemingly hollow flakes actually parted company then I’d be swinging out in space rather than taking a ride downwards onto a doggy cam sat behind some doggy flake. Another great route – especially to second!

July came round pr07_2015_BBC 2015_015_DSC_1129etty fast and with it the BBCs – British Bouldering Championships – at Cliffhanger, Sheffield. It was a pretty fancy set-up at Cliffhanger again and, not surprisingly, the respective titles were keenly contested. Photographically, the white tarp which covered the temporary wall acted like a giant diffusor so – for once – there was plenty of light which at least solved that problem. Access was, sadly, the usual nightmare however; swinging around on scaffolding and scrambling up the back of the wall avoiding the business end of literally hundreds of screws! It’s always pot-luck whether to shoot from the floor or hanging off the top of the wall and I usually mix it up a bit to get some variety. As it was I got lucky on one of the blocs as I was shooting straight down as Shauna was eye-balling a finishing hold. Part way through the finals I dropped down to the mats and shot a bunch of problems at floor level which gave a totally different perspective, not least as I switched to a long lens and used a wide aperture. It was a great afternoon and Shauna Coxsey and Tyler Landman were the worthy winners.

07_2015_Everglades_DSC_1550_lo resIn late July we set-off to go to the USA. The plan was pretty simple; fly into Orlando, pick up a car and then nip down to the Everglades to check-out some of the local wildlife, back up to Florida for a day at Universal Studios, pull an evening visit to Cape Canaveral to watch a launch, cruse up to Charleston, then hop on an internal flight to Boston and then finally back down to The Big Apple. A simple plan I’m sure you’ll agree; what could go wrong?! Actually, it did roll out pretty much as per the blue-print; save the launch at Cape Canaveral which was binned-off at the last minute due to doggy weather at launch site. It’s tricky pulling out favs or best memories – we seem to get so many in the trip. The ‘gators in the Everglades were well-worth seeing and pretty much as billed; what was a bonus though was the sunrises/sunsets over the waterfronts. The Ringling Museum and Ca’D’Zan in Sarasota Bay was something of an oasis and defo worth a look. Being Stateside, a trip to a baseball match was clearly in order; in the end we caught two although watching the Red Soxs play in Fenway Park was very much the real deal as well as a 08_2015_New York_42_DSC_3287_alt2great opportunity to capture some totally different action. Ditto, some of the sights in Boston; I’m thinking mainly of the Holocaust Memorial and the War Memorial to the US fallen soldiers were especially haunting and reminders of a past. An afternoon walking round the Harvard University complex restored a little balance. New York was crammed with things to visit. Staying longer and doing more would perhaps have been overdoing it and we lift happy with what we’d seen; Grand Central, Times Square, Central park, Rockafella Centre, Empire State Building, Ground Zero, State of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and last but definitely not least, Manhattan skyline at night.

09_2015_Nettle_DSC_3850_lo resPeak limestone is bread and butter for me photographically and climbing wise. The climbing connies during September and October were pretty flipping good – right up there in fact with the best it’s been for quite a few years – and when it’s that good Chee Dale is the place to be; especially The Cornice. My long-term climbing project there grabbed my attention so photography suffered a kick-back to be honest – it’s super hard to focus (no pun intented) to do both. I did manage to get some shots thought – not only at The Cornice, but also at the altogether more demure Nettle Buttress. It’s great to shoot at these places mid-week when it’s quiet – but you have to take your opportunities when they present themselves. Oh, nearly forgot, some nice fungi down there too in the autumn.

Looking back now the back end of 2015  wasn’t especially productive on the photographic front. However, a weekend visit to Buttermere in the Lake District proved rewarding on several fronts –10_2015_Buttermere_07_DSC_4696 defo photographically. For starters, let’s say that the weather was changeable; both days started with rain and both days finished with glorious sunsets – the autumnal colours were, as expected, pretty intense. Buttermere is one of the more photographed locations in the Lakes and its pretty obvious when you go you’ll see why – a great photo op around every corner; loved it! Rather more ‘off-subject’ for me was a trip to MIMA – Middlesborough Institute of Modern Arts to be exact. It was a flying visit but an interesting one nevertheless. Recommended if you’re in the area.

With 2015 coming rapidly to an end some disparate climbing subjects wrapped up the year for me. I’d got a couple of the Crusher Hold new Slaves to test and review and needed a couple of product shots to accompany said review. A straight product shot plus a product in use provided a rare opportunity to get a little bit creative with some close-ups. Finally, shooting some promo shots for The Foundry for marketing and then the Mammut University Lead Challenge finished the year almost where it had begun! I’ll blame the lousy weather in the autumn for my totally lack of outdoor shots but, in truth, I think it was a poor show on my part for not making the best of what was available.

