Tumblers_2

This is the second in this series of leaves that fell to earth. It’s a project that slows me down; time spent scanning the ground for potential compositions. Finding one, and then a little careful weeding – removing detritus, foreign objects, ugly stems, careful not to disturb the critical elements; simplifying the composition, but no re-arranging, and no additions (tempting at times). Click here to see the first in this series if you missed it.

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Tumblers

The leaves are falling. In the heat of summer (here in the UK) there was talk that Autumn would be very early and could be over by the end of September. Ha! Wrong! Despite the heat and the lack of rain, Autumn seems to be on a very typical schedule, it turns out.

The leaves are falling – actually that is a rather bland description of what happens. Leaves don’t fall: they tumble, they pirouette, they somersault, they twist and turn, they float, they fly, they are blown. Eventually, gravity wins, and they land: sometimes for good, but quite commonly only to be moved again by the wind. Ultimately they are grounded and they occupy a space relative to other leaves; not necessarily leaves from the same tree, or even the same genus. They are just THERE. By chance. They become part of the leaf litter. And this year’s project, for me, is to examine the leaf litter and find nature’s compositions. And so, natives of my neighbourhood will find me examining the ground, identifying a clutch of leaves and removing intrusive elements to reveal a composition. That composition is always about subtraction, not about re-arrangement or addition of elements. It is a process of ‘reveal’.

How this will develop, and how far I will get with it – heaven knows! It’s time-consuming and subject to the vagaries of the weather, but here is a starter for today, found a couple of days ago. Others will follow, I hope.

 

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Harley

I’ve never owned a Harley Davidson and I’m never likely to, but that doesn’t stop me getting excited by the sight of one, or the sound of one.

A couple of weeks ago we had an event in town called ‘AmeriCARna’. The town centre, for a day, was home to an astonishing collection of vintage American cars from the fifties, sixties and seventies. An era of extravagant styling when cars had fins and bling. There were also Corvettes and Mustangs and Hot Rods, and…. a large number of Harleys and other Bikes.

It was a great day and a lot of images were taken. An opportunity to get up close to the heart of a Harley – something I have wanted to do for a long time. What a stunning sight. It’s an engine, but so much more than just an engine – it’s a work of art. Beautiful.

 

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Patchwork Pattern

This is the facade of a building on Oxford Street. A very unusual 3D facade with geometric projections, each of which reflects the sky. I have photographed it several times, and on each occasion the overall effect is different. It looked particularly camera-worthy on this occasion.

 

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Window Art

A window never looks quite the same, I am discovering. Time of day, sun or no sun, viewing angle – they all affect what is reflected. And on this particular occasion the results were impressive.

The last few weeks have been busy for a variety of reasons and I haven’t been posting as often as I normally do, and neither have I had time to read and comment on those of you who I follow. Life’s sometimes like this – too many things on the go at once, and some things just don’t get done. It’s the start of a new working week, and I’m endeavouring to get back into a better routine.

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Where once there was a glacier

Zermatt sits at the SE end of a side valley off the major Rhone valley. A road and a railway provide access to it via a twenty-mile, narrow, dramatic gorge; but if you want to travel further you use your legs, or cable cars, or a rack and pinion (cog) mountain railway, or a variety of other up-lifts that operate in winter for winter sports enthusiasts.

Zermatt is surrounded by 4,000 metre peaks and it’s also a hub from which high valleys radiate like the spokes of a wheel. Some are broad and long, some are steep ravines – gaps between  mountains. Some lead to high passes (cols) that have been used for centuries as crossing points into adjoining valleys. And the majority of these valleys were once filled with glaciers – we know that through the clues that glaciers have left behind. Three cluesin particular. There are Erratics – the name given to large boulders found miles beyond the end of a glacier today but transported by one to that place millenia ago. Valley side walls and floors that have been smoothed by the passage of ice that carried small boulders and grit that acted as nature’s sandpaper on a giant scale; and debris that has been swept aside by a glacier’s progress forming lateral and terminal moraines. All provide evidence of the extent of glaciers long ago – in length and depth. Finally glaciers very often create flat-bottomed valleys.

