I confess, I am leading a double life.

In one, I am a Lighting Designer.  I specialize in lighting for video and television production, live events, and music shows.  I program lighting consoles and add my special touch to the projects I work on.

In another, I am a climber, alpinist, adventurer, Owner of a small Indoor Ice Axe Company, and all around outdoorsy cliche.  I crag like the rest of the climbing community, and take the trips most of us take: Squamish, Boulder, Moab, Vedauwoo, Alaska, Devils Tower, The Canadian Rockies, The Valley…

It's when these two lives collide that a special mixing occurs.  An unnoticed combination of passion and creativity the sum of which feels more like mediation than the practicalities of either.

I have lit several climbing competitions, some higher budget than others, for me, the result is usually a disconnection from the climbing aspect and more a focus on the event production.  For many reasons, I see it more as vertical gymnastics, and not climbing, but it's still climbing.

When I got the call to light the Psicocomp, I knew that this one was different.  For years people have been saying how unique an event would be if we could organize a Deep Water Soloing competition in a place where folks could spectate, see the top climbers of the day go head to head in the purest form of climbing, soloing, sans the risk of mortal injury.  But where in the world could we do that?

Enter Mike Call, and the serendipity of having the Summer Outdoor Retailer Trade show in Salt Lake City, site of the 2002 Winter Olympics, home to the Utah Olympic Park in nearby Park City, and a Freestyle Ski Jumping Training center equipped with a Giant Pool where the ski jumpers land in a soft bubbly brew among the sage and sunshine.  My first words were, 'This is the gig I've been waiting for!'  Think about it.  Observing the tenacity of top climbers clawing their way to the top of expertly set routes, climbing higher and higher, the potential fall getting larger and larger.  And when they get close to the top, fingers aching, forearms screaming, and one mistake means an enormous and sometimes uncontrolled fall 50' into the pool below, with 3000 spectators sharing every move, and a live internet feed of the event broadcast to millions more.  All set against the background of the majestic Uintas and an inky black sky.

This is where I come in.  Lighting climbers is a special art.  You don't want to blind them, but the audience still has to see them and more importantly, the lighting has to be fit for camera.  You have to make the event special, but pay attention to level, angle, focus, and color to draw the audience in.  For this event, we're keeping it very simple, no flash, no trash, keeping close to the tiki/surf vibe feeling of the event, but still making sure that it looks good on camera.

What's next? An indoor Dry Tooling Comp using DRY ICE Tools?  We'll see...
The Psicocomp is set to take place this Friday. I wouldn't miss this one for all the tea Gaddamn in China.
-Ben Carlson


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