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Guest Editor Keith Ladzinski can trace his success to skateboarding and a groundfall, while for Senior Contributing Editor John Connor, it all really started on Mt Alarm.
Ten years ago, Guest Editor Keith Ladzinski worked as a programmer for Hewlett Packard, spending his free time shooting landscapes for gallery prints and tourism agencies, and action imagery for skateboarding mags. He was a casual climber, but only started shooting climbing by accident - literally.
One hot day in 2004, 35 feet up Cryogenics on Colorado's Independence Pass, Ladzinski slipped out of greasy hand jams, blew a cam, and hit the ground. "I broke my pelvic bone, four ribs, fractured my kidney and liver, blew both lungs, and fractured my T2 vertebrae," he says. "I was pretty much done with climbing."
But Ladzinski got an assignment, from Wyoming Homes and Living, to accompany writer Stacey Rice on a guided ascent of Devils Tower. His first climbing shots were disappointing. "They were junk, as bad as I expected they would be when I shot them - butt shots of Frank [Sanders] on lead, and toprope photos of Stacey in a huge bicycle helmet, all at high noon."
Determined to do better, Ladzinski called Brian Rhodes. "We went to this crazy bridge in Manitou Springs with holds bolted underneath it. I took the skateboarding approach, shooting with three strobes." He sent the shots to Zach Reynolds, then Photo Editor at Climbing, who also had a skater background. Reynolds called within the week asking for more in that style.
"By 2005 I was a genuine full-time freelance photographer," Ladzinski says, "making a peasant's wage and living the dream." He climbs, but his personal climbing is secondary. "Photography is my main focus if I'm at the crag," he says. "Always."
John Connor was Climbing's Equipment Editor from 2006 to 2007 before having the good sense to chase love and fortune to the Pacific Northwest. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon.
He grew up in Washington, D.C., which he says is "not a bad place to be an outdoorsper-son, or even a climber, so long as you don't mind humidity percentages that routinely exceed the Fahrenheit temperature, airborne insects of various sizes for whom heights are no object, or ornery locals in the hinterlands who consider any shiny object up high on a rock wall to be worthy of target practice."
Connor learned to toprope on the crags of Great Falls and made his first multi-pitch climb at Seneca Rocks, "using mostly hexes and nuts and topping out in a snowstorm." His mountaineering crash course took place during an ascent of (seriously) Mt. Alarm (2,877 meters, Inland Kaikoura Range, New Zealand) at the hands of a local alpine club. "Interchangeable handholds" were the highlight of the ascent, and the descent featured "holding the rope in place by hand over a rock horn" for a rappel anchor.
Connor began writing about climbing adventures "as a way of communicating with my risk-averse, suburban-dwelling family, who, though open-minded, had no concept of what I was engaged in once I moved to the West Coast."
A meticulous researcher, Connor wrote the "Ten Things" in this issue on mountain photography, p.24. Watch for his next piece: a feature on the traditional (and terrifying) granite slab climbing at Pedriza, Spain.
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