In the digital revolution era, the return to nature not only manifests itself in trends such as ‘organic’, ‘green living’ or ‘sustainability’, but also in a return to an environment which has managed to preserve its pristine character more than other regions: the mountains. All forms of mountaineering have been gaining popularity for years – and active, outdoor enthusiasts in the rugged landscape of the high mountain tops are providing a multitude of interesting photographic opportunities.
Modern mountaineering encompasses many activities. A long walk in the Bavarian Alps near Munich, a single day hike or an excursion lasting several days while travelling from one mountain cabin to the next, self-guided trekking tours, skiing trips, sport climbing, tours of the High Alps, mountain runs, fixed rope routes or expeditions in mountain ranges throughout the world. Sports such as paragliding or mountain biking are also high profile mountaineering sports as well. Among this vast spectrum of activity, mountain climbing, once the sport of choice for only a very few – has now become a sport for the masses and can be undertaken in every conceivable form and level of difficulty. Perhaps what makes mountaineering so attractive is the variety of opportunities it offers for people stressed out by modern civilization to once again experience the outdoors and rediscover themselves. Taking a glance at the membership numbers of the German Alpine Club, Germany’s fifth largest sports association, shows just how strong this trend is: the club currently has more than 1.1 million members and is continuing to grow.
Today’s climbing enthusiast doesn’t set out like the climbers of yore donning a woolen hillbilly hat and knickerbockers, armed with hemp rope and climbing hooks forged by the local blacksmith. Mountain climbers today embark on their trips with the latest modern gear and equipment supplied by the booming outdoor recreation industry: functional, weatherproof clothing, climbing gear, helmets, backpacks and mountain boots. Advertising all of these products requires great photos. Contrasting these slick, flashy creations of a highly developed technological society with a million-year-old mountain landscape gives mountain photographers many appealing creative options.
Moreover, the emotional component of mountain climbing offers an additional area of interest for photographers. Those drawn to the mountains are seeking freedom, the big picture, inner reflection, serenity, physical challenges, self-affirmation, and sometimes risk and adventure – to keep this enthralling experience with them as an unforgettable memento after they’ve returned to their everyday lives. A great photo demonstrates what it’s like to undergo this experience: taking in the fresh mountain air after an exhausting ascent,
the cheers of the rope team atop the summit,
the steady nerves and physical agility of a climber scaling a steep, rugged cliff,
the hardy resolve necessary for venturing into icy altitudes,
or the peaceful tranquility found on secluded paths which are far removed from the concrete and asphalt world
and being utterly stunned by amazement when confronted with a magnificent view.
Mountain climbing is associated with a certain set of values: courage, determination, endurance and the willingness to take risks, and also other qualities such as team spirit and having a sense of responsibility. Since these characteristics are also valued in the business world, mountaineering often appears in advertisements to promote a wide variety of products and services. A bank can represent itself as the reliable, steady climbing partner for investors wishing to ascend a daring (financial) climb, an insurance company can give assurance that when things take an unexpected turn, they will get their clients through those critical moments unscathed, and a brewery can offer up its beer as the peak of pleasure – a refreshing reward for the exhausted, thirsty mountain climber.
For advertising photography, the interpretation of a mountaineer-based visual language has opened up many opportunities for expressive subjects in this category to be implemented for advertising purposes. Provided they are well executed, mountain photos are invariably wonderful attention-getters.
Cover image: Linda Meyer