Thanks to the help of Bogen, I was finally able to get an image that has been on my list for awhile. I have photographed rock climbing for years with available light. I’ve added flash to some rock climbing images, but generally from below the climbers. What about having lights right there on the vertical face with you, producing that great edgy light that matches the mood and intensity of climbing? This shot would require ascending ropes to capture the face of the climber, no butt shots. The challenge is getting the lights to the climbers level. I considered having assistants rappel with me down the face holding strobes, it would be something like a SWAT training exercise with all these guys rappelling down the face. More ropes, more anchors, more systems…more problems.
But then Will from Bogen turned me onto the 269HDBU Manfrotto light stand. This gem is 24 feet tall and can support more than 20 pounds on top when fully extended. Perfect! When I first set this up in my driveway it looked like I could catch the infamous balloon boy floating overhead, this thing goes high!
Today we made it happen. With a small crew of folks helping out, we rigged lines for ascending, figured out flash distances and angles, and got the climber in the right position leading up the route. Using the 24 foot stands, we attached Elinchrom Quadras to the top. One head had a 27 inch Rotalux softbox for the main light, the other head had a 30 degree grid attached to control light spill. We added 50 pounds of sand to each lightstand to make sure they were stable. And we enhanced the straps on the Quadras so there was no possibility of one falling off! I shot from above the climber using the Skyport radio transmitter to control the flash output at the heads, a huge convenience for this type of shot. Since super climber Caroline could hold on only so long, the fast recycle times and power of the Quadras resulted in as many frames as possible. Tech: Nikon D3, 70-200mm, ISO200, 1/200 at 7.1. Manfrotto 269HDBU 24 foot light stands, Elinchrom Quadra packs, 27 inch Rotalux softbox, 30 degree grid on other head.