How Photographers Really Get These Shots [hint: it takes a village]

Just stumbled on this image of yours truly working for an advertising photo down at Smith Rocks, OR a few years back. I don’t do a ton of climbing photography – it’s pretty damn specialized – but when I get to, it reminds me a whole lot of why i like to climb. It really focuses your attention on the task at hand. While the handful of support crew who help make these shoots possible are a real blessing, my biggest appreciation during work like this goes to the athletes. Every safety measure is taken, but they certainly put themselves at risk to get the shot – often needing to make the same move a half dozen times to get it just right. #respect.

My biggest challenge in this case is multi-tasking while in position. I’ve gotta be communicating with the athlete, communicating with the crew, etc, and being my own assistant at the same time as focusing on the shot.  

Happy friday – and happy to answer any questions below.

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42 Responses to How Photographers Really Get These Shots [hint: it takes a village]

  1. wilfredo November 1, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    as always amazing stuff dude…the single and only time I’ve been to your studio – in 2010 and I will never forget the inspiration I got from you and Z….life’s been good since – freelance work picking up and I have a new son……but some times….actually many times, the inspiration can take you so far….since my kids birth I’ve been on a creative hiatus….I know I want to get back..I’m anxious to get back……what do you suggest I do to get back into my creative zone and pull myself out of Hiatus. Thanks Chase again for all you do for everyone. – cheers

    • Chase November 4, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

      my recommendation is to make something every day. even if it’s just an iphone image of your kid or your feet or your face. make something intentionally every day. make creativity a habit – and it will change you back “off” your hiatus.

      creativity begets creativity.

      • Bimal nair November 8, 2013 at 3:43 am #

        Oh my God! How did you make it that simple Chase?!! Will live by that rule henceforth! Thanks a ton for everything you do Chase!

    • Graham Martin July 21, 2014 at 10:26 am #

      I must agree with Chase on this. I have the same problem, emigrating to a new continent (from Dublin, Ireland, to Sao Paulo, Brazil), marriage, fatherhood, separation, divorce, leaving friends and family and culture back home, financial challenges, theft / violence / assault, working 6 days a week morning noon and night… all in the space of two and a half years. It’s overwhelming and leaves me little time, money or resources (my Nikon D700 was stolen in one such assault) to work on photography.
      But, even something as simple as snapping with the iPhone while commuting too and from work can be enough to spark ideas or if you like to mix media in projects, fill in gaps between shots made on film or with DSLR by shooting with the iPhone to bridge gaps in a photo essay or narrative. Recently a well respected Magnum / Nat Geo photographer ‘liked’ a shot of mine on Instagram and gained me many new followers. So there is a lot to be said for the power of a camera phone snap to inspire you and get you out of a rut.
      Also having a new baby can give you chances to brush up on skills that may be a little boring to practice, but useful. Photographing your baby is challenging (mine is 2 & a half years old now and won’t keep still for a second), so practicing sharp fast focusing of the eyes during motion and nailing a flash light look for portraits that you are happy with are things you can do while babysitting. Enjoy!

  2. Brett Lantz November 1, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    Hey Chase,

    Great stuff I do climbing photography professionally and was curious on where I could see your images from the climbing shoot? Also what is more important to you on a climbing shot: the climbing vs. themselves? Or the climber vs. the sublime?

    • Chase November 4, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

      the was an REI advert a few years ago. i don’t know the whereabouts o the tearsheets right now. but turned out well.

      there is no rule on which is better, but sublime is always nice ;)

  3. Jonathan Burkhart November 1, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    Oh man, how did you feel when you dropped one of your lenses?

    • Anonymous November 1, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

      My guess is, ” glad I have a backup”.

      • Chase November 4, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

        true dat!

        and we ordered another for next day delivery via fed ex so we were double covered.

  4. Daniel J. Cox November 1, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    Chase, talk about dropping lenses. Take a look at this Nikkor 600 F/4 that took a plunge.

  5. dan November 1, 2013 at 10:16 am #

    Awesome action shot and wisdom. Thanks Chase!

  6. Marcelle November 1, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    When you started your photography career, had you dreamed of these type of days or did they just develop as your skills and networks developed?

    Love the shot featured and loved your social media post to get me here, well done.


    • Chase November 4, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

      i have been dreaming of these days since I was 17 years old.

      sunk way more than the requisite 10,000 hours in to be here. and had amazing support from this community the whole way along. #gratitude.

