Grit and Grace in Savannah Cummins’ Climbing Photography

Photographing beauty and strength around the world.

Savannah Cummins’ photography seamlessly blends honesty and wanderlust, reliably depicting the not-so-dreamy aspects of climbing including storms, falls, and try-hard faces. All of the above, however, is relentlessly beautiful, painted in rich colors and thoughtfully composed. The nomadic photographer calls Salt Lake City something close to home—it’s where her storage unit, P.O. box, and boyfriend are, at least—but she’s nearly always on the road: ice climbing in Canada, rock climbing in Idaho, France, Utah, canyoneering in the desert. We caught up with the 25-year-old, who documents her adventures on a Sony a7R II , in between trips to learn a little more about her craft and some of her favorite photos.

How did you end up where you are today?

I’ve never been good at school or abiding by schedules so I’ve worked hard to avoid both. I’m a self taught photographer and business woman. I’ve started my own business, Savy Media, and make my own schedule. It’s not easy, there’s a lot of responsibility and self motivation that had to happen to get here, and I still have a long ways to go. Thankfully, there’s never a dull moment in my pursuit of the next step of my career.

How has photography shaped your life both professionally and recreationally/personally?

It’s become my life, I try to imagine my life without photography and I really can’t. I’ve made tons of friends, travelled more than ever and can never be bored since there is ALWAYS more editing to be done, and more shoots to scout and schedule.

When I was starting out, my camera went everywhere with me. Eventually I found it tough to maintain a balanced life doing that. I learned that if I constantly have my camera with me, I end up taking photos instead of climbing, or simply enjoying my non-work time. Since climbing and being fit is also a big aspect of my work I had to stop bringing my camera with me everywhere. The days I don’t bring it I usually regret it but it’s refreshing to just enjoy the moment every once in awhile rather than always trying to capture it.

What about your relationship with the outdoors—what are your preferred ways to get after it?

I didn’t grow up outdoorsy but I grew up playing sports and being active. There isn’t much outdoorsing to do in the suburbs of Cincinnati besides what’s in your backyard. I moved to Bozeman, Montana a month after turning 18 and never turned back. Since then  I’ve lived in Montana, Wyoming and Utah and I learned how to climb when I was 20.  I loved it, I’d climb outside with co-workers and eventually found a climbing gym where I started to make friends that became the foundation of my current social web.

This photo is of professional climber Sarah Hueniken climbing at Haffner Creek. This photo was hard to get only because I was supposed to be shooting video! It’s hard to switch back and forth between photo and video and not miss any shots while the action is happening, and in climbing, a lot of times you only get one chance to get the shot!

This photo is taken from an Ice/mixed climb called Lessons of Oka in Canada. If you look closely you can see Jen Olson on the beautiful line “My Daddy’s a Psycho” This photo took a lot of work to get, we came up the day before to fix several pitches of rock and ice. This day was storming, windy as can be, and wet, a hard day to be outside. I forgot to bring a plastic bag to protect my camera while I was shooting and my camera got soaked, I kind of figured by the end of the day it would be destroyed from all the moisture but to my surprise the camera survived and the photos and video were in my opinion, better because of the storm.

This photo was taken the same day as the one above, of Jen Olson hanging out at the belay on Lessons of Oka. It was windy, and storming hard however Jen kept a smile on her face the entire day, clearly this is what she’s meant to do, and it makes my job easy when an athlete or person is in their element.

This photo is of my boyfriend, Kyle O’Meara, who makes for one of the best climbing models out there! This is at a place called The Fins, in Idaho. The view from the climbing area is pretty crazy, there’s not really anything but the highway in sight, it’s in the middle of no where, and early summer the wild flowers are popping.

This photo was taken in Ceuse, France of my friend Sean Bailey on a famous climb called Biographie (5.15a/9a+). He was working out beta on this go and later sent the route, a HUGE accomplishment and a very impressive feat to watch.

This photo is of Palmer Larsen climbing in Joes Valley, Utah during a photo clinic I was teaching. The photo itself was easy to get, I was on the ground, didn’t have to get in any weird positions, lighting wasn’t great but Palmer is notorious for making some really good try hard faces so I like how it turned out!

This photo is of my friend Bree Buckley, taken in Key Hole Canyon in Zion National Park. Neither Bree or I own a dry suit, or like to spend money…so we opted to do this wet canyon in our street clothes (not recommended). In this photo we were both soaking wet, and very cold. It took a lot for me to break out my camera, all I wanted to do was run and get to the sun as fast as possible!

This photo is from my most recent trip. I was on Denali, in Alaska with my friend Katie Bono. Katie set the women’s speed record on the mountain and that was the reason we were there. This photo was taken from 14,000ft, we stayed there for about 8-9 days acclimating. Katie would get out to pee around midnight (sunset) and tell me I had to see the sunset on Mt. Foraker. I brought a pee bottle with me so I wouldn’t have to get out of the tent when it was freezing cold, but was easily convinced and did not regret it.

Adventure Journal is free but relies on reader support to make stories like this possible. Please join the thousands of your fellow adventurers and subscribe to our amazing printed quarterly or pick up an issue here.


Leave a Comment

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!

Thanks for signing up! Our Daily Digest is on its way to your inbox.

Share This