For the full gallery of shots from 2015 Captured click through here

Also posted in Adventure, Climbing, Events, Photography, Travel

July 3rd… The Big Tamale…

After what seems like forever, tomorrow is the big tamale a.k.a. Le Grand Depart or in simple words, the start of The 2014 Tour de France, arguably the greatest bike race on the planet…

It been a long time coming, but it’s here at last, Yorkshire’s big moment on the big stage that is the TDF. For months yellow bikes have been hung on/off most conceivable vantage points the length and breadth of Yorkshire. Farmers have painted their sheep yellow.  One café owner has covered the outside of their emporium in monster red dots! The roads have been re-surfaced and hitherto common grazing fields turned into one-off campsites. Sheffield’s ‘un-known’ Jenkin Road has been dragged from quiet suburbia and trust into the lime-light and is (very nearly) rubbing shoulders with Alpe d’Huez, or Mont Ventoux!

It’s fair to say that many will be out there over the weekend getting involved but fair play to you if you’re staying at home watching the footie or Wimbledon.  I’m off to Jawbone Hill. Wherever you go, let’s hope it a good ‘un…

Not every bike will be on the Yorkshire roads this weekend...Yorkshire - the roof of the TDF?Opps - boot anyone?

Also posted in Cycling

April 7th: Shine a light…

Although it’s a tad retrospective now – the last month or so has just disappeared – March’s copy of Climber magazine carried my review of the latest in so-called hands-free (aka head torches) lighting. From the uber Mammut X-Sun (a 950 lumen monster) through to the delimitative Petzl e+Lite (a 25 lumen emergency unit) there really is a headtorch for every occasion…

Without a doubt, headtorches are an essential part of climbers’ kit-bags. Today, cheap headtorches are sold in main stream supermarkets from as little as a fiver a pop whilst the specialised shops sell the top-end units costing anything up to £250 quid. They’re used for all manner of activities – anything from dog-walking to emergency services through to elite athletes for climbing or other extreme sports. As power and functionality vary, so does size and cost. The review covered fifteen different units as well as giving the low-down on the plethora of batteries and LED types currently in use. If you don’t want to be left in the dark (I know – crap pun…) then check the review out.

Incidentally, as part of the review I dug-out my old Petzl Zoom headtorch from the bottom of the wardrobe and compared it with the X-Sun and the e+Lite (mentioned above). The results show quite plainly exactly what the R&D departments have achieved in the 30 odd years since Petzl first brought their legendary Zoom to market. Take a look for yourself at the pixs below and the difference is obvious. For the geeks amongst us, the e+Lite delivers the same (25 Lumen) output as the Zoom albeit at a fraction of the size/weight whilst the X-Sun knocks out over whooping 38 times more light than the Zoom.  The times sure are a changing…

And here’s a shot of the X-Sun and the e+Lite alongside the old past master, the Zoom…

 

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Also posted in Reviews

2013 Captured

Twenty Thirteen is behind us now for sure and I’ve been working hard to clear the decks and get the ship ready for 2014. Wrapping up 2013 photographically means putting last year’s shots both in perspective and into the archive.

If figures were the only metric, then I had was one heck of a year in 2013; 7,500 images totalling 263 GB of disk space – the largest volume of images I’ve ever shot in a year. Whilst the bulk were captured using my D800, some were taken with my Sony RX100, my go-to, shirt pocket compact. File sizes from the RX100 are pretty big (20MB) but nothing compared to the files (36MB) off the D800.  It’s a good job that hard-drive space is relatively cheap!

However, 2013 stands out in my mind as significant for entirely different reasons. Firstly, that the better weather broadened the possible scoop of climbing subjects/locations as many of the crags dried out during the summer. The better weather also meant that it was possible to include some of the cracking scenic backdrops into the images which in turn widened composition possibilities. Finally, I was also able to push the boundaries back a bit on my usual subjects by shooting a wider gambit of sports.

Winnats Pass_DSC_7118January into February are often about snow and ice and 2013 was no exception. A wintery snap in late January plastered the Dark Peak in snow. Returning from a family walk with the dog, a lone winter boulderer rocked up to Mother Cap and it seemed rude not to grab a snap or two. In as many seconds, the first shot for the 2014 calendar was in the bag – result! Farther west, Mam Tor and Winnats Pass were striking, if sombre, in winter garb. The Grand Massif in February for a skiing trip was very enjoyable but in no time it was Easter and a road trip around the climbing fleshpots of France underway. Following the traditional Font stop-off, a few days each at Vanasque, St Leger and Gorge du Tarn chalked up some successes, some failures and, perhaps more importantly, some more shots for the calendar. On a less positive note, I also chalked up the first of the season’s injuries – doh! It was, however, my first visit to the Gorge du Tarn and an interesting one as well. Before I head back though I’ll work my pocket strength on the Beastmaker!

