When I’m shooting commercial projects I tend to capture huge volumes of photos to make sure I get the perfect shot. It can sometimes be nice to slow down though, which is exactly what I did when I took only my analog Nikon FE camera on a climbing trip to Fontainebleau with friends.
On this particular trip, which lasted just a couple of days over the weekend, I forced myself to leave all of my digital camera equipment at home and only take a very simple Nikon FE body with an old 50mm lens. I’ve had this camera for a while and even brought it on my month-long voyage to Santiago de Compostela. It can be incredibly liberating to only be able to work with just one simple camera and lens. This forces the photographer to focus on the content they’re capturing, there aren’t as many technical choices in the way.
Even though I wanted to slow down a lot and pay far more attention to each individual frame I would capture, I knew I had to bring plenty of rolls of film. If memory serves it must have been 10 rolls or so, for a three day trip. Analog shooters from the old day probably won’t think too much of this, but for me personally I hadn’t shot this volume on analog before yet.
In terms of content, my aim was to capture the typical lifestyle and moments of a weekend of climbing in the legendary forest of Fontainebleau. Naturally this would include some climbing action, but only a small fraction of a typical climber’s time is spent actually climbing. It’s the moments in between that make up the total experience. The day starts off with an early morning breakfast by the tent at the well-frequented camping site of Grez-sur-Loing. Next, the drive to the sector of the day and hauling all gear to the best blocks. Some browsing through the guidebook, a lot of checking out blocks and lines, taping up sore fingers, taking a rest, enjoying the surroundings and goofing around with friends. Climbing isn’t a solo lifestyle even though the literal activity of climbing is done individually. It’s the being with friends that make climbing the awesome lifestyle it is, as millions of people world wide are well aware.
The key to being a successful lifestyle photographer is that you have to actually live the lifestyle you’re trying to capture. On this particular occasion, this was easy since I was well familiar with the subject matter. On other occasions, when trying to capture a lifestyle I’m not yet familiar with, this may be slightly harder. What’s crucial in that case though is being able to quickly and sincerely connect with the people whose lifestyle you’re wanting to capture. I don’t want to be seen as a photographer who’s there to take photos of these people, I want them to see me as a peer who is genuinely interested in their lifestyle. By asking many questions and sharply observing these people I’m able to to quickly understand and even slightly live their lifestyle. It’s actually this aspect that makes me love what I’m doing: it’s not so much about being a good photographer as it is about being a social and interested person.