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HIGH ART | How climbing photographers get the shots that make us gasp

By Jonathan Thesenga

Keith Ladzinski

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Climbing photography is a bad career choice—high risk, low pay, long hours, and no dental plan. To outsiders, the risk-to-reward ratio appears ridiculously skewed, because to get great images of world-class climbers in crazy places, shooters must be willing to join them on the wall.

Climbers at heart, these photographers know how to anticipate and capture the crux of any dramatic ascent: the fingers clutching a minuscule hold as feet scramble for purchase, the frozen moment of ropeless terror during a big free-solo assault, the bivouac flapping in the hurricane winds of a Himalayan storm.

Yet for all that climbing photographers have in common, they are as eclectic as their famously iconoclastic subjects—as evidenced by the five profiled here.


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