Malham is a favourite early-season venue for many. Most visitors are captivated by the seemingly blank walls; the same walls that frustrate the heck out of climbers, yet draw them repeated in. The Malham scene was noticeable in 2013 given Steve McClure added a new super desperate route above the Catwalk, Batman (F9a/+), Jordon Buys repeated Rainshadow (F9a) whilst Cry Freedom (F8c) and Batroute (Fc) were respectively red-pointed by Paul Reeve and Buster Martin, two climbers operating at opposite ends of the age spectrum.Sheffield GP_021_DSC_9934

Early summer family trips into Sherwood Forest and then north to almost the farthest northwest tip of Scotland along with the Sheffield Cliffhanger and cycling Grand Prix soaked up a good month all told but give some cracking photo opportunities. Shooting fast moving action on the Sheffield GP was an interesting (read, in-at-the-deep-end…) experience. It’s great to mix it up though and I was pretty happy with the images I captured of the town-centre race. I’ve been up to Scotland many times before but never quite so far north. Scotland really is immense and the scenery and wildlife specular. A wee hike up Ben Nevis, a drop-in at the Newtonmore Games, a visit to a Scottish Heritage Museum as well as the long hike into the far-flung golden sands of Sandwood Bay were all perfectly memorable and rewarding, but standing on the pebble spit at Cantorny Point watching the dolphins feast on the inbound Atlantic salmon in the gathering dusk is a sight that I won’t forget in a hurry!

True Moments_DSC_2112A solid month of photography saw the 2014 calendar finished and the images over the design studio. The weather was kind for once and I grabbed the opportunity to include as much of the surroundings within the images as possible. For me, a climbing shot works best when it has not only the climber and the route clearly visible but also as much of the surrounding as possible – assuming that the backdrop is of scenic merit. One of my shots which ‘speaks to me the most’ in the Climbing 2014 collection is the shot of Ben Meakin cruising the classic DWS, Electric Blue. I like the rock and the sea but it’s the sea kayak that makes the shot though for me – I totally lucked-up on that one as a group of kayaker paddled off leaving a solitary kayaker sitting peacefully facing the crag and watching Ben casually stroll up Electric Blue. I couldn’t have planned it better had I tried!

Most of my calendar shoots require considerable advance preparation in order to get everything lined up just right; right location, best light, best clothes etc.. The days themselves though are basically about going climbing – albeit I have to capture the moment. Most times though, I can turn around and see some other captivating action unfolding just behind or off camera and I manage to pick-up additional shots that are every bit as good as the calendar shots. I’ve included a selection of these as well in the 2013 Captured gallery. The shot of Paul Philips on pitch 2 of True Moments or the shot of the team on Wendigo both just fell into my lap during a lull in shoot the images of Neil Foster on Hanging out at Glastonbury. I love it when that happens!

SF_Running_DSC_3258September was racing by and with it I added some running shots to my portfolio. A climbing mate was going over to the other side (running that is…) and was opening a store here in Sheffield and needed a running image for his holding page on his website. The Green Drive was our chosen venue but the grey and somewhat grim evening we’d selected for the shoot was totally uninspiring. Suddenly however, the evening burst into life when a sky fest opened up in front of our very eyes. A single strobe was all it took to get some light where it was needed – ie on Steve’s running shoes and lower torso – and hey presto, Front Runner had it’s holding page shot and I was rather chuffed with my first running shoot! Further running shots of the Edale Skyline fell race as well as a set of Steve running off Stanage complete my running action shots from 2013. More will follow I can assure you!

London Calling_DSC_4459

Autumn was soon here and with it came a trip down south to London. The closure of the rail network following the St Jude storm inspired a long-awaited trip to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford which, I have to say, is one heck of a venue – a genuine ‘must visit’ spot. London itself, with iconic sights like the Millennium Eye or Westminster Abbey are well worth the effort – especially on a sunny day! Totally by a fluke though did we drop into King’s Cross Station as night fell – the new roof there looking simply amazing under artificial light!

 

 

 

DSC_4998_007_web resOne of the last shoots of the year was a non-climbing, family affair when Vicky, one of my older progenies graduated from uni and a very obliging Robin (of the red breast variety) posed next to her in the grounds of York Minster. I don’t do much portrait work but I reckon it’ll be a while before I get another shot that I like as much as the shot of Vicky and the Robin; a cracking end to a cracking photographic year. Here’s a link to the 2103 Captured collection. Oh, and see if you can spot the images off the RX100 – I’ll bet you can’t…

 

 

 

Dec 16th: Last Post – oh, and Twin Pack killer deal…

Climbing 2013_December So, if you’ve not started your crimbal shopping yet (err… that’ll be me then folks!!) then you’re almost in deep do-doh… However, as Ms December (Leah Crane) from Climbing:2013 will tell you, there’s still four (on-line) shopping days left to order Climbing:2014 AND still get it in time for the big day (for UK orders) so all isn’t lost yet …

Yes folks, the elves in the dispatch department in KSP Towers will be sending out orders right up to the wire again which this year is Friday the 20th so get your calendar/year planner orders in before last knockings and the team will get said order into the system and you’ll be home and dry!! Please submit orders for all books in the KSP on-line shop by close of play on Thursday 19th for delivery pre-Xmas.

