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By: Awayn Media

INTRODUCTIONS

James Rushforth is a professional and skilled climber, mountaineer, and skilled action photographer. His book Rock Climbs and Via Ferrata – The Dolomites  was cited as ‘the best Dolomite guide ever produced’ (SA Mountain Magazine). James conjointly worked as an expert artist and has won twelve international photography competitions and his work has been published in various magazines and papers such as National Geographic, and the Daily Telegraph. Awayn sat down with James to chat about action photography and many more. 

What made you decide to turn your knowledge into a book?

I took up photography back in 2011 when I was unexpectedly asked to write a rock climbing guide to the Italian Dolomites following a number of online articles detailing my vertical adventures in the region. After a meeting with the Publisher Rockfax in Sheffield, I agreed to the project and set to work the following summer (and subsequent 4 summers). As I was assembling the guide I wanted to convey that not only was the Dolomites a climbers’ paradise, it was also one of the most scenically stunning mountain ranges on the planet. To this end I bought a little Canon G12 (I recall shuddering at the thought of spending £380 on a camera, were photographers all mad!?) and so began my photography career.

The publications that followed - ‘Photographing the Dolomites’, Ski Touring & Snowshoeing in the Dolomites’ and ‘Via Ferratas of the Italian Dolomites’ allowed me to combine my passion for all things adventure while offering a creative outlet for my photography. I’ve found the guidebooks instill an exceptional sense of purpose, not only providing a focus for my photography work but also acting as an excellent motivator when you’ve got to make another 1000m of ascent at 3am. Additionally it’s genuinely rewarding to impart some knowledge to future readers, whether it be climbing, skiing or photography-related. Finally, although I’m not a material person it is undeniably satisfying to have something tangible to show for all your hard work.

When you’re presented with a less than ideal situation, how do you find your subjects?

This is a common problem, both with commercial shoots, writing guidebooks and non-studio photography in general. There simply isn’t enough time, nor is it financially feasible to always wait for the best light, conditions, perfect season and all the other potential variables which are  out of your control. As I’m a bit of a perfectionist, I really struggled with this concept at first but ultimately you have to make the best of what you’ve got to work with. I think the key is learning to maximise your time at a location, taking quick advantage of any unexpected opportunities that might arise. Always attempt to head out, no matter the weather conditions - providing it’s safe to do so. Some of the best images are captured when the rain suddenly clears, a rainbow appears or you get that single spectacular ray of light. Learning to be flexible and how to improvise can get you that one shot you need when combined with some quick thinking.

With regards subjects, there’s no substitute for networking and building up a good partnership with as many people as possible. It always amazes (and delights) me how many people are willing to join you on a bit of an adventure - particularly if they get some nice images of themselves at the end of it. Finally, learn when and how to bend the rules a little; just remember to be honest with how you achieved it later. If you’re doing a commercial shoot for a walking brochure the holiday company isn’t going to quibble if you’ve pushed the curves a little in post-processing, making the weather look a bit more idyllic than it was on the day. 

What is the most memorable trip you have had in recent memory?

I’ve been lucky enough to explore a number of wonderful locations and choosing a favourite is an almost impossible task. The Italian Dolomites in particular (as you may have guessed from the guidebooks) will always hold a special place in my heart and while I have never been based there permanently, it still feels like home. Despite climbing, skiing and exploring the area through the day and night for over a decade, every time I go back I discover something new. 

I’m currently writing a photo location guide to Iceland and I’ve had some fantastic experiences here, particularly when I’ve been able to get off the beaten track and explore the remote areas. The interior is especially beautiful and there are so many unexplored corners if you’re willing to venture away from the main tourist trails. During the winter I had the pleasure of exploring several remote ice caves that really captured my imagination. As a climber and skier, I’ve always aimed to stay above the glacier but underneath the vast expanse of ice of the Vatnajokull there is a veritable alien world of bizarre colours and textures to be discovered. Following the glacier melt water channels some 100m below the ice was a unique and humbling experience that I’m very keen to repeat.   

Any nightmare stories?

I’ve been lucky enough to explore a number of wonderful locations and choosing a favourite is an almost impossible task. The Italian Dolomites in particular (as you may have guessed from the guidebooks) will always hold a special place in my heart and while I have never been based there permanently, it still feels like home. Despite climbing, skiing and exploring the area through the day and night for over a decade, every time I go back I discover something new. 

Last year I dropped a Nikon D810 with a 14-24mm lens, two top-of-the-range cards and an L plate down the North Face of Torre Venezia while making a winter ascent of Monte Civetta. The camera fell for about 800m and was unsurprisingly unrecoverable, meaning I had nothing to show the insurance company who insisted I needed at least part of the camera. As well as being a very expensive day, I also lost some really great images. Lesson learned and insurance company changed…  

I’ve also had the misfortune of spending several cold nights on climbs and summits when we’ve got benighted, and had to be rescued by my girlfriend at the time from an embarrassing incident on the east face of Muro Occidentale del Pisciadù, involving a thunderstorm and a conspicuously absent rope. More recently, I slid backwards in my van down an icy mountain pass in Iceland, applying the handbrake intermittently to bring the wheels back into line as I veered towards another substantial drop with no barrier (many lessons learned).  

