Photographer - Ricardo Alves


Thursday, 25 October

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Photographers are the culprits of artistically expressing all the asthetic, the power and the elasticity of our bodies combined together with the movements of such on the rock plus the raw natural beauty of the environments where our sport is normally practiced. 

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After a first delivery in Spanish (David Munilla and his gallery) and a second in the same language (Bernardo Giménez and his gallery), today we release a third interview (this time also in English) with the best photographers, among them…


By Esteban Diez Fernández & Ignacio Sandoval Burón

Ricardo Alves self-portrait.

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A few short apetizer questions:

auto">Canon or Nikon? Why? auto">I’ve started photographing with a Nikon FM2 and since them always have used Nikon cameras. I like very much their built quality and ergonomics. auto">
auto">Mac or PC? Why again? auto">At home I use a PC because I’m used to it. In the field, I use a Mac Book, because is light and has a fast processor for working with the photos. auto">
auto">What about for enjoyment, do you prefer climbing pictures or naked women/men photos? auto">It depends on the quality of the photos! :-) auto">
auto">Ultra Zoom o Wide Angle? auto">I use both a lot, depending the situation and perspective I want to achieve. The ultra zoom I use more to do shots with people and wide angle for landscape photography. auto">
auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">Where are you from? auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">I’m living near Lisbon (Portugal) for the last 18 years, but before I lived in Macau (China) for 8 years. auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">
auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">By the time this interview was made Ricardo was in a South American trip. Where are you now, where were you before and where are you going to go? Why did you choose those places? Which are the ones you have liked the most and why? auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">Yes, right now I’m in the North of Argentina in a nice city called Salta. I’ve just returned from Bolivia and before we’ve travelled in Patagonia Argentina and throughout Chile, from South to North. We are heading to Puerto Iguazú to visit the famous waterfalls. auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">I’ve wanted to visit South America for a long time and finally the opportunity arrived! The entire trip has been great, but maybe the best moments were in El Chálten, Tuzgle, Parque Nacional Lauca and Bolivia, because the places are amazing and we’ve also meet nice people there! auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">
auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">Is the photography hand in hand with a kind of nomad life? auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">Yes, for me photography and travelling are very connected. Can’t stay much time in the same place, without getting bored. There’s too much to see out there… auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">
auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">Please define what the word photographer means to you. auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">A photographer is a person who has the ability to use the camera as a mean to show his interior vision of reality. auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">
auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">How and when did you start with photography? auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">I start photographing while living in Macau, around the age of 16. My parents also like photography and offered me a camera. At that time our family used to travel a lot in Asia, so I start doing some travel reportages and suddenly I got addicted to it! auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">

   Do you think in climbing it is necessary to take the pictures from above the climber for them to be of good quality?

auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">No, I don’t think so. You can get really cool photos from far away, at the same height of the climber or even from lower angles, for artistic proposes. It all depends of the situation and the result you can get. auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">
auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">Do you climb or do you just do jumaring?

Yes, I’m still climbing. It’s one of my biggest passions. Right now I’m mainly concentrated in bouldering. My local area is Sintra, a bouldering paradise near Lisbon, which has become my second home!!

auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">You have been taking climbing pics for a while. Can you tell us how you started and which came first climbing or photography? auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">They both started pretty earlier, but photography started first. In the beginning I was mainly attracted with landscape photos. Climbing photography is a more recent field. I started to do it more serious, when I launch the blog BoulderSintra ( in 2007, for promoting the place. auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">
auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">Which of all your climbing experiences is/are the ones which have had the most impact in your life? auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">All the travels and climbing trips were great experiences. One that really touched me was a 2 months trip to California in 2003, to visit their Natural Parks and climbing areas. It was overwhelming!! auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">
auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">Which of the places where you have taken photos is the one that matched the most with the general photogene of the photos taken there? auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">I think Sintra is the most photogenic place to shoot that I know. It’s always inspiring and different to photograph. auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">
auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">What other professional photographer or amateur photographer do you admire? auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">Galen Rowell, Keith Ladzinski, Corey Rich, Greg Epperson, Heinz Zak, Jim Thornburg and Simon Carter, to name a few… auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">
auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">Who is the climber model who you have liked working with the most and what are the desirable characteristics in a climbing model, apart from being photogenic? auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">I like to work with my fellow climbing friends. It’s always fun and relaxed to photograph them. auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">I don’t think any special attributes are needed for being a climber model, as the goal of the photo is to capture emotion, good light and strong composition. auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">
auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">And, what climber that you haven’t had the opportunity to work with would you like to in the future?

I haven’t worked that much with pro climbers or for a company assignment, so it would be nice to try.

auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">Do you have any climbing photograph or movie that helps to inspire you in your work? auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">There are so many photos from the authors I admire that inspire me. But if I had to choose a book it would be ‘’Rock Stars’’ from Heinz Zack and a movie would be ‘’The Pilgrimage’’ from Big Up or ‘’The Real Thing’’. auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">
auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">Have you been scared while hung on a wall taking pics? Do you remember any especially scary session? auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">The emotion is always strong when you arrive at the walls, but I wouldn’t call it fear... and fortunately it never happened any accidents during my sessions. auto;tab-stops:7.1pt">

   Is it possible to make your living out of taking climbing pics or do you need to combine it with another job?

