Sometimes I get the urge to shoot climbing. Or just to shoot, but mainly climbing. Fortunately, I’m employed at the local climbing gym here in Livermore. So I grabbed my gear, hopped in the car and drove down to the gym.
I knew exactly which problem in the cave I wanted to shoot because it had a really cool and dynamic throw to a bad pinch where your feet would cut and your back would arch dramatically.
I have shot in the gym a lot and have failed just as much. Ambient sucks for those without lights but if you have them its amazing.
I threw this old Vivitar fully manual speedlight in the back of the cave clipped onto a big jug in the roof and pointed it straight out horizontal to create a back light on Eric who I was shooting.
That light had a remote trigger on it as it was going to be pointing directly back at the second light which was slaved.
For the main light, I grabbed a ladder and a Vivitar 285HV and placed it on the top rung about 8 feet back from the wall. That light was favoring the right side of the cave and pointed right at the lip. I don’t remember exactly what power that strobe was on but it was probably 1/4 as I have found that I can underexpose a little. For this type of thing at least. Plus that way I can get the lower ISO’s.
After that I asked Eric to try the dyno a few times. I had to hide the light coming from in the cave so I had Eric stand near the holds before so I could figure out where to stand.
So he did the move and this was the result. I like the image but its not good. Eric’s face is hidden in his arms, there is a huge shadow on the back wall from the main light and it just doesn’t give a feel for how gnarly the move actually is.
So I backed up a bunch and climbed up low into a corner on an adjacent wall. I turned around and braced myself in the corner so I could free my hands. And we tried again.
This was much better and more what I was going for. You can’t see his eyes but there is really just nothing I could do about that. You can see the backlight hitting Eric, giving great separation and this time its hidden by the wall itself. That light at this angle also does a good job of lighting the inside of the cave on the left where the main light was falling off.
Next, I wanted explore the backlight some more so I turned off the slave and positioned myself in the mouth of the cave. I had Eric do some moves on another problem that climbed up in the roof. Again I had to make sure the light was hidden so I didn’t get super low and instead shot more straight on and was able to hide the light with the roof. I also switched my focus mode to single so that my focusing light would activate and ensure proper focus in the dark cave. After a few tries and figuring out which move to shoot we made this.
I really like how the hard light defines Eric. I also stopped down on my aperture to get less fall off on the wall from the flash. Thus keeping the dark contrast and not distracting from the subject.
All of this in ten minutes. So grab your lights and go shoot something!