What equipment’s do you use ?

I’ve owned Canon, Sony and Nikon cameras and have never got involved in the ‘brand wars’ that so many photographers seem to get caught up in. They’re all better than you need and there has never been a more exciting time for camera innovation. 

I often shoot in some extremely adverse conditions so I tend to choose equipment that is suitably robust. By the end of a winter ice route it’s not uncommon for the camera and lens to be completely covered in ice, especially when parts of the fall are still dripping but the ambient temperature is low. I’ve had to chip a little hole in the camera ice with my axe on several occasions so that the shutter can be fully depressed. 

However, this durability often comes at the cost of weight and Sony in particular are making great inroads here. The new Sony A7RIII paired with a pancake lens looks particularly interesting for long technical climbs or ski descents when weight has to be kept to a minimum. 

I have a bit of a love / hate relationship with UAV’s (drones). I find them extremely useful in many aspects of guidebook writing but at the same time dislike the noise and general intrusiveness associated with having a camera up in the air. I’m also a little nostalgic (at the ripe old age of 32) of the days when you had to hike up the mountain opposite to get a good crag topo, or when you had to climb with an extra 20kg of rigging equipment so you could abseil back down to set up that perfect climbing composition.   

 

Closing Thoughts … How do you think photography and traveling has changed your view of the world?

Though it almost certainly sounds cliché, I think travelling with a camera in hand has really made me look harder at the world around me, noticing details I would probably have overlooked in the past. As a recent example I was out photographing a group of Kittiwakes nesting in East Iceland just last week. The vantage point was fairly accessible and a number of people came to have a look for a minute before continuing on their way. What they missed, just as I would have done some years ago, was all the wonderful details that you have to patiently observe; chicks in the nest that aren’t visible until the mother moves, rivalry between the varying groups, adults returning with food to feed the young or with building material to shore up any damage and make repairs. 

It is details like these that make you realise just how big the world is; you can’t travel to a country and ‘see it’ in a week-long visit. Immersing yourself in the finer details and culture takes time and patience. Prior to photography I was pretty single mindedly devoted to climbing and skiing, whereas now I enjoy all the aspects of travelling and exploring somewhere new. This may be far away, or just around the corner from where you live.  

www.JamesRushforth.com

www.viewbug.com/member/jamesrushforth

www.instagram.com/james.rushforth/

www.facebook.com/JamesRushforthPhotography/

James Rushforth: Action photography in Dolomites

Awayn


James Rushforth is a professional and skilled climber, mountaineer, and skilled action photographer. His book Rock Climbs and Via Ferrata – The Dolomites  was cited as ‘the best Dolomite guide ever produced’ (SA Mountain Magazine). James conjointly worked as an expert artist and has won twelve international photography competitions and his work has been published in various magazines and papers such as National Geographic, and the Daily Telegraph. Awayn sat down with James to chat about action photography and many more. 

What made you decide to turn your knowledge into a book?

I took up photography back in 2011 when I was unexpectedly asked to write a rock climbing guide to the Italian Dolomites following a number of online articles detailing my vertical adventures in the region. After a meeting with the Publisher Rockfax in Sheffield, I agreed to the project and set to work the following summer (and subsequent 4 summers). As I was assembling the guide I wanted to convey that not only was the Dolomites a climbers’ paradise, it was also one of the most scenically stunning mountain ranges on the planet. To this end I bought a little Canon G12 (I recall shuddering at the thought of spending £380 on a camera, were photographers all mad!?) and so began my photography career.

The publications that followed - ‘Photographing the Dolomites’, Ski Touring & Snowshoeing in the Dolomites’ and ‘Via Ferratas of the Italian Dolomites’ allowed me to combine my passion for all things adventure while offering a creative outlet for my photography. I’ve found the guidebooks instill an exceptional sense of purpose, not only providing a focus for my photography work but also acting as an excellent motivator when you’ve got to make another 1000m of ascent at 3am. Additionally it’s genuinely rewarding to impart some knowledge to future readers, whether it be climbing, skiing or photography-related. Finally, although I’m not a material person it is undeniably satisfying to have something tangible to show for all your hard work.


When you’re presented with a less than ideal situation, how do you find your subjects?

I’ve been lucky enough to explore a number of wonderful locations and choosing a favourite is an almost impossible task. The Italian Dolomites in particular (as you may have guessed from the guidebooks) will always hold a special place in my heart and while I have never been based there permanently, it still feels like home. Despite climbing, skiing and exploring the area through the day and night for over a decade, every time I go back I discover something new. 