  7. Nicolae Cioloca November 1, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    Chase, I am not sure who is the more awesome athlete, the climber or you :-)

  8. faisal November 2, 2013 at 7:22 am #

    OMG, that was an insane shot.

  9. Dave November 2, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    Who’d win in an arm wrestling contest; you or Corey?

    • Chase November 4, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

      i’ve got cory by about 75lbs and i’m a lot meaner. but he is surely a better climber. my shoulders are shot

  10. Bram November 3, 2013 at 1:35 am #

    Chase you do any climbing throughout the year and are you any good at it? :)

    • Chase November 4, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

      Not much rock climbing anymore. I climbed 5.10c/d for a while but my shoulders have been rebuilt so I had to back off climbing and bouldering.

      i still mountain climb a bit. summited kilimanjaro in africa in june 19,300 feet

  11. Nicholas Keil November 3, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    I’ll just stick with portraits and wedding photography, thanks. Not really into the whole “hanging off a canyon” shindig

  12. Clayton November 3, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Nice to see some climbing shots on here! For anybody who wants to see more climbing, here’s a short film I just had shown at a screening of the Vancouver Mountain Film Festival:

  13. Dylan Alvarez November 3, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    Hey Chase, love the shot. I was wondering what you mean when you say that climbing photography is specialized. I’m starting to pick up a couple climbing photography jobs so I’m hoping for a heads up!

    • Chase November 4, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

      in order to get the super dramatic shots you’ll need to have a really specialized set of equip / crew etc and take a lot of time… triangulating yourself off the rock and getting into very unique angles is the name of the game…oh yeah, plus have a world class athlete on the other end of your lens.

  14. Simon Carter November 3, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    Good on you for giving it a go Chase, respect for that. This is how I do it:

    • Chase November 4, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

      nice – thats not all that diff from what we did here to get me into position. but with more sophistication on your part (deserved). for @dylan above – this work from simon is what i mean by specialized.. great stuff simon thanks for sharing.

  15. Arved Gintenreiter Photography November 4, 2013 at 4:06 am #

    Great shot and great action. People should know more often how much of effort it takes to get a great photo :)

    • Chase November 4, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

      personally i’d rather that the general public think it’s easy. for us brethren – it’s good to share the hardships and challenges!

  16. Will Foster November 4, 2013 at 5:22 am #


  17. Jerroid Marks November 4, 2013 at 8:23 am #

    that seems like it could be very confusing and hard to keep track of everything going on but if the shots come out then its always worth it.

    • Chase November 4, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

      plenty of details to keep track of beyond your f stop and shutter speed. …. like staying alive!

  18. Photographer Malaysia November 4, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    High effort cause to the best result. It’s worthy to do something that we interested.

  19. Gavin November 4, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    How has your focus on photography changed since licensing your first shot to REI? Are you still shooting campaigns or focusing mainly on your business ventures? (CL/Mkt/etc.) If you are still working on campaigns, where can we see your newest work?

  20. abhilash November 6, 2013 at 3:28 am #

    I am speechless at the beauty and your effort!!!!

  21. steven kotler December 9, 2013 at 5:22 am #

    That looks like Heinous Cling (at Smith)… remember what route you were shooting?

  22. Joe Martin April 15, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

    I want to see the shot you got from this. Thanks for sharing your crazy life.

  23. Andrzej Tucholski July 21, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    Thanks for your great thoughts. And photos, that is :) I’m just about to listen to your appearance at Tim Ferriss Show podcast, so fingers crossed for an additional bundle of universal knowledge.

    My question is: how in your eyes is marketing an art (photos, music, books) different from marketing, well, “non-fiction” (courses, n/f books, services). I always like to find these new lenses that allow me to look at old things with new perspective.

    Big fan from Poland!,

  24. Jo Ann Coker July 21, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

    Hi Chase,
    Who is the climber in this shot?

  25. Peter Kneen November 19, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

    Hi Chase,

    I’ve been really trying hard to become a climbing and adventure sports photographer. I shoot regularly and get good feedback from my blog. I have also shot photos for a kayaking companies new range. My problem is I have no idea how to get companies to let me shoot for them. I have a contact with a small outdoor clothing brand and I have offered to do a shoot on location for them for their 2015 line for no charge. This would boost my portfolio and give them photos which they otherwise have no budget for.

    I could really do with a little advice.

    By the way love the climbing photos. I had no idea you shot climbers.



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