_ds85233High above Zermatt you may come across small herds of goats or sheep. The goats vary in type, the sheep are always Valais Blacknose or Blackface sheep. They look very cute in the photographs on the web, where they are displayed at their pristine best – prepped for ‘showing’ I expect. Out in the wilds they are scruffy, and dirty.

In the heat of the day they tend to cluster in the shade, crowded together in an attempt to stay cool.

_ds85333I have not so far managed to capture an image worth showing of a whole sheep, but their wool, albeit in need of a wash, is quite a sight. Any girl would be proud of curls like that.

Posted in Swiss Alps - Summer | Tagged , | 13 Comments

A Different Pair

_ds84733Readers of this blog will know that I am what is sometimes called a Butterfly Photographer (and I don’t mean an interest in Lepidoptera). As I walk about, camera in hand, my mantra is: ‘Where’s the Picture?’ I never know what I will see next – my eye is constantly seeking out the next image, flitting from one genre to another. It makes for an interesting life, and in consequence I believe I have a far greater awareness of my immediate environment. And that awareness persists whether or not I have a camera with me.

Two images today. With similarities and differences. They were photographed just over a minute and a half apart and were almost within sight of each other.


I was aware of the discarded  pair of windows or doors and it was on my list of objects to be photographed. Moving on from there my eye alighted on the second image. Perhaps the geometric lines and tonal balance and colour of the first image were still being assimilated by my brain, and I saw a distant connection in the second. Both are about glass and framing. One is old, the other new.

Photography is always about connecting with our environment and with aspects of it. What attracts one person, but is dismissed by another as being un-photogenic, is what ultimately leads each one of us to develop our own distinctive voice as an artist.

Posted in Architecture & Buildings | Tagged , | 14 Comments

Matterhorn Golf

_ds84955Zermatt has a golf course, strange though that may sound. It is actually 5kms down the valley between Tasch and Randa where the valley floor is very flat. This image is a bird’s-eye view down onto it from the climb up to the Weisshorn Hut.

Even more strange, Zermatt has also has a Yacht Club. Really, it does. But they don’t sail a boat anywhere near Zermatt. Click here to read my Post about it.

Posted in Swiss Alps - Summer | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

I remember when…

_ds84808_3“I like to come and sit here, on this bench, every now and then. The river Visp is only a few metres away and I find the sound of the water very calming. And it shuts out all the other noises of Zermatt – the crowds don’t come down here for a start, they are busy spending money in the shops on Bahnhofstrasse!

My legs don’t work as well as they used to, and my eyesight is deteriorating – the problems of getting older are so annoying – but there’s not much wrong with my memory. I thank God for that. I just sit here  for a while, alone with my thoughts, and I think about how life once was: the good moments in life that I’ve lived through. I never dwell on the bad – nothing good comes from that.

I like this wall painting behind me, it’s of Pirmin Zurbriggen, a very famous Swiss skier who has a special place in the hearts of all the people of the Valais Canton.  He’s one of the most successful Swiss skiers of all time.

I remember the day when he was crowned Olympiasieger (Olympic Champion). That’s something I remember as if it was yesterday. It was 1988 and the winter games were held in Calgary, Canada. And Pirmin won the Gold Medal in the Downhill. We were all watching it on TV and I think the whole village erupted into cheering when he won. There were great celebrations that night! He wasn’t a Zermatt boy. He came from Saastal – the next valley eastwards from here. But we all celebrated that achievement together. All Switzerland celebrated.

The next year, 1989, he married a Zermatt girl – Monica Julen – and he became one of us. And after a few years he and Moni, as we call her, made Zermatt their home.”


I wasn’t sure how to title this post, or what to write initially, and then I came up with the idea of letting this elderly lady tell the story about the image behind her. I remember watching that Olympic Downhill race. Pirmin was hugely successful for a number of years and not just as a Downhill racer, he won at Slalom and Giant Slalom too. He was the overall World Cup Champion four times.

His wife, Monica Julen, is the younger sister of Heinz Julen who I mentioned a few days ago in Cafe Balcony. There is a fascinating article about the Julen family which is well worth a read if you have the time – click here to view. They are a hugely talented family all of whom have become successful in their own right. My very first climbs in the Zermatt area were in the company of Paul Julen, a Mountain Guide and a distant relative of the same family.

