Photographing Kevin Jorgeson on a Bed of Razor Sharp Mussels
Razor Sharp Bivalves
PHOTOGRAPHING PRO CLIMBER Kevin Jorgeson
“…a sport that puts climbers high above a safe height with no ropes and a high chance of falling.”
When I moved to Sonoma County, CA some 8 years ago, I felt a little like I was unplugging from my roots in the outdoor adventure space. But I quickly discovered that this county is home to some of the most wild and visionary adventure athletes I’ve ever known. It was here that I finally found a partner to climb El Cap with, rode my first bike-camping tour, and met pro-climber Kevin Jorgeson.
Figuring out adventure sporting in Sonoma County took me some time - in part because it requires vision, imagination, and research to find the goodies.
This is still a land of firsts for many adventure sports and Kevin, who is known for his visionary pursuit of highball bouldering (a sport that puts climbers high above a safe height with no ropes and a high chance of falling), invited me along to photograph a new project far out on the rugged Sonoma Coast that he’d been developing.
“…local weather patterns that can generate deadly sneaker waves.”
We arrived at a massive boulder, somewhat bigger than my house, which had shorn free from the adjacent coastal cliff and tumbled down the hill. The route he’s spotted, now named Full Circle, starts in the intertidal zone-meaning that the bottom half of the route is often wet, and a successful climb requires knowledge not only of tide charts, but also of local weather patterns that can generate deadly sneaker waves.
I joined Kevin on a scouting mission to explore the project and assess ocean conditions. While he made a few attempts on the problem with a rope to secure him from falls, I calculated sun angles over the coming months to try to co-ordinate the best possible time to photograph the towering boulder.
The project wouldn’t be considered complete until he made a true “send”, which in this case meant ditching the rope and harness and facing a fall of up to 30’ onto jagged rocks and razor-sharp mussels. So we would certainly be returning when conditions were favorable.
“…’send’, which in this case meant ditching the rope and harness and facing a fall of up to 30’ onto jagged rocks and razor-sharp mussels.”
Finally, a day arrived when Kevin felt the conditions were right (and the sunlight was raking across the stone, just so).
With an athletic shoot like this where the danger is SO HIGH, there’s typically just one opportunity to get “the shot”. I knew though that I wanted to get both a horizontal and vertical composition at the same peak moment of action.
To do this I synced 2 cameras to the same shutter: one on a tripod composed for the horizontal image, and the other in my hands for the vertical so that I could roam around a little. Every time I pressed the shutter on my handheld camera, the second camera on the tripod took a picture at the same time.
I love the little spotter in the yellow jacket far below, fruitlessly holding their hands up - as though there’s any hope that they could help should Kevin fall.
What a great sport :)