Rock Star Photography
Photo: Boone Speed
Speed suspended above with harness and carabiners, made this shot of Chris Sharma with a Canon EOS-1D Mark III and 70–200mm f/2.8L Canon EF lens, 1/500 sec at f/2.8, ISO 2000.
Notice that Boone Speed is photographing climber Chris Sharma at Red River Gorge in Kentucky from above. He didn’t get there by helicopter. It helps that Speed is a world-class rock climber himself. “In this case, Chris climbed an adjacent route to the right of this one, as a warm up, and clipped my main rope into the anchors of that route,” Speed says. “I then ascended that rope and used other ropes to pull me in the direction I needed in order to get into position, as well as stabilize me for the shoot. We work very efficiently and had the route rigged within half an hour.”
Then it came time for Sharma to climb the tough route. “This particular shot is special because Chris—considered by many to be the best rock climber in the world—was trying this very difficult route for the very first time. Being there for that moment of uncertainty, while he’s literally clawing his way up the wall, is critical when trying to capture the essence of his determination, focus, and brute strength.”
What scares him the most? “When a rock goes whizzing by your head, it’s almost like ‘whew, glad that missed me,’ but there’s no time to be scared. When you’re hanging from a rope, you’re concentrating so hard on tweaking into position, and remaining stable, and keeping your eye on the target. The scariest moments are the ones that have time to build, like being in an avalanche path as the sun starts hitting the snow face above and destabilizing it. I’ve been in a couple of avalanche paths that were sketchy. It’s weird, and there’s fear. And this real danger might not strike fear in the unknowing. I’ve been in places where tourists set up a picnic in a truly dangerous spot.”