Ontario’s Accomplished Competition Photographer
Aidas Odonelis has been photographing indoor climbing competitions for over a decade. He’s travelled around eastern Canada in search for the perfect action photo, which has resulted in countless frame-worthy images. He owns and operates Ruby Photo Studios in Ontario and spends much of his winter working with the Toronto Maple Leafs. We caught up with him on assignment at the summer Psicobloc Open Series in Montreal.
1 How long have you been shooting?
I’ve been interested in photography since 2000. But I didn’t start photographing professionally around 2008.
2 How many comps have you covered?
Not sure, but definitely more than fifty.
3 What was one of the best comps you’ve worked at?
Tour de bloc nationals 2009 will always be a memorable one. The Psicobloc comp was pretty great just because it was the first of its kind in Canada and it’s obviously a new-age format.
4 Who is the most photogenic comp climber for big moves?
I wouldn’t say anyone is more photogenic than others, however the big names are always fun to shoot as they reliably commit to big moves, such as Sean McColl and Sebastian Lazure.
5 What was the energy like in Montreal?
The energy around the Psicobloc comp in Montreal was fantastic. It was really like a big pool party where everyone is hanging out, swimming, drinking beers and climbing. Everyone was really supportive of climbers on the wall while they were trying to commit to going higher and higher. In many way Psicobloc is the perfect style of competitive climbing for the non-climbing public. It’s easy to understand, as it’s just a race to the top.
6 Did you try the wall?
I did not. I try and separate shooting and climbing. While I’m shooting, I try not to think about climbing and vice versa.
7 Was everyone stoked to get to the top? Or were some climbers scared?
There was a mix of both, as climbers got higher they knew they were committing to either topping out or taking a pretty big fall. Since everyone climbed on the same route, many of the less experienced climbers found difficult and just climbing to the top while the more experienced climbers found the challenge in climbing it as fast as possible. This provided a really interesting mix to the audience.
8 What were some of the difficulties in shooting it?
The Psicobloc staff were very accommodating with access to great vantage points. The biggest challenge was in finding interesting ways to shoot people climbing the same route. Since the wall overhangs so much, the climbers were in the shade the whole time, so dusk became very appealing as the sun would come around the wall a bit. I ended up wandering around the park a lot to look for unique angles once I had secured some ‘hero’ action shots. Also experimenting with different combinations of lenses and apertures to find different ways of isolating subjects.
9 What was your favourite moments from the weekend?
While no single moment really sticks out to me, watching the open class get faster and faster as they refined their beta was fascinating. Many of them were able to cut theirs times in half. Watching nervous climbers push themselves higher and higher was great, just like working your way up a scary lead.
10 Do you see Psicobloc catching on in Canada?
Short answer, yes. The beauty of Psicobloc is that it’s one of the most basic forms of competition – racing. Its simplicity is was makes it so appealing, especially to the non-climbing public. While lead and bouldering are great, they really only appeal to climbers. Psicobloc combines all three styles into one great spectacle and puts it into a great atmosphere which is fun for people to be in. What’s not to like?—