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“Goodbye clutter, hello bright,beautiful stories.”
This footage came from a memorable, cool project I was intimately involved with. I was working with Josh Lowell, Brett Lowell and Cooper Roberts of Big UP Productions to shoot video for their feature-length film Progression. The film profiled an elite crop of climbing visionaries and their individual efforts to advance difficulty in disparate disciplines of the sport. Tommy was featured because he has almost single-handedly pushed big-wall free climbing on El Cap to new levels. His latest effort on the futuristic Dawn Wall has become something of an apotheosis of his life and experience as a rock climber.
The game-changing Nikon D90, the world’s first DSLR with video-recording capabilities, had just debuted. I brought it with me as I got into position 2,000 feet up the sheer flanks of El Capitan with Tommy. This was one of the very first times I shot video with a DSLR, and it absolutely changed the direction of my professional life and passion. Shooting Tommy on what was (and still is) arguably the most futuristic rock climb on earth, and then being able to share this story—what it looks like, feels like, sounds like—with the climbing world at large, felt like I had just stepped through the proverbial rabbit hole. Now, an entire new universe exploded open before me. DSLR video was the future.
But more than anything, it was meaningful to see Tommy, one of my best friends and a guy I’ve grown up with, being used as the poster boy for why and how Facebook is going to become more interesting. It speaks legions about climbing that this behemoth of a company finds our sport visually powerful enough to use to convey their own message.
I don’t need to tell you that social media, particularly Facebook, plays an El Cap-sized role in how we communicate with our friends, family, colleagues and even our role models—for instance, Tommy Caldwell, who has famously and unprecedentedly shared his ongoing efforts on the Dawn Wall via his Facebook page. You could make a strong argument that without the DSLR video cameras rolling, and without the ability to share photos, videos and status updates instantaneously through the iPhone, then Tommy’s efforts on the Dawn Wall wouldn’t matter because they would go untold. Somehow the impact, the significance of the most difficult human endeavors, like free climbing the Dawn Wall, are inexorably linked to our abilities to share these stories through visuals and social media.
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