I’m currently writing a photo location guide to Iceland and I’ve had some fantastic experiences here, particularly when I’ve been able to get off the beaten track and explore the remote areas. The interior is especially beautiful and there are so many unexplored corners if you’re willing to venture away from the main tourist trails. During the winter I had the pleasure of exploring several remote ice caves that really captured my imagination. As a climber and skier, I’ve always aimed to stay above the glacier but underneath the vast expanse of ice of the Vatnajokull there is a veritable alien world of bizarre colours and textures to be discovered. Following the glacier melt water channels some 100m below the ice was a unique and humbling experience that I’m very keen to repeat.   


What is the most memorable trip you have had in recent memory?

I’ve been lucky enough to explore a number of wonderful locations and choosing a favourite is an almost impossible task. The Italian Dolomites in particular (as you may have guessed from the guidebooks) will always hold a special place in my heart and while I have never been based there permanently, it still feels like home. Despite climbing, skiing and exploring the area through the day and night for over a decade, every time I go back I discover something new. 

I’m currently writing a photo location guide to Iceland and I’ve had some fantastic experiences here, particularly when I’ve been able to get off the beaten track and explore the remote areas. The interior is especially beautiful and there are so many unexplored corners if you’re willing to venture away from the main tourist trails. During the winter I had the pleasure of exploring several remote ice caves that really captured my imagination. As a climber and skier, I’ve always aimed to stay above the glacier but underneath the vast expanse of ice of the Vatnajokull there is a veritable alien world of bizarre colours and textures to be discovered. Following the glacier melt water channels some 100m below the ice was a unique and humbling experience that I’m very keen to repeat.   

Any nightmare stories?

I’ve been lucky enough to explore a number of wonderful locations and choosing a favourite is an almost impossible task. The Italian Dolomites in particular (as you may have guessed from the guidebooks) will always hold a special place in my heart and while I have never been based there permanently, it still feels like home. Despite climbing, skiing and exploring the area through the day and night for over a decade, every time I go back I discover something new. 

Last year I dropped a Nikon D810 with a 14-24mm lens, two top-of-the-range cards and an L plate down the North Face of Torre Venezia while making a winter ascent of Monte Civetta. The camera fell for about 800m and was unsurprisingly unrecoverable, meaning I had nothing to show the insurance company who insisted I needed at least part of the camera. As well as being a very expensive day, I also lost some really great images. Lesson learned and insurance company changed…  

I’ve also had the misfortune of spending several cold nights on climbs and summits when we’ve got benighted, and had to be rescued by my girlfriend at the time from an embarrassing incident on the east face of Muro Occidentale del Pisciadù, involving a thunderstorm and a conspicuously absent rope. More recently, I slid backwards in my van down an icy mountain pass in Iceland, applying the handbrake intermittently to bring the wheels back into line as I veered towards another substantial drop with no barrier (many lessons learned).  

What equipment’s do you use ?

I’ve owned Canon, Sony and Nikon cameras and have never got involved in the ‘brand wars’ that so many photographers seem to get caught up in. They’re all better than you need and there has never been a more exciting time for camera innovation. 

I often shoot in some extremely adverse conditions so I tend to choose equipment that is suitably robust. By the end of a winter ice route it’s not uncommon for the camera and lens to be completely covered in ice, especially when parts of the fall are still dripping but the ambient temperature is low. I’ve had to chip a little hole in the camera ice with my axe on several occasions so that the shutter can be fully depressed. 

However, this durability often comes at the cost of weight and Sony in particular are making great inroads here. The new Sony A7RIII paired with a pancake lens looks particularly interesting for long technical climbs or ski descents when weight has to be kept to a minimum. 

I have a bit of a love / hate relationship with UAV’s (drones). I find them extremely useful in many aspects of guidebook writing but at the same time dislike the noise and general intrusiveness associated with having a camera up in the air. I’m also a little nostalgic (at the ripe old age of 32) of the days when you had to hike up the mountain opposite to get a good crag topo, or when you had to climb with an extra 20kg of rigging equipment so you could abseil back down to set up that perfect climbing composition.   

 

Closing Thoughts … How do you think photography and traveling has changed your view of the world?

Though it almost certainly sounds cliché, I think travelling with a camera in hand has really made me look harder at the world around me, noticing details I would probably have overlooked in the past. As a recent example I was out photographing a group of Kittiwakes nesting in East Iceland just last week. The vantage point was fairly accessible and a number of people came to have a look for a minute before continuing on their way. What they missed, just as I would have done some years ago, was all the wonderful details that you have to patiently observe; chicks in the nest that aren’t visible until the mother moves, rivalry between the varying groups, adults returning with food to feed the young or with building material to shore up any damage and make repairs. 

It is details like these that make you realise just how big the world is; you can’t travel to a country and ‘see it’ in a week-long visit. Immersing yourself in the finer details and culture takes time and patience. Prior to photography I was pretty single mindedly devoted to climbing and skiing, whereas now I enjoy all the aspects of travelling and exploring somewhere new. This may be far away, or just around the corner from where you live.  

www.JamesRushforth.com

www.viewbug.com/member/jamesrushforth

www.instagram.com/james.rushforth/

www.facebook.com/JamesRushforthPhotography/