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GASHERBRUM II. WINTER ASCENT.

Cory Richards, photographer and alpinist.

He is the third man on the team that made it to the top of the Gasherbrum II during this winter season. He faced an almost impossible challenge: shot some photos and videos in professional quality during the ascent.

Darío Rodríguez - Lunes, 21 de Febrero de 2011 - Actualizado a las 12:39h.

Cory Richards, tras la avalancha que sufrió en el descenso del G2
Cory Richards, tras la avalancha que sufrió en el descenso del G2 (Cory Richards/ The North Face)

Galería Noticia

  • Cory Richards, tras la avalancha que sufrió en el descenso del G2 Cory Richards, tras la avalancha que sufrió en el descenso del G2

Galería Galería de Cory Richards, fotógrafo y alpinista, en Gasherbrum 2 invernal

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Galería Galería de fotos de la ascensión invernal al G II de Simone Moro, Dennis Urubko y Cory Richards

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He went to the summit with his reflex camera. During this interview he explains how the work was done in the extreme conditions that they found in what was the first winter ascent of an eight-thousand meter peak in the Karakorum Range in history.

The photographs that we get from that first winter Accent of Gasherbrum II, reached by Simone Moro, Denis Urubko and Cory Richards, have a top notch quality despite the tough conditions that they found in the mountain.

Clearly behind them it is the vision and professionalism of a great photographer. A photographer who has not separated at any point of a professional SLR camera and two lenses to get the best pictures of this historic ascent. What was clear: "You can not excuse yourself in the weight and compromise the quality of work". In this interview we asked him about the challenges that as a photographer has had to face to bring us images of that historic ascent

How do you consider yourself: Alpinist or photographer?
I guess when it comes right down to the moment where you have to decide, you are always an alpinist.  You can survive an alpine climb without a photographer, but you can't survive without an alpinist.  I think the real skill is not in taking the photos, but controlling and anticipating the situations so that you never are forced to choose between one or the other.  But if shit hits the fan, the camera falls immediately.

What was the hardest part for you as a photographer in the winter ascent of Gasherbrum II?
Technically, managing the media in the down time.  It's one thing to climb and then relax and recoup.  It's another thing to climb, shoot, and then return to bc to manage photos and video and cut dispatches.  It is time consuming and you run the danger of wearing yourself too thin...becoming too tired to be able to focus on climbing and act effectively as a part of the team.  I rode that line a little too close on this trip, but we pulled it off...so all is well.

What camera and lenses carries on climbing?
5D Mk2 with the 24-105mm f.4 and the 16-35mm f2.8.

It's impressive that you carried a fairly heavy professional SLR camera and two lenses in a so committed ascent.
In my opinion, if you are doing a job...like shooting for a client on one of these climbs, you can't offer weight as an excuse for a compromise in quality.  People climbed for decades with much heavier climbing equipment than we have now and managed just fine.  So if my camera weighs a little more, well, that is just part of the job.  I have to carry it...thats why they hire ME.  You have to deliver something that is professional...and thus, you have to take a kit that can deliver a professional product.  The percentage for delivery on the jobs is low to begin with...you may only get one truly amazing shot...so you have to make sure that it is high enough quality for the client to use.

Did you use the camera to its maximum resolution of 21 MB and to the top? Did it gave you any problems?
Yes, the Mk2 shoots at 21 mp.  That said, the camera failed at camp 3 on the descent.  I believe what happened is that over the weeks of use in the extreme cold and the fluctuations of temperature and moisture content of the air, the electronics failed.  The body was no longer reading the lens...ie: it wouldn't recognize the f stop and gave me a 'general error'.

 Canon makes incredible products and they work incredibly well in extreme conditions.  That said, I don't believe that they have been tested, and thus are not made to withstand the demands of an 8000 m peak in winter.  I have shot the Mk2 at 8,500 meters on Lhotse, but that was during the summer months so the temps were considerably warmer.  The g12 saved my ass on the descent and I will make sure to have a back up point and shoot in the future.  The DSLRs have a disadvantage in that they allow for more condensation and moisture to penetrate.

How did you protect camera body from the cold during the ascent? How many batteries and memory cards did you carry?
Just one body for the climb...but as I said, in the future, I will bring a point and shoot as well.  There is no place to escape the cold.  If you put the camera in your down suit, you run the risk of getting it too warm...when you take it out, it instantly freezes.  If you leave it out, the moisture from the atmosphere collects on the lens and freezes.  Its a constant struggle to keep it clean, dry, warm enough...it's nearly impossible.  I really fall into to a routine of just keeping it alive enough to work.  Some of the images have massive visual interference because of ice on the lens....it’s just something that you have to work around.  

