Peak Bouldering Guide - Dave's photos & cover

21st September 2011
In: Blog
I'm probably closing the stable door after the horse has bolted here, but since it's a new site and new blog, I should probably blow my trumpet a little and point out the brand new Peak Bouldering Guide contains a few of my photos. Not least the front cover shot.

This is a first for me and in fact a bit of a honour, as this book will end up on the bookshelves and in the climbing bags of thousands of climbers in the UK and probably further afield. When you see the quality of the photos throughout the guide you appreciate why those boys had a lot of very good shots to choose from too. But from a personal perspective, having your photo on the cover of the guide to your local area is a bit special. I think John, Jon and Rupert have done a great job with this book, and basically if you climb in the Peak and you don't buy a copy you need shooting.

I'm also stoked for Scouse who can say that thousands of people now own a photo of his arse. I don't know which is more flattering, the cover shot of his backside, or the photo of John's in the previous edition that made him look like Raymond Van Barneveld. (Just messing with you Dave).

It was also nice to shoehorn in a landscape shot too, as this shot of one of my favourite crags, Rubicon Wall, made it in:

I was particularly glad this photo made it in, as I sort of shot it with this type of end result in mind, and on the day it involved a bit of ingenuity and problem solving. I was at the crag on my own a couple of years back on a spring evening. The sun was out when I arrived so I dumped my climbing gear and ran round to take the shot. I'd taken other shots from more or less the same spot before so I had a visualisation of what I was after. There were some low clouds blowing around so I had to be aware of taking too long and missing the light.

Now that night I had the Mamiya 645 and 80mm normal lens with me, but for whatever reason I neglected to bring a tripod (god knows why!). So as the shot formed itself in my mind it became clear that I was going to be struggling for shutter speed - I was shooting with Velvia at ISO 50, I needed an aperture of about f16 to maintain enough depth of field, and I'd decided I wanted to use a polariser to keep the blue of the sky to an acceptable shade, which made the shutter speed situation even worse. Then into the bargain was the fact that the mirror slap on the Mamiya was pretty hefty, so you generally needed to err on the side of a faster speed than you might when handholding 35mm or digital. I was already mid way though the roll of film so push-processing the roll to a faster speed was out of the question.

After a bit of pondering I found a partial solution, which was to compose the shot as a panoramic within the frame and then crop the shot down afterwards. This meant less foreground was included in the shot, so less depth of field was required. Winner. I could make a good composition as a panoramic, still keeping a bit of sky and maintaining the all important reflection in the water, being medium format you've got a fair bit of real estate to play with when cropping. I also clocked that with the building in shot it was crucial to keep the camera level to avoiding any keystone distortion. Its times like these the simple things like one of those tiny cheap little hotshoe spirit levels comes in handy.

I still had a problem though in that this shot still needed at least f11 which meant a shutter speed of about 1/30th. With a normal lens on a medium format SLR this speed is well below the usual comfort zone. I to hedge my bets further I took the prism off the camera so instead of holding the camera at eye level I could look down onto the focussing screen and hold the camera braced to my chest with the strap tight around my neck. A bit like using a waist-level-finder, except that I didn't have one so just stuck my head inside my shirt and pulled the bottom over the camera so I could see enough on the focussing screen to compose (I'd focussed with the prism on). I reasoned that this should give me enough stability for the shot. I took one shot at f11 and 1/30th, and another at f8 and 1/60th just to hedge my bets. I took those two, the sun passed behind cloud and the rock was beckoning, so I packed up and got stuck into climbing.

When the shots came back I had two shots that just about worked, I forget which one of the two was the best but I think it was the f11 and 1/30th shot. What mattered was that I managed to find my way round the problem and got an acceptable result. Finally seeing it in print as the into shot to the crag was gratifying given both the technical challenges and the fact I'd been after that type of shot for a while and its one of my favourite crags. I hope it adequately conveys some of the warmth I feel for the place.

I suppose in a funny way this shot serves as a bit of a nod to one of my inspirations, the late, great, Galen Rowell. He often wrote about little technical problems that he had to overcome, be it by building an impromptu tripod from empty beercans, or running miles camera in hand to get his shot and missing his dinner. Tales of his exploits were no doubt in the back of my mind when making this shot and served as a reminder to try and think outside the box

More importantly that was the last time I forgot to take a bloody tripod.

Leave a comment

Your Name
Your Email
Your Comment
No info required here, please press the button below.