Why You Should Focus on Having Fun and Not Just Winning Competitions

The importance of sport competitions is all about challenging yourself to improve, providing motivation to achieve a certain goal, and understanding that when you give your best in everything can lead to success. Unfortunately, competitive sports, in general, have its negative sides that can harm athletes not only physically but also socially and mentally.

That’s why Bernardo Gimenez keeps his enjoyment levels high in every climb and every adventure he takes. Read on as he talks about rock climbing, sports photography, and his favorite gear!

Climber and Photographer Bernardo Gimenez
Photo credit: Mauro Giordani

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Bernardo Gimenez. I born in Argentina, but I moved to Europe 16 years ago, in the beginning for a couple of months, for climbing. But soon I realized that I wanted to stay in Europe until now. Currently, I spend most of my time around Pyrenees in my van. I have an office and a little studio in Siurana, Catalunya, Spain.

How and why did you get into climbing?

I took a mountaineering and climbing course because I wanted to have adventures into the big mountains for freeride skiing. Then, in the course I discovered and felt in love with rock climbing and I started doing it all the time.

I never took part in a race or competition. I respect it, but personally dislike the competitive aspect of any sport activities. Competition climbing nowadays is a very specific sport. In fact, I believe a few of the top competitors have non or a little experience climbing on real rocks.

I am actually anti-sport guy. I really like be active and doing lots of activities but for me the word “Sport” evokes the part I personally don’t like too much. Judges, chonos, live TV, medals, podiums, etc. But specially you need to be competitive, comparing you against others and trying to be better than someone. I don’t want to say if this was a good thing or a bad thing (probably it’s a positive thing for our society) but definitely it’s not for me.

Currently, I spend more time doing free touring on the mountains than climbing. These are both important part of my life and there’s always a cycle between them.

You combine climbing with working as a professional photographer. How is that possible?

I love taking pictures and love photography even before I started climbing. So, shooting climbing or mountains is a natural consequence.

Climber and Photographer Bernardo Gimenez

How do you train and become better at climbing?

I never train or follow any specific program. I don’t needed to train at the gym. I just go outside and climb on the rocks as much as possible. Climbing for me is all about being fun and enjoy nature and open spaces. Once I realized that to be a better climber, I only need to have lots of fun. I saw many young climbers focusing only on performance and grades, being frustrated at the crag.

What kind of photos do you prefer to shoot, and what do you consider the hardest parts of sports photography?

I love taking weird ones. Not the obvious. Of course, when you work professionally on assignment you need to stay a bit in the “normal” side. My real love is the reportage and photojournalism as I like to tell stories more than a single spectacular shot.

The hardest part of photography isn’t to do it. Preparing a photo or video shooting is about to select the right gear for the project in order to keep your gear bag lighter and flexible, know your model, know the better times of the day for catching the good light and to establish good communication and coordination with the rest of the team. A hard thing to manage is the weather, since almost 100% of my work is outdoors.

What is your best advice for people new to climbing?

As I said before, keep the fun over the performance and then the performance will come effortlessly. Learn how to climb better, how to move more efficiently before you start training specifically. Climbing is not about power, it’s actually about saving power!

I think everybody is different, but for me keeping a high level on enjoyment is possible because there is no competition in my mind, no pressure to do things at certain “standard” levels. And if I feel any kind of stress or pressure I feel free of leaving it for a while and doing another activity. But don’t misunderstand, is important, very important to make an effort, to try hard, try to do it better. But, in my case, better than myself, better than I was yesterday. Valid in “sports” and photography.

Avoid projecting too much, climb on-sight, try different styles and kinds of rocks. Your brain has a lot to learn before your muscles start growing. And the most important, keep a strong ethic. Climbing without ethic is nothing.

Any advice for new sport photographers?

Copy, copy a lot from different styles that you find interesting because this style-mixing influence will build your own style. Don`t be afraid of making mistakes, just shoot shitty pics again and again, it’s the way to think out of the box. And always get paid for your work, don’t destroy your business before you start!

Climber and Photographer Bernardo Gimenez

What kind of climbing shoes and clothes do you use?

I use La Sportiva climbing and running shoes, the quality is really good and it’s a brand that sometimes I work with. I normally have two pair of shoes: One pair for sport/overhanging routes and the other pair for trad/long routes/warming up.

For sport climbing, I don’t use any specific clothing, just regular working pants or cheap jeans during winter and shorts in summer.

What kind of gear do you use for your photography, and what has been your best sport-related purchase below $100?

I use a Sony Alpha A7 II for video and Canon EOS 5D MarkIV for stills and also video.

I think everyone has different gear preferences, but I found zoom lenses very useful for shooting hanging from a rope, since you don’t need to change lenses too much.

Best purchase below $100 would be my merino wool long shirt for freetouring. I don’t remember the brand. Actually, I don’t buy many sport stuff, maybe some MTB gear from time to time. As for my ski and climbing, I normally get the gear from my clients.

What kind of gear do you recommend for new sport photographers?

Right now, there is a lot of “under 1000 bucks” cameras producing amazing results. You don’t need to spend money in expensive gear, better to spend the money in travels for shooting in different places and different people. I believe that a good photographer needs to show good pictures, not good cameras.

Be aware of marketing, super speeds, megapixels, 4K, etc. Most of the time less is more. Same as climbing, in photography the way you see is more important than the gear. Brain over muscle.

My best purchase below $100 would be the reverse open lid photobag, perfect for working on the vertical.

Climber and Photographer Bernardo Gimenez
Photo credit: Lida Linx

What will the future bring?

Actually, I don’t have too much time left juggling between work, skiing, climbing, and biking, but I would like to try speed flying in the near future! Also, I am planning to give and to dictate some photography workshops, which mainly focused on climbing and outdoor lifestyle.

My dream about gear is to be able to work with smaller, lighter and cheaper gear as possible without loosing quality. Anyway, I think that the quality is more a creative process than a technical process.

Follow Bernardo Gimenez on his website and Instagram.

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