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Tim Glasby climbing photographer interview

Tim Glasby, Climbing Photographer

by Duncan Skelton on November 24, 2010

in photography

Tim Glasby, climbing photographer.

Tim Glasby is an adventure and lifestyle photographer, is widely travelled and has worked on assignment for many of the best names in the industry including editorial work for The Times, GQ and National Geographic Adventure and commercial work for Red Bull, Adidas and Marmot. You’ll be hard pressed to find a climbing magazine that doesn’t regularly carry Tim’s work. He blogs and tweets regularly, and is a thoroughly nice bloke.
Read more about Tim and view his work on www.timglasby.com

What is your favourite/most iconic climbing shot?

If its my all time favourite image its an easy answer – my single favourite climbing photo is Steve Bancroft climbing Strapadictomy at froggatt. Bernard Newman took the shot and to me it evokes all the qualities that a great climbing image should have. Power, grace and a timeless quality.

If it was a sequence of shots, it would have to be Johnny Woodward on the first ascent of Beau Geste, another great Froggatt route. Not quite as singularly perfect as the Bancroft image, but collectively they show a story of a battle unfolding before the lens. It’s grittiness on Grit and it was captured by another outstanding British lensman, Ian Smith.

  • First ascent of Beau Geste by Johnny Woodward at Froggatt.jpg
    Johnny Woodward on the first ascent of Beau Geste, E7 6c at Froggatt.
    The birth of modern ‘Hard Grit’?
    Reproduced by kind permission, and copyright © Ian J Smith, 1982.

What has been your most rewarding climbing shoot an why?

This is a toughie because they all bring something different.

It might be a big commercial shoot where you’re under a lot of pressure because of the size of the team and budget. Everyone is relying on you to get it right, and when you pull it out of the bag against all the odds (weather, missing models, illness) and you see the final shots in print in a brochure in a high street shop it still gives me a big buzz.

Or it could be far more personal, a lot of the climbers i work with are also friends. If success or failure means a lot to them it means a lot to me as well. Sometimes it gets very personal like my wife hanging off ice axes 25 feet out from virtually useless protection and a subsequent 70ft ground fall if it rips. I’m hanging on a rope above and to her left. Half way through the crux she spits through gritted teeth “fuck, I can’t do it” I know I can’t help her, I can’t get to her in time, so I just hide behind my camera and keep shooting and somehow she gets through the crux and swings the picks into good solid ice. When she got to the top she let’s out a loud whoop and I wipe away tears from my eyes – a combination of cold, wind and emotions. At the time it was the hardest mixed route in the world climbed by a woman, it never got repeated and was subsequently bolted.
The photos were some of the worst pics I’ve ever taken, it was snowing and getting dark, the auto-focus wasn’t working properly because of the sub zero temperatures, but equally they’re some of my most precious photos.

What is currently your favourite bit of kit, and why?

Another easy one, the Elinchrom Quadra flash system. Sometimes you just need that little bit of extra flash power that a normal on camera flash just can’t provide. The quadra has a conventional digitally operated battery pack and flash head with an output of 400ws (that’s about 8 x the power of a camera mounted flashgun). The great thing about the quadra is it’s size and weight (the flash head is about the size of a tennis ball) so I can take in a couple of these units in a back pack to very inaccessible places, or hide them behind trees or boulders.

What is your most used lens for climbing photography?

It totally depends on the job and what I’m trying to get out of a particular situation. I’m really enjoying using a 24mm f3.5 Tilt/Shift at the moment and I like using some big telephotos, but I guess if it just comes down to which lens I tend to grab out the bag the most then it would be the 24-70mm f2.8, especially if I’m hanging on the end of a rope, it’s a very versatile lens.

What route, location or climber would you most like to shoot?

I’ve been very lucky in my climbing photography. I’ve photographed my own personal heroes like Ron Fawcett, Gerry Moffat, Jeff Lowe, Guy Lacelle and Yvonne Chouinard. I’ve travelled all over the world to some of the most amazing climbing locations and photographed some iconic lines. I’ve spent time indoors shooting competitions and met people like Chris Sharma, Tommy Caldwell, Francois Legrand and Lynne Hill. Its a very hard question.

It’s a bit of a weird answer I’m going to give you but if I could choose any route it would be the amazing Canadian winter route Polar Circus. It’s a stunning multiple-pitch waterfall Ice route. It’s done in a day now and isn’t considered a big deal anymore by those that “can”. I was going to climb it with my friend Guy Lacelle, well he was going to lead it and I was going to photograph and second him up the route, but unfortunately before we could do the route Guy was killed in an avalanche. I’d still like to go and climb and photograph the route one day.

What piece of advice would you give to anyone wanting to make more of their climbing photography?

To coin a phrase “just do it” get out there and take as many photos as you can in as many varied places and situations as you can. Be honest with yourself about the quality of your work and always “under promise and over deliver”.

Thanks to Tim for sharing his time with the Climbing Photography blog. If you’d like to comment on this post, or share your own iconic climbing image please drop us a line below.

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