On your website you say your philosophy is "to be inspired by what you see and share it. It's about being in the moment, live hard and inspire others to do the same. "You've really take it to the extreme in this ascent.
That’s the goal.  Sometimes it is hard...and sometimes, I truly had to forego good shots to conserve energy.  There were many shots during the storm on the descent that I saw in my eye, but didn't take.  That was truly a time where being an alpinist came first.

Was it your first eight thousand meter peak?
No, I climbed Lhotse last spring.

You've made pictures and video. A difficult choice to make because if you record video you lose good photos...
Yes, all the time, and to be honest, being hired to do both is something that I encourage clients not to do.  If you are trying to do both, the quality of both will suffer.  However, with expeditions like this, there is really no other choice.  You have to do both.  But, in a perfect work, there would be one focusing on video, and one on stills....

The new cameras that are also high resolution video recorders, photographers are "doomed" to take pictures and video.... Are there any mistakes with the photographic equipment that you will and avoid the next time?
Hmmmmm...I am not sure what I could avoid or change...this will take some time to reflect on.

 As a photographer of the expedition was there any agreement not to take care of certain tasks so you can focus more on photography and video?
No, I try to be equally as productive in every way.  Fortunately, they are quite aware and would help me out if they saw a good opportunity for me to shoot or film.  That said, when you are climbing with sponsored climbers, and the trip is sponsored, and the media produced will be used to promote everyone's career, I believe that it is the responsibility of everyone to account for the weight.  Meaning the camera is group weight.  I always carry it, but it is group weight.  In that way, I don't have to carry my allotment of group gear AND my camera...making me the heaviest.  No, we make all things equal including my camera.  That way the photog can keep up and not be bogged down by excess weight.

The office of the photographers is changing a lot. Previously sold photos to magazines, now it is increasingly common to be hired by a client. In doing so don´t you feel  that you lose control of your own work because in many cases photographers don´t know where or how you will  the pictures be published?
It's different in all cases.  I often still deal directly with the editorial outlets even if I am hired by a client...it is always dependent on the situation and it is important to be dynamic enough as a business entity to adapt to those situations and be savvy with how you distribute

What will be the future of the photographers? Will they work more often for companies and less for the magazines?
No, 'On Spec' will always be around...it has to be for companies to survive and for publications and companies to continue to publish good content...you just can’t put all your eggs in one basket, you know?

Can you give a tip for climbers and photographers who want to take pictures in winter conditions?
If you are going to be dumb, you have to be tough .

What photographic equipment did you take to Base Camp?2 5D Mk2, a 15mm 2.8, 16-35mm 2.8 24-105 4.0, 70-200mm 2.8, 50mm 1.2, 24mm 1.4, three  Gitzo carbon fibre tripods, one GlideTrack 1 meter slider, one Merlin Steadicam, Zoom H4N, two Sennheiser wireless mics, two 580 EXII....and a whole bunch of other stuff.

What photographer do you admire?
Well now, let me see....all of them....I know what it takes to make it work and I admire people for that tenacity.  The work is so individual that I would be cheating the community to way or the other.  But if you forced me, I would give a cliché answer of all photographers and say Avedon.  However, I really also love Allard.

Can you give me a definition of Simone Moro?
Energy, vision and humore...he is very compassionate as well.

What have you learned from him?
I learned a lot about when to go and when to rein it in...

Can you give me a definition of Denis Urubko?
Pragmatism and innate strength...and again, compassion.  It is not freely given with Denis...you have to earn it...and I like that.

What have you learned from him?
I observed a great deal of inner will with him, and I think trying to practice that same will is something that I can take away

A definition of Gasherbrum II in winter season.
If youre going to be dumb, you have to be tough :)  (again)

Will you try another eight thousand meter peak in the winter?
HELL YEAH!

And finally, some last words…
I avoided the definition questions because they are just too vast.  Suffice to say that I have the deepest and utmost respect for both men as climbers and human beings.  THis climb was incredibly challenging for all of us...and nearly dying has a way of bring people together and tying them for life.  They are both tremendous friends and deeply compassionate people that I will care for until the day I die.

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