You’ve got to have a head for heights and a willingness to suffer to shoot climbing photography – and don’t forget some skills on the rock. Red Bull Illume photographer Jeremiah Watt is known for getting some awesome climbing shots, here’s what he had to say about the genre.



You’re well known for your spectacular climbing images, how did you get into that?
“I came to photography by accident through a misguided academic setting and being a climber first, climbing became a natural setting for developing my photographic skills.”

What do you find so captivating about this type of photography?
“Everything. Climbing is an amazing means of experiencing the world and the people in it. The moments in-between, the travelling, the rock, the struggle, the desperation, the passion, the people – it all comes together to provide endless photographic inspiration.”

Do you use any special equipment for shooting climbing?
“Not really. There’s the standard climbing equipment. I shoot Nikon and Fuji with almost entirely natural light. I have a fairly strong documentary style and try to shoot as an active participant in whatever’s happening. Active lighting and prearranged compositions can be necessary and incredible but I find the spontaneous and unexpected far more gratifying.”

What skills are needed to successfully shoot climbing?
“Being a climber isn’t mandatory but close. Climbing, like any adventure sport, has its own customs and clique’s, being a climber helps one to identify and anticipate the what, when and where of possibility. Strong rope work and solid fitness is key to get in and out of position without being a liability. Humor and a willingness to suffer is pretty key to enjoying the entire process. Shitty situations can create the best images and attitude is often the only difference between having an epic memory of great times with great friends or just a heinous epic.”

Could you give us some tips for anyone looking to progress in this type of photography?
“Be willing to suffer with a smile. Get up earlier and stay later. Work harder. Relish it! Because if it’s for you, it isn’t work, it’s personal and there’s nothing better.”

What’s your favourite shoot to date?
“We just pack rafted the Gunnison Gorge in Colorado. That was new and exciting with great people while acquiring an entirely new skill set. Shooting high lining in the California’s Needle’s a few years back is still an all-time high. Eastern Europe, huge bonefish on an undisclosed island, the Bahamas, Zion! There’s so much beauty and awe in the world it’s hard to nail it down to any one experience.”

What other sports do you enjoy shooting?
“Fly fishing, ice climbing, skiing/snowboarding, travel, high lining, life.”

What are you working on at the moment?
“I’ve got a week at home and then I’m off to Southern Utah to document a Dystrophaeus (dinosaur) excavation site. It’s a totally different shoot and style for me and I’m looking forward to mixing it up.”


Follow Jeremiah on Instagram and his website.