I work as a Civil Engineer in the city council. In Portugal is very difficult to live from photography and from climbing photography, I would say is even more... 

   Do you consider that taking pictures to pro-climbers is necessary to make a living out in this business?

The main problem here, is that the market is really small, with only a few companies/shops and no magazines to sell the photos. I have to look for foreign markets, but then the competition is harsh and is also more difficult to delivery fresh material when you live in a country outside the climbing scene.

   As a proffesional, do you think that paper magazines are condemned to disappear in favour of digital formats?

I think magazines will still remain, but perhaps the type of articles must change. They cannot compete with the fast and easy ability to publish news that the digital medias have, so it’s better that magazines focus more on good articles and reportages.

auto;text-indent:-7.1pt;mso-list:l0 level1 lfo1">In that same sense, what was your stance when film cameras were changed for digital ones? auto">In the beginning I had doubts about the quality of digital photography, but when Nikon launch the D100 in 2002, I was really impressed and decided to do the changing. I had to wait until 2004 to put my hands in digital camera, when Nikon released the D70 for an affordable price. Immediately I adapt myself to that new digital reality and have no regrets about that! auto">
auto;text-indent:-7.1pt;mso-list:l0 level1 lfo1">Since the digital cameras appeared, much more people joined in taking climbing pictures (you only need to take a look at our gallery). Do you think these “amateurs” can rival the professional photographers?

Yes, I think so! It’s easy to start using a digital camera and it’s only a question of time before people start doing good shots and looking for ways to publish them. Prices are droped because magazines are overflowded with hundreds of photos and in that way it affects the professionals.

text-indent:-7.1pt;mso-list:l0 level1 lfo1">What is best to make a life out of taking pictures, to focus in just a field, like for instance climbing or diversify touching travels, landscapes, modeling, etc.?

If the market is big, maybe you can focus only in one field, like climbing. I do everything, from social photography, to publicity and from sports, to landscapes.

Now, more focused in photography itself…

text-indent:-7.1pt;mso-list:l0 level1 lfo1">What cameras and lenses do you normally use in your sessions?

My current set is a Nikon D700 body and 3 Nikkor zoom lens: 14-24mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm.

Sometimes I also use a 4x5 large format camera with a 65mm for my landscape photography.

auto;text-indent:-7.1pt;mso-list:l0 level1 lfo1">Many photographers are widening their audiovisual scope to videos. Do you think that videos are the future? What’s special about a snapshot that motion images will never attain? Are they compatibles? auto">Well, I do think that video and photography are distant things and each one has their own approach. But if you can do both is excellent, because you can take that advantage in business.  auto">
auto;text-indent:-7.1pt;mso-list:l0 level1 lfo1">Have you ever made a climbing/bouldering video?

No, I still haven’t tried that field yet.

text-indent:-7.1pt;mso-list:l0 level1 lfo1">Do you normally use spotlights and/or flashes for your photos?

Just a little bit in the boulder photos. But I certainly prefer natural light!

text-indent:-7.1pt;mso-list:l0 level1 lfo1">How important is the edition work in front of a computer screen? Is PhotoShop or any similar program the salvation for a mediocre photographer?

Nowadays when people look at a nice photo they say instantly: ‘’It’s all Photoshop’’! Even if it is, Photoshop don’t do it by is own. You have to be talented and have the skills to use the program. For me is just a tool to improve the photos a little more! I use it mainly for color correction, contrast adjustment and framing rearrangement. When I’m shooting I struggle to achieve the best possible result in the field, not in the computer…

text-indent:-7.1pt;mso-list:l0 level1 lfo1">What is the basic photographic equipment that anyone interested in getting deep into the digital photography world should buy?

A digital reflex from Nikon or Canon and a zoon lens (18-135mm) will do well. It’s important to set your camera to manual metering to start understanding how light behaves and don’t be afraid to explore different compositions and techniques.

auto;text-indent:-7.1pt;mso-list:l0 level1 lfo1">Could you please offer our readers any easy tip to improve their shots out in the mountains? l1 level1 lfo3;tab-stops:list 36.0pt">1-    Be prepared to take the shot before it happened; l1 level1 lfo3;tab-stops:list 36.0pt">2-    Explore the area and check for different angles in advance; l1 level1 lfo3;tab-stops:list 36.0pt">3-    Be cautious with details. l1 level1 lfo3;tab-stops:list 36.0pt">
auto;text-indent:-7.1pt;mso-list:l0 level1 lfo1">Which of your works is the one you’re the proudest of? Why? auto">Maybe it is a landscape shot I took in Monument Valley (Arizona), when I catch a lightning strike while photographing the storm hand held. It was a very lucky moment! auto">
auto;text-indent:-7.1pt;mso-list:l0 level1 lfo1">Finally, what places for climbing and bouldering in Portugal we shouldn’t skip a visit? And, what about generic tourism apart from climbing?

For climbing, the must visit locations are: Cabo da Roca, Arrábida and Sagres.

For bouldering, the highlights are: Sintra, Serra da Estrela and Corno do Bico.

Besides climbing, travelling in the coast of Alentejo is an awe-inspiring experience.

the wide gallery Ricardo gently allowed us to use here.

Ricardo Alves bouldering somewhere.

Visit his personal

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