About a year ago, we started a new hobby: bouldering. Bouldering is indoors climbing on walls, that are only approximately 3-4m high. As the routes aren't that long, they're usually more complicated than rockclimbing routes which are longer and focused on endurance.
Now we got around to combine our two hobbies photography and bouldering, as one of our favorite local bouldering gyms - BetaBoulders Copenhagen - was looking for photographers for their events. The Copenhagen Climbing Festival last months was one of those events!
How Bouldering Competitions work
It was the first time we experienced a bouldering competition and the process was very fascinating.
Representative for the inclusive and open atmosphere of climbing, everyone could participate. Routes that were specifically set for the competition, were marked as such and saved in a commonly used app climbers, to track successful ascends. That mini competition continued over two days. After the first day the best 24 (12 male, 12 female) climbers qualified for the semifinales.
During the event, everyone was friendly and supportive of each other even though this technically was a competition. There are no offocial queuing rules in bouldering, but everyone made room and cheered for each other.
We have photographed a couple of athletes before and it's always been a pleasure. It's impressive how one as the photographer can ask for a ridiculous pose and the model just goes like
Yeah no problem. For how long do you need me to hold this?
Shooting Athletes: Brian "Brizze" Mengel - when Jonathan had Brian balance a ball in the most ridiculous positions.
Yoga Shoots in Copenhagen - when we asked yogi to get up at a ridiculous time in the morning and make their yoga poses a part of the city in the cold.
Body Paint with Greg - when bodybuilder Greg came over from the US for some amazing body paint shots, really showing off the build and size of his muscles.
Obviously, the boulderers were not at the gym to get photographed and we could not really direct them in their poses. However, the experience felt slightly similar as we watched incredibly strong people did amazing things with their body.
The event lasted over two days and we saw many faces again and again - many of those climbers must have had seriously sore arms after the weekend. The length of the event also helped us as photographers. As more as both climbers and we got accustomed to each other and shared smiles and jokes, the more free we felt to move around them capturing intense body positions without feeling like a creep, going in close for some close up shots without feeling disruptive for their concentration, and it gave us the opportunity to learn the routes and anticipate what the individual climbers would do to get the good shot.
From cute chalk bags over straining, crimping hands and climbing shoes almost on point on foot holds, there were also a lot of opportunities for detail shots showcasing what bouldering is about.
The finale routes were covered up during the day so no one could think about how to climb them ahead of time.
As soon as the finalists (6 best male, 6 best female) were in isolation (a room from where they could not see the routes), the final routes were uncovered and adjusted slightly.
During the qualifications and mini competition, everyone can take as much time as they want to finish the routes. However, during the semifinals and finals, they only had 4 minutes to make it to the top.
It was relatively late in the day at the time of the finals and most poeple had been climbing for two days, but everyone was engaged and cheering during the finals.
The route setters consisting of both the gym's own setters in collaberation with a group of Italian setters.
It was a lof of fun to be part of the event - there were a lot of photos to go through in the end. We're already looking forward to the next event, which will not be a competition but a Halloween event with costumes and UV light only. That will bring its own set of challenges. Luckily, we once did take some photos with UV light once of ourselves so we have a bit of experience already.
These are the photos we took, inspired by the movie Sin City:
Have you tried bouldering? Have you participated in a competition?