Imagine that you’re clinging to a rock wall by only your fingertips hundreds of feet above the earth. You have been climbing for hours and now you can see the top, a multitude of feelings and thoughts racing through you. There’s frustration, joy, exhilaration, exhaustion. Fear—that the rope will break, that the next handhold will break off in your grasp. Triumph—that after hours of hard work, you’re almost there.
As a rock climbing enthusiast, Belgian-based photographer Stijn Van Hulle dreamed about creating a single climbing image that could depict the complex range of emotions felt by climbers as they struggle to “top” their chosen routes. In the following video, Van Hulle brings viewers along on a climbing photo shoot, demonstrating his methods for capturing unique vantage points by doing some strategic climbing himself:
As you might imagine, a rock climbing photo shoot requires a great deal of forethought. In addition to selecting, cleaning, and packing your photography equipment and checking weather forecasts, you will also need to figure out how to suspend yourself from the wall above your subject to capture death-defying angles, such as in the image below.
Van Hulle used two different methods throughout his photo shoot:
- Anchoring himself in at the top and walking down the wall in front of the climber.
- Anchoring himself in at the top, lowering a wooden A-shaped support down to an ideal location, and then climbing down to the support and attaching himself to it so that he is hanging in the air, away from the wall.
Van Hulle’s shoot took place in Rochers de Freyr, the most popular rock climbing destination in Belgium. There, his model climbed the legendary Al Legne, Freyr’s most sought-after summit.
“I was wondering if you could capture the sensations of rock climbing in one single image,” said Van Hulle. “Topping out the Al Legne is such a great experience for a rock climber. The depth and air around you makes you feel alive! [I knew] that’s where I [had] to be for my photo.”
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