I have a lot of friends who have found ways to use their cameras as a ticket to a pretty exciting life of travel and adventure. One of those dudes who I’ve been hearing about in recent years is Cameron Maier, AKA “Bear Cam.”
“He is a fucking party animal,” says Jonathan Siegrist, as if BearCam’s mustache wasn’t already a dead giveaway. “Like, wow. Super proud.”
Bear Cam, 28, was born in Denver, CO, but grew up in Delaware. He was always into biking, skateboarding and other outdoor sports, but really got into climbing at CSU in 2005. In 2007, he picked up a camera after seeing his lifelong friend Greg Mionski shooting photos and having fun with it.
Over the past few years, BearCam has been out shooting some pretty high-profile climbers. I reached out to BearCam to ask him to share a selection of his work, and answers some questions to find out more about his life as a budding professional photographer.
You’ve gotten the opportunity to travel with some well-known climbers over the past few years. How did you earn their trust?
I would say I have became friends with these climbers by not taking the experience too seriously, by having a sense of humor, being fun to be around and not being a pain in the ass during their process of trying to climb at their limits.
I’m there with them at the shit parts, when it’s raining or when we get lost—we share the whole experience together.
Also it helps that they see I get the content out in a timely manner, some athletes appreciate that, some less so, but I like to think it matters a little bit. We have a fun time while we are out “working.”
Maybe they like the funky world music I put in my videos? You know I’m always bringing the heat via the aux cord in the rental, too. Ask anyone.
Tell me a funny story.
My first trip abroad to Spain, when I met Dave Graham, Jon Cardwell and Andre DiFelice, was filled with crazy moments.
At the end of the trip, Andre and I had no money and we found what we thought was a free hostel to crash. Throughout the night, our roommates were burping, coughing, farting. We didn’t know what the hell was the matter with them. We woke up and stumbled into the breakfast area. The staff put out some vitamin-enhanced strawberry milk cartons, which were gone in the blink of an eye. Everyone was chain smoking. That’s when we realized we’d accidentally slept in a homeless shelter. It was really weird, we got the hell out of there via hitchhike and I vomited right after we got let off at the train station.
Every trip has some crazy times! Dave and I met a fun taxi cab driver who put us on his YouTube channel once, and last season in Spain we got to witness and partake in the Human Tower Festival, complete with a giant paella cook-off, which was really incredible!
What’s the biggest fuck-up you have made?
I would say the biggest fuck-ups I make aren’t in the field, but with logistics. Just spreading myself too thin and shooting too much. Makes for a pain in the ass when I am back home editing.
One time I hastily deleted a memory card with one of Dave Graham’s bigger sends of Sky and Derailed. Less important, there was some funny night footage of me on a V7, too. I wish I had that!
What is your favorite climbing photo that you have taken and why?
I think one that stands out is Nalle climbing his crazy slab FA Peahi V12 in Rocklands. I took a photo of him on his send burn, with some nice light and the composition is really pretty, I think. It was a natural, unstaged moment with some fresh light and composition. Those are the key elements of a good photo to me. And I think the climb is still unrepeated, so a little more special.
What hurdles have you faced in terms of making a career in the climbing world?
The whole “coming up” period sucks. But you have to go through it. I had a seasonal job at RMNP that let me save up and dirtbag and shoot in the off season. I would just shoot, shoot, shoot.
Spent time with the right people and showed them how I would follow through on my projects. Starting out I was shooting for barely enough to get to the next trip, borrowing money. I remember after spending a full summer season abroad, then coming back and wrapping up my edits and looking at my bank account like WTF!
None of my then-clients needed any work, and I wasn’t sure what was next. And then I got a lucky break with a film company wanting to license my footage, which carried me through the end of that year and allowed me to keep shooting. It was a lucky moment, but you know they say you have to make your own luck to be successful in this field, and I agree.
Any close calls?
Besides the occasional small rock/landslide or falling over on my clumsy-ass face, the one sketchy time that sticks out is on the multi-pitch route Silbergeier in the Ratikon, Switzerland.
It was my first time shooting a multi-pitch, and I jugged up in the hail to a ledge at the top of the 4th pitch, then when the hail became too much we bailed and I loaded my Gri-Gri backwards on the wet rope and zipped down the limestone slab, scrapping against it, totally out of control, to the next anchor.
Luckily the rope was tied off, and it was a low-angle pitch. But that was one instance I would prefer not to repeat.
Check out Bear Cam Media for more sick photos.