And so, eventually, to the headline image of today’s post. A classic view of the majestic Matterhorn from the slopes of the Findeln valley, about a half-mile short of the Fluhalp mountain hut (Click here to see the hut in winter) – one of my favourite destinations. The view from Findeln is panoramic. The edge of Zermatt can be seen deep in valley lower right on the intersection of thirds. To the left of the Matterhorn the horizon marks the border with Italy, and in winter this area – known as the Matterhorn Glacier paradise – is one of the major ski areas. But the area I want to talk about today is the ‘U’ shaped, flat-bottomed valley to the right of the Matterhorn. This is the Schönbiel valley that runs past the north face of the Matterhorn. The snow slopes on the distant horizon mark the Col d’Herens, a crossing point into the Arolla valley, 10 miles distant from where this picture was taken. Click on the image to see it full size. The image below is a telephoto view of the same valley taken later on the same day when the light had softened considerably. Extracting a quality image from the RAW file was very difficult – I’m still not happy with the result despite a lot of work on it – but it tells a story.

It provides a bird’s eye view of the Schönbiel valley floor that was once filled with the Zmutt glacier. The grey slope on the right edge of the floor is the old glacier’s lateral moraine. A number of glaciers have fed into the Zmutt glacier from the left, and the right, and the slopes that fill the distant horizon. Click on the image and you will spot an oblong highlight on the small green slope just right of dead centre. That is the Schönbiel Hut – eight and a half miles away. To walk to that hut from Zermatt takes about five hours but it is an immensely rewarding walk. The last time I did that walk was six years ago and the next two images are views taken on that last walk from the path along the lateral moraine looking towards Findeln (the reverse view) and down onto the valley’s floor.

From Schonbiel lateral moraine to Findeln. Centre horizon: Rimpfischhorn, Strahlhorn, Adlerhorn (from Lt)

This valley floor, now resembling a river’s delta of multiple melt-water streams, was once covered by the Zmutt glacier. I remember standing here six years ago and thinking: I must explore that area sometime. Finally, last month I did exactly that.

It was a two and a half hour walk from Zermatt through the forested slopes on a 4×4 track to get to Stafelalp – a little collection of old hay lofts and a well-known restaurant. (You can see the line of the route sloping diagonally up and right in the topmost image). It was trying to rain most of the way up, barely a drizzle, and clouds and mist swirled around. Not ideal but as the day wore on I was actually quite pleased that it wasn’t full sun and blue skies – the subdued light seemed to suit the pictures that I was capturing.When I reached the edge of the valley floor there was a grandstand view of the lateral moraine and in the distance, on a small little hillock with mist behind it, the Schönbiel Hut was clearly visible. Looking back through the mist I had a telephoto view across to Findeln with the Fluhalp Hut easily spotted – see image below.I spent a couple of hours exploring the flat-bottomed valley floor that lay ahead of me. The water is harvested to generate electricity, one of a number of Hydro schemes around Zermatt. Sustainability is now a high priority and Zermatt is now self-sufficient in both power and water.

It is only when you start to walk this area that you realise how extensive it is. I covered only a fraction of it. A series of small dams control the water flows.

To one side, the rock wall at the foot of the N face of the Matterhorn has been smoothed by the original glacier’s progress.

A collection of inter-linked small lakes covers a wide area. Water levels were quite low when I visited and the lakes were carpeted by sedimentary deposits creating elegant lines.

In other areas water meandered its way through young forest.

And wild flowers added colour. This I believe is Alpine Willowherb (Epilobium Fleischeri).

There was so much to photograph and a lot yet to be explored. What struck me most was the fact that nature is an Artist. I saw it in the elegant lines created by water flows; the placement of rocks and boulders; and the shaping of the broader landscape. I must return her again. I am already thinking ahead to next summer, but before then there is a skiing season and this winter I will be back here again, skiing down from the lower slopes of the Matterhorn to Stafelalp and from there down the track to Zermatt. This flat-bottomed valley will be carpeted with snow.

Enjoy the gallery below. Click on the first image and navigate through.

 

 

 

 

 

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Forest Walk

There are some walks that I never tire of walking. And this is one of them. A short uphill walk from Zermatt leads to a balcony walk – a traverse – a couple of hundred feet above the village. It’s maybe only a mile or so in length and at it’s far end it drops back down through Winkelmatten at the top end of the village. A nice way to spend a quiet afternoon.

It’s all that a forest walk should be: a peaceful stroll, away from the crowds, and taken at a leisurely pace. I came across a quote yesterday from the American country singer, Carrie Underwood: ‘Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.’ I know exactly what she means. There were plenty of stops along this walk, and plenty of ‘roses’.

 

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