And nearly forgot, Climbing:2014 Twin Pack is now available as a killer ‘buy one, get one half price’ deal. Just the deal if you fancy a copy of Climbing:2014 for the work place as well as for home, or if you wanna say thanks to your bessie mate for all his/her top belaying all year. Click through here to go straight to the Twin Pack – that’ll put a smile on their face…DSC_9062

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July 11th: Its another cliffhanger…

Cliffhanger, and hence the BBC’s (a.k.a. the British Bouldering Championships), rolled into Sheffield last weekend bringing with it some of the strongest boulderers in the UK. In complete contrast to last year’s event which was (literally) a washout, this year’s Cliffhanger event was a total roaster. Bloc-misters, setters, officials, photogs/film-makers and spectators alike gasped for air, as well as holds, beneath the giant marquee adding an additional (and un-usual) twist to the fierce competition.

Shauna Coxsey shooting for yet another top-out in the final

The two-day event kicked-off with the qualification round on the Saturday. The competition, like the ambient conditions was red-hot, and the 80-odd competitors were halved ahead of the semi final round. Sunday, a.k.a. the business day, saw the setters produce some particularly tricky blocs to cut the competitors back to six for the final round. As the results show, the men’s semi was especially savage and very few competitors topped-out the problems; Stewart Watson alone claiming 2 ‘tops’. Hard on the heels of Watson came two young guns, Dominic Burns and James Garden whilst defending champ, Dave Barrans just survived the cut to qualify for the finals in sixth spot. It looked like a major upset was about to happen. In contrast, the women’s semi-final comp produced a more even spread of results although it was defending champ, Shauna Coxsey, that topped-out on all four problems. The mighty Alex Puccio finished second with Mina Leslie-Wujastyk and Leah Crane coming in third and fourth respectively.

Dave Barrans winding up a big rock-over in the men’s final

By the time the final and deciding round kicked-off many in the audience smelt drama in the air – if not in Graves Park itself then certainly down in SW19! Climbing two at a time, the combined men and women’s final was a heart-stopping affair all round. The setting team, as usual contained Percy Bishton and Ian Vickers, dished-up a fiendish mix of delicate and balancy problems as well as some funky and powerful blocs using loads of volumes with a few skanky holds thrown in for good measure. Problem #1 of the women’s circuit tackled a slightly off vertical panel (of all things) and as predicted the super-sloping holds caused major problems and frustrations for some. Problem #2 of the men’s circuit looked equally funky – a side-ways dyno off a poor collection of non-holds! No self-respecting comp these days is complete without a boat load of blobs and volumes and right on queue, blobs aplenty featured on the later blocs. Flexibility, as well as strength was tested to the max on these problems; the setters wringing out the full deployment of tricks and then some from the finalists.

Ultimately, the 2012 champions, Shana Coxsey and Dave Barrans, retained their top-gun status. Dave Barran’s truly pulled the rabbit out of the hat to leap-frog ahead of the entire field finish in top slot. Like Dave, James Garden, Ben West and Jon Partridge all topped-out on two problems apiece – the only deciding factor came from the number of attempts they had taken. Like the women’s semis, Shauna dominated the final round pulling all four tops in just four decisive attempts. Shauna’s bid for bloc dominance both in the domestic and international arena moves inextricable closer it seems! Mina pipped Alex to second place whilst Leah had to contend with fourth place and hence finished sans silver. Andy Murray meanwhile had done the business down in London all of which seemed to rekindle something of the sporting glow that started back in 2012 at the Oly Games. Notwithstanding the obvious ability of all the final competitors, the real delight was the strength in depth – as football commentators would say – in the rest of the field plus the strong results from the young-guns! It all bodes well for the future.Here’s a gallery of shots from the final along with the final places:

Men:

  1. Dave Barrans
  2. James Garden
  3. Ben West
  4. Jon Partridge
  5. Dominic Burns
  6. Stewart Watson

Women:

  1. Shauna Coxsey
  2. Mina Leslie-Wujastyk
  3. Alex Puccio
  4. Leah Crane
  5. Gill Peet
  6. Jennifer Wood

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Merry Xmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Xmas!!

 

Also posted in Events