How I Got That Shot: Ice Climbing with Boone Speed

Boone Speed is an award-winning professional photographer based in Portland, Oregon. Regarded among peers and clients alike for his painterly aesthetic and minimalist sensibilities, Boone has been singled out by brands like Nike, Adidas, The North Face, ESPN and Fila to help them tell their stories. In addition to shooting for some of the world's most beloved establishments, Boone is esteemed as a pioneering athlete and principle architect in the evolution of rock climbing. He has been climbing for 27 years and shooting for more than a decade, allowing him to climb right along with the athletes to capture fresh angles and stunning shots of athletes in their element. Today Boone tells a little bit about how he captured these shots and the gear he uses.

These were all shot around Vail, Colorado for a North Face commission in 2011. The climbers are Sam Elias and Emily Harrington, both of whom are North Face athletes. I shoot Canon cameras with L series lenses. I have a 5D II, a 7d and a 60d. I rely on a 24-70 2.8L for the bulk of what I do. It's heavy, but the results are worth the weight. I also have a 16-35 2.8 L II but I don't like it. I'll use it if I'm hanging from a rope and I need the range, but I'll use my 14mm 2.8 for wide shots and my 24mm 1.4L II as much as possible. I can't say enough about my 24. It's a desert island lens. That and my 90mm 2.8 Tilt/Shift. I often use tilt/shift lenses to help isolate my focal point. My settings vary depending on what the light is doing, but I typically shoot below f5.6 to control depth of field, which I prefer shallow.

To get above the climbers we rig ropes, sometimes having to climb ourselves or ascend a line fixed above by the climbers. I've attached an inset photo here to the right showing what it looked like at the belay station I was tied into for this shot below. You'll see I have a second camera attached to a shard of limestone with a super clamp shooting a timelapse of Emily's ascent.

For the shot below, I ascended a rope fixed to the belay anchors of this climb and leaned as far out as I possibly could to get this angle. It's pretty numbing shooting ice climbing. I'd say don't try it if you don't like frost bitten fingers.

For the shot above, I used Profoto D1 500 strobes plugged into Vagabond Mini lithium batteries to illuminate Emily. The ice above was actually melting pretty quickly since the sun was blazing on it. I shot this with a 17mm tilt/shift lens, which I tweaked to get this frame.

This last shot on the right was taken from a zipline we set up, primarily for shooting video. I went out on it and hung from the middle to shoot a few still frames of Sam climbing this pillar.

To learn more about Boone and his photography, visit his website at and follow him on Twitter.


Action sportsIce climbingOctober 2012Sports photography

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