This mural has been in place for many years but this is the first time I have ever thought of photographing it. I spotted this lady sitting in front of it and could see the contrast between the elderly lady and the athletic skier. I dropped the Nikon down to hip height, looked the other way and took a couple of frames blind and unnoticed. Apart from a ’tilt’, the camera captured the scene. I processed it as you see it above. It was a cropped version of the original.

I looked at the image again yesterday and wondered if I had been right to crop out a much younger lady in pinkish trousers descending the steps at the right edge of the image. So, below, I have re-processed the image to include that figure.

Colour-wise she couldn’t be better dressed. But the question for you is this: does she add something to the image, or is she a distraction from the main story?

What do you think? Do, please, post a comment.

Finally, a warm welcome to a large number of recent followers of this blog. One of the pleasures of this photographic WordPress community is the way we interconnect. So if you have something to say or ‘like’ this post, then you know what to do.

Click on an image to see a higher quality enlargement.


Posted in Swiss Alps - Summer | Tagged , , , | 19 Comments

Lines in the Snow

_ds84681Surveying the view from 10,700ft up, at the Matterhorn Hut, I looked down on the Furgg Glacier – or what remains of it. Glaciers in the Alps are in retreat, quite dramatically in places, as clear evidence of climate change.

Mention the word ‘Glacier’ to many people and they think of ribbons of pristine whiteness with the occasional knife-like slash – evidence of a crevasse. In reality, in summer, glaciers tend to be nothing like that – usually dirty grey in colour and conveyor belts of rock debris. The image above is a view down onto the Furgg Glacier through a long lens – 375mm. In processing I have upped the contrast for aesthetic reasons.

The whitish areas are where snow is still lying, covering the underlying glacial ice. The grey areas are where the snow has melted revealing the ice – criss-crossed with crevasses which are formed where the ice has buckled and become distorted due to changes in the gradient of the underlying slope.

The image is semi-abstract. What attracts my attention the most are the lines that run through the image. Almost like contour lines drawn by an unseen hand. What has created these lines? The answer is that they are evidence of the tracks of stones, rocks, debris, dirty snow that has rolled, slid, trickled down the steep glacial slope cutting grooves in the snow cover.

The image below, zoomed-out, shows the proximity of a rock wall above the glacier that is the source of much of the debris. I don’t recall seeing a glacier quite so precisely etched as this one ever before.


Posted in Swiss Alps - Summer | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Drama or Picture perfect?


The view from Zermatt

The Matterhorn is the mountain that draws people to Zermatt. That has always been the case and will forever be the case. And every one who comes to Zermatt wants to see the perfect picture – the chocolate box shot, the postcard shot. The classic shot of the mountain against the backdrop of a clear blue sky. It’s what everyone has paid to come to Zermatt for.


The view from Schwarzsee

But the perfect shot, beautiful though it is, lacks drama. Of course the mountain is dramatic in itself, and when you see it in the flesh for the first time it really does take your breath away. It stands so improbably tall in the sky.

Drama really happens when the mountain acquires cloud.  And it very readily attracts cloud – it is a cloud magnet. And when the clouds obscure parts of the mountain, and the view changes by the minute, then the mountain to my mind gains stature. It becomes mysterious, moody, and at times even angry. It feels as if it becomes alive.

As a photographer, the Matterhorn in a bad mood, is more attractive for me than the pretty picture postcard shot that is universal and omnipresent.

Posted in Swiss Alps - Summer | Tagged , , , , | 22 Comments

Cafe Balcony

_ds84502There are some features of Zermatt that I photograph every time I visit, and this is one of them.

This is part of the frontage of the Heinz Julen designed Backstage Boutique Hotel in the centre of Zermatt. In the basement is a public cinema and the other levels include the hotel and an upstairs cafe which has this balcony area.

The light is always slightly different. The furnishing is precise, minimalist, and modern; and the glass is high-polished and reflective. It has all the elements of design that I find so appealing.

Posted in Architecture & Buildings, Swiss Alps - Summer | Tagged , , | 5 Comments