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December 2011 Issue
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World Climbing: Rock Odyssey

World Climbing: Rock Odyssey

By Simon Carter, Onsight Photography and Publishing $79.90

Simon Carter’s World Climbing: Rock Odyssey is more than a book of astonishing rock climbing photography.

The 178 page coffee-tabler is also an adventure travel and photography book that, as I turned the pages, made me feel I’d entered another world.

Many of the destinations Carter and his rock climbing wife Monique Forestier have visited and climbed in I never knew existed.

The almost surreal pictures of people climbing Robinson Crusoe rock islands off Madagascar, science-fiction looking conglomerate rock in Spain, giant caves in Greece, France and Vietnam, rock walls side-by-side with skyscrapers in Hong Kong, American big walls and the Darran Mountains in New Zealand, have a dizzying affect on the mind.

Carter succeeds in capturing the breathtaking beauty of some of the planet’s best climbing destinations while also demonstrating the intensity, strength and gracefulness of the people scaling them.

Taking photos of people perched, hanging, straddling vertical or inclined walls involved enormous climbing skill on Carter’s behalf as well as planning and patience.

To take what Rock and Ice magazine publisher and editor Duane Raleigh has called “the best climbing photography ever taken” Carter often had to wait for hours, sometimes days for the moment when light, landscape and action came together to create images with energy, depth, juxtaposition, brilliant colours, texture and the ‘wow factor’.

The book is divided into climbing areas around the world, each with their own variety of freakish, majestic or rugged rock.

Monique Forestier has written introductions to each area that provide a brief overview of the climbing to be had, the type of rock and the challenges of climbing it and a touch on the local culture, people or wildlife.

Carter and Forestier’s love affair with rock climbing has taken them around the world and this book let us all into the amazing life they have led so we too can get a little piece of the action.

Simon Carter talks shop

Your photos can’t be easy to take – how do you do it?

I’ve taken lots of good shots standing on the ground or the cliff-top but for a lot of the more interesting shoots I have to abseil into position. Then occasionally some more jiggery-pokey is required with the rope, perhaps stringing the rope horizontally between two cliffs so that I can ‘Tyrolean traverse’ out from the cliff to get a better perspective on things. In recent years I’ve devised an eight-metre long pole apparatus that I hang the camera off and position out from the cliff; it gives a great perspective and has a video feed to a small monitor so I can see the shot I’m framing.   

What is the most challenging part of photographing rock climbers?

Being in the right place at the right time when everything – the angle, composition, and action – all comes together. Sometimes the hardest part is working while everyone else is having fun.

How long have you been travelling the world for the book and where has it taken you?

Most of the shots have been taken since 2005. Shooting for this book took me to islands off the coast of Madagascar, classic crags in Spain, the wild alpine rock of the Italian Dolomites, Greece’s idyllic Kalymnos Island, the dazzling Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, China’s Yangshou karst towers, some of America’s best crags, to name but a few. There are 16 areas all up, including one from your backyard, the pristine Darrans, which I really loved.