Ray Wood is one of the UK’s foremost outdoor photographers, and one of the very few who manages to survive on photography alone. His images have graced the pages of all the major UK-based climbing magazines for almost 15 years, as well as many overseas publications.
Ray’s photography at its best marries stunning landscape with the climber’s involvement with it, and as such, he is very much in the tradition of that other stalwart of British climbing photography, John Cleare.
However, Ray swaps Cleare’s architectural, sometimes cold, angularity, for a warmer, softer sense of empathy for the subject, while still retaining the same awe for the setting. Ray finds his finest expressions in the mountains and seacliffs of Snowdonia, and his body of work representing the area has without doubt made him one of the most important visual voices of North Wales.
Born in London, Ray moved to North Wales in the 80’ to attend Bangor University, and be closer to his beloved mountains. He enjoys wide range of outdoor sports, including running, mountain biking and climbing. He has two children Ruby Uma (aged 3) and Zoe (aged 7)
People just want to pigeonhole you.
Who am I? Am climber? Am an extreme sports photographer? Someone who loves the landscape? Or am just person? don’t know. can’t say. Or maybe I’d just rather not, so don’t get pigeonholed. In fact, I’m not going to say how old am - that’s the worst pigeonhole of the lot.
I studied photojournalism at the London College of Printing.
We’d look at photos and talk about them, understanding the language of the picture. We learned to read what we thought the photographer had in mind. No one takes the time to get behind the surface of photo now, and that’s real shame.
People always talk about the great days of Mountain Magazine covers. The simplicity, the form. But nothing in life stays the same, and that’s true for climbing magazines. Nowadays they’re all publisher- driven rather than editor-driven. That’s why you have loads of text on the front cover saying “Thirty waterprooftrousersreviewed”
Money buys creativity, and that’s fact. When you’re young and rich in time, you will spend all day trying to get picture, and maybe not even get it. But when you’re older, with bills to pay, you’ve got to get the shot, so you don’t experiment as much. And it’s experimenting, taking risks, that makes great work.
I’ve one piece of advice for anyone interested in getting into climbing or outdoor photography. Care. Think of an issue that motivates you, think in terms of making, rather than taking picture. Have something to say -don’t just randomly snap. Think of something to do photo-essay on, something with story.
If had to pick one of my own photographs that’s special to me, it’s Leo Houlding climbing Trauma at Dinas Mot. It’s genuine first ascent shot of very serious route (E9) The climber only gets one chance, and as photographer, so do you. You set up, work out the exposures, the composition, get ready, and hope. But when those situations work, you’ve really got something.
Photographs aren’t like human memory. They don’t forget. I got my first digital camera this April and have been keeping visual diary ever since, making myself take a shot a day. It’s been surprisingly difficult at times but very rewarding. Sometimes you’ll look back and see poignant image that’s been buried in your mind, and all the emotion of that moment will rise to the surface again. Perhaps day when you couldn’t have imagined being so happy, or beautiful time with someone you love, freeze-framed. Perhaps the situation has changed since then, but photograph has the power to take you back.
I believe the human spirit is enriched by landscape. Snowdonia is amazing for that. As photographer I’m lucky, because really get to see it, in all its forms and moods, and really appreciate that.
I had an incredible few days in the mountains recently. A long weekend in the Alps was followed by run up to Cloggy Station the day got back. I felt great, but developed an unusual cramp in my left calf. After the Snowdon Race, a few days later it felt worse, so I got it checked out at casualty. They sent me off with pair of crutches.
The longest walk ever took was fifty metres long. From the scanning unit to the nurse’s office holding piece of card saying “Major Deep Vein Thrombosis confirmed”. The physio had suggested I get blood test, and every step took, all I could think was, “Is this it? When was young, my dad got kick on his leg, which led to blood clot, and he lost his leg. suddenly I felt very mortal. Is this the end of all those things do? What would I do, climbing, running, mountaineering, feels like major part of who am. If all that goes, who am I?
Angst is a very powerful thing in climbing. A week after that news, I’d also split up with my girlfriend and was climbing in the Ogwen Valley. All the worry and frustration seemed to be coming right through my fingers and into the rock. I was much stronger than I should have been.
I’m a romantic optimist. I’ll always take the highs and lows rather than the safe path. The downside is that it makes you vulnerable, but isn’t that the essence of being alive?
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