Let's see some climbing vids

It’s the same as taking pictures / video of downhill, there’s ways to take pictures that that look steep and there’s ways to take pictures that don’t look steep. It’s pretty counterintuitive though. Lots of downhiller stylee pictures rotate the camera which is silly because it makes it look less steep once you notice the angled trees, don’t do this, it’s dumb. You can make things look steep without cheating.

I’ve been thinking about this recently and hopefully getting better at it. Here’s some good and bad examples from my pictures (all of downhill at the moment but similar things apply to uphill).

if you look at this picture of Luke Hinson riding Deliverance it looks like the bit Luke is about to ride down (to the right of the roots) is about a 40 degree angle which is about right. It’s darned steep and it looks it. The bit at the front of the picture isn’t obvious how steep it is, it could either be sheer, or perfectly flat. In this case it’s slightly steeper than the main trail. Taking the picture from below and to the side of the rider / trail means you can see him heading downwards. Unfortunately it’s odd to find a trail with such a good vantage point, but if you’ve got one, side on views show steepness well.

If you look at Mike Hinson riding Deliverance it doesn’t look so steep, despite this being a really steep section too. Front on pictures usually don’t. However, I did do one thing here to keep some of the steepness in the picture which is really key, I didn’t point the camera up the trail too much. If you’re taking a picture up or down a trail, it’s intuitive to hold the camera so it’s aligned to the angle of the trail, however this makes it seem to the viewer that downwards is at right angles to the trail, which screws up their frame of reference. If the trail goes all the way up to the top of the picture without any sky being visible it looks steeper than where you can see the sky, simple as that. I’d have turned this downwards slightly more if I’d been thinking about it to be honest.

Not pointing the camera up the trail makes it harder to get people in the picture, especially on very steep trails, you have to work out where you can take pictures from, eg. where there’s a brief flattening out or something, but it keeps some of the steepness. For video, you might need to be quite close to the rider to get them in frame, or pick a good vantage point. If you sit up a tree so you’re level with the section being filmed you might get good uphill pics.

If you look at
me riding downhill and hold a sheet of paper over the top half of the picture, it looks almost flat, a perfect example of pointing it up the trail (inevitable in this particular case, there’s not much choice of picture), but if you look at the whole picture, the great big tree looming over and the angle I’m riding at makes it look pretty steep, use of visual references like this makes it easier to see. This also has a naughty cheating way of making it look like the rider is heading downhill, which is taking the picture from right low down, if they’re heading into the picture and you’re low down, it looks slightly like they’re going to ride to the level of the picture, especially if there are other visual clues. It looks a bit extreem doood taking pictures like this (almost like ultra wide angle pictures do), so don’t overdo it.

As for when it goes wrong, the only way you can tell that
Phil is riding (well falling) downhill in this picture, is the angle that the rider is at, it was an interesting viewpoint for seeing different riding / falling techniques of the four riders I pictured, but didn’t show how steep that hill really was at all.

Similarly, this steep rocky uphill doesn’t look very steep at all, as I pointed up the trail to get the steps in, I’d have emphasised the steepness more if I’d tipped the camera down a bit and cut the sky & maybe the top of the steps off.

This picture of Jeff Groves riding a steep downhil is only saved slightly by the angle of the rider, but doesn’t really show how steep it was.

Basically it can be summed up as

  1. Hold the camera level relative to flat ground not relative to the slope.

  2. If you can get side on to the slope, be there.

  3. If there are objects that will make the steepness obvious, get them in.

  4. If you’re a big fat naughty cheater, take pictures from a bit lower down on downhills, I’m not sure how this works on uphills. You’ll have to balance this against 1) though, this makes the rider look like they’re going down a bit more, but might flatten out the trail if you have to point the camera up too much.

Joe