PoTM 2011 July: World Cup Bouldering Comp




July time in Sheffield is Cliffhanger time which means that a monster marquee goes up in Millhouses Park, then a load of scaffolding, then plywood, then bus loads of the world’s strongest boulderers arrive and battle it out for the glory of World Cup Bouldering points. It’s a great couple of days though I suspect that the spectators have the best time as they soak up the vibes and watch the strongest boulderers in the world doing their thing.


I’ve photographed Cliffhanger every year now since its inception; it would be rude not to given that it’s a major climbing event right on my back doorstep. Over the years, the methods I’ve used have evolved and inevitably more and more kit gets dragged along. For 2011 event I used no less than four strobe lights with remote triggered by the new all-singing, all dancing gizmos from Pocket Wizards.


For front/fill lighting I used two strobes fixed to the marquee support pasts with clamps. Each strobe was fitted with a light modifiers such as a grid or snoot and each had an additional battery pack to boost re-cyclying time. These were aimed at what I though would be the most interesting problems on the wall and at an angle so that lighting would be across the wall/climber rather than straight on.


The other two strobes were top-side on the wall; one on-camera and the other on a boom arm which was operated by a VALS (voice-activated lighting stand) ie Adam! The boom strobe was also activated by a Pocket Wizard whilst the on-camera strobe was the master gun. Again, light modifiers were used to create interesting lighting effects.


Whilst this all sounds under control, strangely enough when the comps running, the whole shebang is not far short of a nightmare! Access along the top of the wall is by climbing up the scaffolding and perching on the backing supports for the climbing wall. Competitors do set problems along the length of the wall and the photogs and lighting assistants have to scamper back and forth all day long so switching camera and lighting positions is all part and parcel of the fun. Shooting digital has helped enormously though and you can set the strobes independently and hence control lighting ratios on the fly to suit the subject and lighting style I’m looking for. Having Adam operating a boom strobe was fantastic and opened up some great opportunities. For the shot below I killed the ambient light by deliberately underexposing and then used a boom strobe as the main light and the on-camera strobe as the fill with the ratio of 1:0.5. The two remote strobes were switched off for this shot.


Cliffhanger 2011 was a great event and I think I got some cracking shots thanks to Adam’s invaluable help. The shot below of Shauna Coxey in the semi-finals is used on the December page for Climbing:2012…



Capture Notes:

Nikon D300, 17 -35 mm AFS f2.8 @ 30 mm, 1/400 secs @ f6.3, ISO 320, manual metering in aperture priority -2.0 stops for ambient light with strobe lighting Group A (main light) at full power with Group B (fill light) at ½ power



World Cup Bouldering Competition, indoor climbing, stobe photography