From the first time I strapped on a harness, squeezed into some tight, uncomfortable shoes, chalked up my hands, and nervously ascended a terrifyingly-high rock wall, climbing has made me feel more alive. There’s beauty in the challenging physical movement and body positions, combined with the mental puzzle of determining which holds to use and how to use them, all while fighting fatiguing muscles and a fear of falling. It requires focusing the mind on the present and testing the boundaries of your comfort zone. It’s also a unique way to experience incredible outdoor surroundings.
I discovered this newfound passion a few years ago while out with friends at Smith Rock, a nearby haven for rock climbers. Though I’ve spent increasing amounts of time climbing both outside and indoors, I’ve rarely incorporated photography. This is mostly logistical – when I go it’s usually with one other person and I’m either climbing or belaying, so there’s not much opportunity to break out the camera – but also, like photography, it’s a demanding pursuit and to concentrate on both sometimes feels like too much at once.
Last month, I finally had a good opportunity to just watch and actually spend time photographing some climbers competing in the finals of the Bend Rock Gym’s Boulder Bash. I marveled at these young, talented climbers reading routes and executing difficult moves/sequences I can only hope to do someday. Bouldering has become increasingly popular in recent years as rock gyms have taken off, and competitions bring out some of the best athletes. For this event, the finalists had 5 minutes each on 5 different problems to attempt to complete them without falling, scoring points the farther they advanced.
The spotlight added some drama to the event as well as a different look from the normally flat overhead lights. Taking in climbing from behind the camera was a different experience, but is something I plan to gradually do more of. I included a few shots at the end from recent outdoor outings at Smith Rock: