Some of my more popular climbing images the past year or two have come from a pretty unusual time to shoot any climbing but especially ice climbing, at night. Part of it is due to my relative lack of climbing photos (I'm not a great climber) but part of is due to how unique and fun of an experience it is. There are not too many people willing to climb ice around at all (in certain circles yes but as a % of the population it is very small) and fewer still that are willing to hang off a wall of ice using metal spikes/tools when the stars come out.
There are good reasons few people do this of course, it's cold while everyone else is back in warmth drinking/eating, the ice feels different than during the day, you need extra gear, and oh yeah you can't see. With so few attempting climbing at night, it makes it that much better when you find a few adventurous souls willing to try it for the hopes of a few good pictures and hopefully, a good time. Fortunately for me, several of the climbers from Veterans Expeditions have been willing to try it the last couple years.
Now that we've done it a few times we are starting to have a general idea on how to do it safely. It starts by lighting a fire in the ring next to the ice climbing park as 1-2 volunteers walks around to the top to set a rope. Once the rope is set, the fire is going, and the moon starts to rise...it's time to climb. Being prepared for this experience as mentioned above, not only requires a certain attitude but additional gear. You need a headlamp, extra layers of clothing, hand warmers (especially when you're not moving), warm socks/boots, and for us a way to start the fire. We've done it with and without a fire, and a fire is the way to go. There's just something about being outdoors in the cold dark winter night, totally alone, and hearing the fire crackling.
Shooting at Night:
Shooting at night always has a few additional challenges than during the daytime; there's no light (other than the moon depending on it's phase) so being able to see what you're doing/shooting is difficult, things are colder including batteries/fingers, and you need to use longer exposures that blur motion. Particularly the latter makes shooting climbing at night particularly challenging and another reason you see so few pictures of it.
In another post that will be released soon, I will go into the technical and physical specifications of a night climbing shot. Here are a few more images from the shoot a couple weeks ago.