A Climbing Photographer's Perspective

A Climbing Photographer's Perspective

March 09, 2023




My name is Marcin Ciepielewski and I am climbing and adventure photographer from Poland. I started my adventure with a camera while still in university, but only when I have combined photography and climbing it turned into a real passion.

I have been climbing since I was 22 years old and that knowledge and skill helped me better capture the beauty of movement and dynamics of the scenes I was  photographing on the rocks. In many cases, photography allowed me to experience climbs that I would never have been able to do myself, but I was able to document them by accompanying them with my camera. So you can say that thanks to photography I also got to know some areas of climbing that were previously inaccessible to me.


The camera is an inseparable part of my gear during trips to rock crags and mountains around the world. So far I have visited climbing crags in Poland, Austria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Greece, France, Spain, Germany, Morocco, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, Turkey, Italy.

What is important in this kind of the photography ?

It is a very complicated activity, because you are merging many skills at the same time. First of all you do not have to be only the photographer but you also have to be a well-trained climber. It is a necessity to know how to work in rocks and in the mountains, how use the climbing gear and all the equipment that comes with it in order to work in a safe manner.

Climbing photographers almost always work hanging on the rope over the abyss. There is a good amount of team work involved.  Climbers attached me to the fixed rope, then I go up with my photo gear using the special rope ascenders, after that the climbers whom I am photographing climb up.

Important things is to find a good location and the right moment of the day with the best light. When the scenery is looking ideal prepare the fixing ropes to get the best perspective of shooting, and in the end put yourself in the best position to capture the best moments, poses and emotions of the climber.

What are some key things to keep in mind ?

One way to think about it is that climbing photography often joins landscape and sport photography. I give great importance to the formal elements of the photo, trying ensure that my photographs are characterized by a strong formal discipline - especially compositional. I am always looking for a geometric order in the composition, leading lines and shapes to help me organize the frame.

It is also advisable to keep your camera gear focused and light. Sometimes getting to a location needs a lot of effort, especially in the mountains, where the ascents are quite long. For that reason I use Nikon Z7II mirrorless camera with only two or three lenses.

Favourite lenses you use? 

My favourite is wide angle lens Nikkor Z 17-28/2.8, I am able to get wide and dynamic perspective using it. During the ascent I use usually Nikkor Z 50/1.8 S lens, with its standard angle I can capture many reportage shots and backstage photos, when climbers prepares ourselves to the climb. The last but not least is longer Nikkor AFS 70-200/2.8 VRII, it’s the biggest and heaviest lens, but it is essential to capture the close up photos, which show the real emotions.

What items are you always taking with you?  

In climbing photography half of your problem is taking your photography gear with you and the other half is that you also have to carry your climbing equipment. The items I aways take with me are the harness, carabiners, helmet, ascenders, belay devices, rope. In winter it gets even more complicated, because you also have to take ice axes, crampons and a lot of warm clothes, then it's a real challenge.

Finally it is necessary to carry all this gear to the location, usually in high mountains. I used a number of photo backpacks during the years but now I am in love with my NYA-EVO Fjord 60C camera backpack.

What do you like about the Fjord camera backpacks? 

The construction is very well thought out, I can pack all my photo gear in the RCI Unit and the climbing gear, clothes, food, water in the left over storage space. The storage space is flexible and the possibility to even expand even more on the Fjord 60-C gives me that little bit of extra comfort and security so I can math my needs. 

I can take the same backpack for a fast photo session when its pleasant on the rocks and also for a real adventure in the high mountains carrying the winter equipment. The adjustable straps and waist belt allows to carry all this stuff in comfort, and when i talk about comfort my gear usually ends up weighing 20kgs!

But the best is removable RCI Unit with dedicated shoulder strap. Thanks to this solution I can carry the all stuff to the location, and when everything is prepared with the essential photo gear. 


To see more of Marcin's work please check out his instagram.

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