I’ve been seeing a lot of great pictures recently on this site, of bouldering and sport climbing, and I think most would agree the best of them are taken by Micky Wiswedel. He manages to capture the climber AND the line, not many photographers seem to be able to do that as well as Micky.
He’s also dedicated, travelling and taking time off from his real job, to spend time climbing and getting into cool places and positions, to get the pics that please us.
I was chuffed to meet up with him in Boven in November. We found 5 minutes to have a chat:
Howzit Micky, what brings you to Boven?
I’ve been to Boven a few times in the past few years but never had a chance to climb as we were shooting the Rock Rally. I decided this year I had to climb here.
You seem to be spending a lot of time climbing and taking pics all over the place, how come you have so much time on your hands? Are you shirking a job?
My paid work is all free lance work so I can pretty much pick and choose jobs as they come. This year I have been spending much more time out climbing and shooting, its something I decided to do at the beginning of the year. I’ll probably have to work a bit more next year but I’m looking at moving more into photography as a career, we’ll see what happens.
So tell us about your main job?
I think you are about to go to Nigeria, what on earth for?
I am a qualified sound engineer and do location sound, final mix and sound design. I used to work in a studio but have been mainly doing location sound lately as this seems to bring in more regular work. For the past year I have mainly been working for an NGO called Vital Voices from the states. They do a variety of things all to do with women’s rights and empowerment. Working for Vital Voices also includes tons of travel hence the trip to Nigeria.
How have you found Boven so far?
Is it all we crack it up to be! I guess the weather has been sucking somewhat which doesn’t help.
Yeah apparently not the best time of year to be here but, the climbing is awesome, very different to CT. Its taken me a few days to get used to the technical climbing and Boven flatties but once you get the feel its rad. All the lines are really aesthetic which makes the climbing and photography really inspiring. I’m hoping to come back next year and spend more time here and project some stuff.
So, how many years have you been climbing and your best/hardest climbs to date?
Five or so years I’m not sure, I have been climbing seriously and training for the past 2 years about. My hardest route so far is Whoa she Poopee at Montagu though maybe its not 30, I think maybe 28.
So are you single, straight and how old?
Single and straight and 30.
How long have you been taking pics on a serious level?
2 years that’s when I bought my camera.
How come your pictures are so good? How important is good kit and also photo-shop seems key these days?
Well, have been working with a brilliant director of photography for the past 5 years in video. Georgia Court, she is extremely talented and has taught me loads. Georgia was the other half of the Rock and Road 07 filming and movie.
A good photographer will take good pictures with a bad camera and with a good camera they will be even better. Also, I find taking lots of pictures and making comparisons with other peoples pictures locally and internationally.
I often look at photo’s by people like Keith Ladzinski, Simon Carter and Michael Clarke and try to learn as much as I can from their photos. I also use Lightroom extensively, I believe that as soon as you frame and take a picture you are already in the editing process, post production is just a continuation of this process. Anything that helps enhance or portray the feel or story better is part of it.
Well we definitely like what we see on climb.co.za. It really makes a difference to see a great climbing shot while bored at work. Generally what do you think of the climbing pictures that the SA climbing media put out?
I think there could and should be a lot more high quality shots in our local mags and media. Unfortunately the scene is still pretty small in SA so think there isn’t much money out there to pay for high quality shots, but its growing so we’ll see. I’m hoping that my pictures will inspire people about our local climbing scene and get people psyched to climb harder, but yeah it would be nice to get something in return for all the effort.
From a photographers perspective, how is the SA rock and venues?
Orange rock always looks the best!
We have some of the most beautiful climbing areas in the world. I dont think I have seen many shots with rock more asthetic than Boven or Rocklands.
How do you manage to climb and take pictures; that must be a struggle sometimes? Do you find yourself wishing you were the one in front of the lens, not behind it when you are hanging off a rope taking pictures?
Hehe I prefer to climb, so I try to shoot on rest days. There is usually a bit of set up involved if you want to get into a good spot to shoot which is basically impossible if its just you and your buddy climbing. I like being behind the lens instead of in front of it, its easier for me to get people amped about our local scene by taking photo’s. It would be nice to get some shots of me climbing for my mum though
Do you prefer shooting sport or bouldering? Do you have any favourite places to shoot and why?
I have no preference really I like all climbing but taking photo’s of bouldering is definitely the easiest, much less set up and all. Sport and trad shots are maybe a little more satisfying.
Why do you prefer sport/trad climbing photos?
When looking at photo’s of people high up on awesome routes you always have to ask ‘where’s the photographer in that shot?’ There is a lot more effort put into those shots and there something inspiring about seeing people doing cool moves high up off the ground.
Do you think that the fact that you are a good climber helps? How so?
Hehe I wouldn’t say that I’m that good, average maybe. But being a climber helps, you can predict what moves are coming next and see where the cruxes are.
What’s your best photo to date, what is it about these shots you like so much?
Antonio Moreno on Barracuda rail and Ulan Batar, I just bought a reflector and was able to get some cool light effects (Pic Below) I got another awesome shot with Cody Roth on No Late Tenders the same way. Recently I really like the pic of Flex on Godzilla and of Jimbo busting on the crux of the same route.
For all of us arb photographers out there, what best way to get a better climbing photo?
Welll firstly take lots of photo’s. If you are really keen then start reading up on photography. Compare your shots to others and get off the ground, ass shots don’t work. Don’t be afraid to experiment with framing, center framing generally isn’t great. I like to see a climbers’ face and an aesthetic move as opposed to say standing on a ledge. I like shooting opening ascents or actual redpoint attempts, its slightly more challenging as you are capturing something real.
What are your plans for your photography?
I want to start building up my equipment, take more sport climbing shots and big wall stuff. Pictures of local guys and gals on super hard stuff to get people psyched to climb in SA. Mostly we see oversees stuff so it would be nice to see more killer local stuff. Also, I have one or two climbing videos in pipeline but its all top secret. I’m also going to branch out into other sports, I’ll be shooting some downhill skating this month and the opening of a skate park, so we’ll see where that leads.
It’s cool that Climb.co.za only post local – do you agree?
Yes. I still don’t see why there are so few hard climbers in SA and the scene is so small. It should be huge we’ve got the rock we just need the psyche. Seeing locals on great routes will help get people psyched. I don’t think the overseas guys need any more promotion they get enough punting from overseas sources, we should be doing everything we can to promote SA climbing.
How about a SA climbing calendar, one that we won’t be embarrassed to put up our office walls?
Yeah sure why not, we need more photographers though.
I see you have been taking some pictures of Marc Efune at the God No! Wall while you’ve been up here, how was that? A mission?
Luckily its pretty easy to set up ab points in Boven. I still find abseiling scarey though, and you get all sorts of weird cramps and strains hanging in a harness for so long. It was all worth it though, a beautiful route and with an inspiring climber.
Well, thanks Micky. We will be looking out for your work. Keep it up, we really dig it!
Micky Wiswedel Interview