Ben Herndon, 26 Moscow, Idaho benherndon.com
“I don’t have rosy, romantic notions of making six figures by following my friends around 50 weeks out of the year. It’s not all beer and Skittles,” Herndon says. “You definitely pay your dues, but when you put pretty people doing awesome stuff in stunning environments, there is this overflow of metaphor and beauty.” Herndon got his start shooting at a community newspaper in Port Townsend, Washington, after finishing college. His shooting style is self-described as clean and dramatic without compromising authenticity, but he realizes the value of keeping the climbers aware of exactly what he’s looking for. Thanks to its ability to capture the up-close-and-personal aspect of climbing along with the beauty of the surrounding environment, the 16–35mm f/2.8 wide-angle lens is Herndon’s go-to piece of equipment, as long as he can manage to keep his feet and other extraneous body parts out of the broad shot.
Rich Crowder, 27 Sydney, Australia, and Portland, Oregon richcrowder.com
Rescuing a subject who had passed out from dehydration in a 400-foot-long offwidth on the highalpine Black Wall in Colorado makes Rich Crowder just the type of photographer you want on an expedition. Whether it’s alpine routes or beach bouldering in Virgin Gorda, a Caribbean island for which he’s writing a climbing guidebook, Crowder gets “overwhelmed with excitement” at beautiful light. That, combined with his ethos that “there is nothing more authentic and convincing than real people doing real things,” makes Crowder’s photography a perfect fit for the climbing world. With a degree in fine art photography from Arizona State University, he splits his time between the climbing hub of Boulder and the coastal metropolis of Sydney, and although he has shot in beautiful locations around the globe, he has yet to nail his dream assignment: shooting advertising in the Alps with an art director who gives him complete creative control.
Forest Woodward, 25 Brooklyn, New York forestwoodward.com
This soon-to-be 26-year-old found his way into climbing photography via an unconventional path. Instead of starting as a climber and eventually incorporating photography, Woodward began working as a general outdoor/adventure photographer and then developed a desire to shoot his climber friends in their aesthetic and exciting environments. After dabbling a bit, he realized he needed to be a better climber to understand the sport and get stronger images. Relatively new to the game, he’s already traveled to climbing meccas like South Africa and Patagonia. He broke his right hand a week before going to Patagonia on assignment, and not only did he successfully shoot the story for publication, he also may have invented a new crack technique that he calls “cast jamming.” Woodward attributes a lot of his success to recognizing two things: “You can only get the shot if you’re flexible and can adapt, and you must be engaged and aware of your surroundings.”