I've always had a secret love of mountains. The images I have in my mind of the huge forces that created them have always left me in awe and wonder. I quite often find myself trudging my gear along the footpaths of the Brecon Beacons mountain range near to where I live. I find the remoteness of some of the mountains so calming and relaxing. Quite often I won't even get the camera out but instead I'll lose myself in the moment as the dawn breaks or the day ends. It's been an ambition of mine for a long time to visit the Alps, so I finally took the plunge and booked a flight to Geneva
This was to be my first solo trip with the sole purpose of landscape photography. I've either travelled with another photographer or visited locations with my family and had to make sacrifices as a result. This time though it was all about the places I wanted to visit and the images I wanted to take. But there was one minor detail I overlooked with my planning!
When I plan a landscape shoot I usually plan it down to the finest detail. I planned to stay in Chamonix, near the base of Mont Blanc on the French/Italian border. I chose to visit during the off season when there would be less people around and the hotel rooms would be cheaper. As Chamonix is at the bottom of the Mont Blanc valley, to get anywhere up high, you need to use the cable cars. When I arrived at my hotel and tried to by a lift pass for the week I was hit with the news that a majority of the lifts were closed for their annual maintenance before the winter season kicks off. Great! This meant I had no choice but to hike up steep paths to get to my chosen locations. Or so it would seem.........
Fortunately, there was one lift still open and running. The magnificent Aiguille du Midi stands 12,605ft above the Chamonix Mont Blanc valley and is the highest point that can be reached by mechanical means in Europe (and possibly the world). The cable car ride up to the summit is worth the entry fee alone and is an adventure in itself. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the top and once at the summit the viewing platform offers stunning views over the Mont Blanc Massif and beyond.
Having never shot at this altitude before I was little overwhelmed at first and didn't know which was to point the camera. But I managed to find a view point that gave a view to the north of the Massif and it also included one of the many ridges used by alpinists to explore the mountain. I set the tripod up and used a Nikon 20mm f/1.8 lens together with a Lee Polariser and ND0.6 graduated filter to try and control the bright sky. What I was finding was the the polariser was turning the sky a deep inky blue colour which made me think that any image taken at that altitude would look amazing when converted to black and white.
With the shot in the bag it was time for some lunch in the cafe and to enjoy the cable car ride back down to the valley below.