PoTM 2011 September: Trilogy - It’s all about the angles



Raven Crag, Langdale chose itself for the shoot with Steve McClure for Climbing 2012. The weather was bright(ish) but overcast and we’d driven up to the Lakes that morning so quick and easy access to a low-lying crag with a clutch of classic extremes to go for was good for me and good for Steve who was carrying a couple of injuries at the time.


A quick hike and scramble and I was soon on the top of the crag and building a rap point so that I could ab in and get close to the action. Steve kicked off with Trilogy (E5 6a) which is the classic right-facing corner on the left of the buttress. His second route was the mega classic, Dawes Rides a Shovel Head (E8 6c), which blasts straight up the middle of the wall after which he finished off with Eulogy Direct (E8 6c); not a bad day for someone with a few injuries! But that, as they say, is another story.


Climbing photography went through a step-change with John Cleare’s images in ‘Rock Climbers in Action in Snowdonia’. This proved to be a seminal photographic work and arguably Cleare’s lasting legacy became the ‘image taken from an abseil rope’. Cleare’s technique is in wide-spread use today and it was the method I used to shoot Steve on Trilogy. My objective was to get close enough to get in on the action but to include as much of the cliff and the setting as possible. My favoured lens for these shots is the wide angle; mine is the 12-24mm zoom which is equivalent to 18-36mm in 35mm terms.


My calendar had been re-designed for 2012 and we’d adopted a landscape format – hence my preference was to get a landscape shot of Steve on Trilogy. Using a wide-angle lens close-in produces some great results but you have to be really careful about angles and framing as wide-angles distort perspective. Getting the framing and composition ‘right’ using a wide angle is always key. I was high and right and hence looking down and left whilst shooting Steve on Trilogy. I placed Steve toward the left of the frame which meant that the Trilogy corner dropped below Steve and towards the centre of the image. I included some of the valley to the left of Steve to show a little of the situation and then for the final composition element I included a conveniently placed capping overhang at the top of the image as a ‘frame’.


Positioning Steve and the left arête of Trilogy on the right within a landscape image, rather than on the left, wouldn’t have worked at all. That would have made Steve look like he was climbing a slab which, given Trilogy is actually a vertical to slightly overhanging wall, would have totally killed the shot outright. The same issue also happens when shooting vertically with a wide-angle so it’s vital to get the angle right then as well. Alternatively, pull back and shoot with a mid-range lens or telephoto and eliminate wide-angle distortion althogether.


BTW, if you’re interested in the climbing story behind Steve’s epoch day at Raven Crag and his casual on-sight of Dawes Rides a Shovel Head you might want to check out my blog post here…



Capture Notes:

Nikon D300, 12–24 AFS f4.0 lens @ 12mm, ISO 200, 1/400th sec at f5.0 using matrix metering in aperture priority with -2/3rd exposure compensation



Lake District National Park, trad climbing, Raven Crag Langdale, Trilogy E5 6a