It’s funny how most everything that you learn about life is based on a mistake. If not a mistake, then maybe an unfortunate situation. For a long time, I put work over friends and family. I would break plans constantly, all because I had this idea that if I just did one more job, it would set me on the path to success. And while I still wouldn’t consider myself successful in any right, and occasionally I have to break a plan or two, I realize that having a group of people that will support you in everything you strive to become is far more important than making that little bit of extra money.
Auyan-tepui, Venezuala - Mike Call traverses along the lip of a boulder just outside of base camp on location for the Point Break remake last October. A few days prior, I had taken a 45 minute helicopter ride from Canaima to the top of Auyan-tepui. Criss-crossing rivers, winding over the jungle canopy, I could see the camp in the distance. The scene was something straight out of a dream. About a dozen tents sat atop pallets dotting the rocky uneven landscape. It was free of vegetation, however a thick jungle was just a stones throw away.
I left the confines of the helicopter and was completely taken off guard by my surroundings. No longer was I suffocated by the thick jungle air, but instead had ascended into the clouds high above the valley floor. That evening, after I had met with Mike and the rest of the crew, we wandered off to explore the surrounding landscape. Giant sandstone boulders sat within sight of camp, however finding a route over was tricky. After working our way around several large chasms, we found an amazing array of boulder problems. Crooked relics formed for a millennia. Overhanging slabs that defied the laws of gravity shot out from all angles. It was perfection hidden in a hostile jungle.
Sasha Digiulian works her way up El Matador on Devils Tower. The formation, which many of the surrounding Native American Tribes refer to as Bear Lodge, was given its name after a mistranslation back in 1875 and has since come under fire for misrepresenting the sacred nature of the monolith. According to “In the Light of Reverence”, a documentary delving into the conflict between the tribes and the public, during the month of June when the tribes hold most of their ceremonies, 85% of climbers adhere to the voluntary climbing ban imposed by the park.
Jeff Richards cruises through the top moves on Superman, a highball boulder problem in Joes Valley. I believe this was the same trip where Chad Parkinson basically broke his ankle falling off the same climb, but it wasn’t my fault because I wasn’t spotting.
Fisher Towers, Utah - Something I really enjoy creating are large panoramic stitches. Usually, this involves getting into a position where you’re excited with the landscape in front of you, then shooting a huge plate, upwards of maybe 20 photos. I’m not sure if it’s totally necessary, but I overlap quite a bit, to give the program a lot of information to work with. If at all possible, i’ll photograph using a lens with a focal length of at least 50mm, in order to avoid distortion which can be a real pain in the ass to deal with. Once you’ve created the plate, then you wait for the action. In this case, I was filming climbing for an Australian television show. While we were waiting for the TV host to get into position, a random climber summited Ancient Art and rapped back down. I shot a series of photos that captured him/her climbing the last little portion and standing on top. I eventually chose this one over the summit shot, because I liked the idea of the anticipation right before reaching the summit of something. Once you’ve created the plate and picked your action shot, it’s just a simple matter of dropping him/her into the scene. I think what I love most about it is that often times you can create a pretty awesome sense of scale that you wouldn’t be able to create otherwise.
Standing alone, reaching toward the sky, Devil’s Tower looms over the surrounding landscape.
Joes Valley, UT- One of the things I love about living in Utah is the rock climbing. Any direction you go, there is good climbing. Joes Valley, down near Orangeville, is one of those places. I first started going there about 10 years ago with one of the rowdiest groups of climbers I've ever met. Loud, obnoxious, immature, idiotic: All are adjectives I could use to describe us, however we all had fun, and that's what is most important. A couple years ago, we started hiking up random drainages to find new boulder problems. We had seen a particularly tall one from the road and had even walked up and looked at it, but it looked impossible, so we went on in search of other climbs.
Last year, Griffin Whiteside and I, along with some others, went back to it, and started cleaning it, brushing all the gunk off, making sure certain holds wouldn't break off. It was a necessary evil. A couple weeks after we had cleaned it, A group of us headed back up to it carrying large crashpads so that Griffin could try it. Nobody else had any desire to try it. It's tall and scary, thus the name #Tall. The moment I captured on Griffin's first ascent, is one of the critical moments on the climb. Your right foot swings out, something climbers call a barn door, and the weight of your body starts to shift. If you're not strong enough, your body will continue to swing to the side, your hands will pop off and you will land on your head and die.
The shouts of "come on" and "stick it" went quiet as Griffin's right leg started swinging back. He looked down in fear, eyeballing the landing. Chad, moved some pads around, while scott feebly held his hands up, getting ready to make sure he didn't land on his head. A breath escaped Griffin as he put his right foot back on. The screams from below started back up again as he finished the last couple moves to top out. Easily one of the tensest moments I've ever witnessed while climbing with some of the best friends i've ever had, except Scott.
Simferopol, Ukraine- After spending a couple weeks filming rock climbing in Ukraine, I was able to take a day or two for myself and wander around Simferopol, one of the larger cities on the Crimean peninsula. The lackadaisical people floating in the sea were replaced with anxious workers scurrying about, trying to find a means to an end. The cool breeze coming off the sea was replaced with a smoggy feeling of desperation, perpetrated by industry and the old Russian cars clogging the streets.
In a quiet square tucked away from the mayhem of the city, a few people walk by heading to work. As they pass, their long shadows extend toward a large statue built by the old empire. Continuing, they cross the square until reaching a massive building looming overhead. Quickly ascending the stairs, they disappear inside, away from the traffic and haze of a city desperate for change.
Rainbow, California - Wandering among giants amidst a colorful sunset, Abbey Smith and Buck (Strong Man) Bronson find a nice tall boulder problem to finish the day on. Not too easy, not too hard, but high enough to get scared. Pulling for the top, A squeal emerges as a blown foot sends Abbey plummeting toward the earth. Minutes later, she is back on the rock, determined to put up more of a fight. After a moment of hesitation, she pulls the final move to the lip, topping out easily. Standing above the landscape, she pauses momentarily to enjoy the surroundings before scrambling back down in search of another problem.