After having gawked at his Instagram photos for at least a year, this spring I finally met the infamous Nayton Rosales amidst the Buttermilk boulders of Bishop, California.
Despite hobbling around with four massive crash pads strapped to his back—stuffed to the brim with tripods and other camera equipment—Nayton was beaming with smiles and stoke. In fact, he exudes so much, that he even convinced me to join him for a pre-dawn photo mission … graciously treating me to freshly ground coffee and a plate full of bacon thereafter.
Eager to spot, eager to shoot, and eager to climb—the truck-dwelling Nayton Rosales is not only a rad person to climb with, but also one hell of a talented climbing photographer. See for yourself …
- Age: 28 years old!
- Hometown: Bellflower, California
- Years climbing: 3 yrs. and 8 months
- Years taking photos: 2 years (4 years of cinematography before that)
- Favorite climbing destination: Most definitely Bishop, CA; it’s where I fell in love with climbing and the community it creates.
- Preferred style of climbing: Pebble wrestling
- Favorite crag snack: Homemade energy balls or the PBBNHC (Peanut Butter, Banana, Nutella, Honey, Cinnamon Sandwich)
- Favorite piece of camera equipment: My old, beat up, and dirty Canon 5D Mark 3
- Last book you read: The internet??
- Last song you listened to: My Girl, The Temptations
Tell us about your journey to becoming a photographer—i.e., what places, people, events, music, books, etc. inspired you to be the photographer you are today?
Before I started climbing I was actually a full-time cinematographer/video editor. About two years into doing that, I discovered and fell in love with climbing.
I wanted to combine my two passions, climbing and cinematography, in a way that could keep me inspired. But the thought of bringing my camera with me on the weekends, after working 50+ hours a week sounded dreadful. Because of that, I was officially burnt out and opted to never take my camera with me while climbing.
About a year into climbing, I visited Bishop, CA for the first time. After being surrounded by the sheer beauty of the Eastern Sierras, something clicked in my head. I wanted to capture what I had seen; the vast landscapes, mountains, and humongous boulders with people climbing them!
Still dealing with a burn out on cinematography, I chose to photograph them instead. Since then, I began to lug my 40-pound camera bag with me on the weekends to capture what I love about climbing. The movement, atmosphere, people, and the emotion that surround it.
You’re also a road warrior. How/why did you decide to move into your truck?
After that first season of going to Bishop a few times, I was super psyched to get strong and go there as much as possible the next year. When that time came, I was there pretty much every weekend in the fall/winter of 2015. During that period, I met so many inspiring people that were living on the road. The climbing community there made me feel at home and I wanted to become that beacon of inspiration like those others were to me. Later that year, I had toyed with the idea of going on a road trip, so I saved up some money and purchased the “Buttermilk Taco.”
I’ve always been a workaholic and never took any vacations, so the thought of leaving my job scared me a little. So, I ended up postponing my trip due to that fear. But a few months later, in May 2016, I told myself that this was my only chance to do this. I put my two weeks in at work and decided to go on a 3-month road trip to pursue climbing and photography. That same road trip ended up becoming a yearlong adventure and I don’t regret any second of it!
How would you describe your photography style; what do you aim to capture in your images?
I’m not really sure how I would particularly describe my style of photography. When taking photos what I aim to capture is the beauty of movement on a particular climb. I also love to capture the essence of a boulder or route. The different features, shapes, and sizes make each climb unique. If I’m able to capture both the movement and the climb together, I’m one happy camper.
What has been the most challenging experience you’ve had shooting? The most rewarding experience?
The most challenging experience I’ve had shooting so far has definitely been this current photo series I’ve been working. It involves having to wake up hours before sunrise in order to capture that perfect light, while a model climbs a particular boulder.
The challenging part isn’t waking up, but the cold weather and unforeseen circumstances that go with it. Sometimes things don’t go as planned and your model can’t make it to the designated point of the shot because they can’t feel their fingers. The wind can knock down your lighting equipment right before the shot needs to be taken. The ladder you brought doesn’t allow your model to even get high enough on the boulder in order to get the shot.
There are so many things that can get in the way of getting the perfect shot and overcoming those challenges can be the most rewarding part.
What is your most treasured piece of photography equipment?
It definitely has to be my trusty old Canon 5D Mark 3. It has taken me this far already! It’s beat down, battered, dusty, and still has been running strong. I wouldn’t be here without it!
Do you always bring a camera along with you? Or do you separate your climbing days from photography days?
I wish I could separate them but it’s so hard! I suffer from FOMO. I feel like if I don’t bring my camera while climbing, I’m going to miss a perfect opportunity for a great shot!
The hardest part is choosing when to climb and when to take photos. A lot of times, photography can take away from my climbing and vice-versa.
Is there something you always ask yourself/think just before you push the button?
Yeah, usually it’s
Did I format the memory card?
I hope its exposed right!
What photograph are you most proud of and why? Tell us about the location, lighting, composition, etc., as well as what it means to you.
I’m not sure I have one photograph that I’m most proud of … I feel like every photograph I’ve taken has significance because each one is a learning experience on how I can improve for the next photo.
Is there anybody or anything you would especially love to photograph?
Well, of course my girlfriend because she’s beautiful! But in terms of climbing, I love to photograph my boy Cesar Valencia. He always wears bright colors and is always down to climb something a hundred times to get the “shot.”
If you weren’t climbing and shooting photos, what would you be doing?
I probably wouldn’t exist haha. Maybe I would be playing basketball still, and probably snowboarding or cycling.
What’s your best piece of advice for a novice climbing photographer looking to improve his or her skills?
Don’t be afraid to fail. The sooner you fail, the sooner you will learn from those mistakes and become a better photographer.
Also, remember that there is always room for improvement and that you can learn from every single person you meet. It doesn’t matter if a person is a seasoned photographer or just starting out. People should be treated with the same weight! Cheers!
To see more of Nayton’s work, check out his website and follow him on Instagram.
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