Breithorn

This is one of the great views across the Gorner Glacier from the Monte Rosa Hut Trail. The Mountain in the distance is the Breithorn – three miles away with a 1.4 mile summit ridge.

On this particular day I was ‘investigating’. I’ve walked this trail, which includes a glacier crossing, to the new Monte Rosa Hut before; and if you click the link above you can see images from that previous trip including images of the new mountain hut. That was a few years ago, and since then the glacier has shrunk further and on this recent re-visit I was intending to take a look and see how the situation had changed.

The answer is quite a lot. I didn’t actually reach the edge of the glacier. I spoke to mountaineers travelling back from the Hut who confirmed what I suspected: access to the glacier has got more difficult and now requires crampons – something I wasn’t carrying. And getting down to the edge of the glacier involves ladders and gangways – not a problem but a lot of effort. With that question resolved I was able to slow down and allow photography to be the priority.

Photography and mountain walking/climbing do not go easily together. Walking and climbing in the Alps are almost always about reaching an objective: a place, a ridge or a summit and returning to base or occasionally the next base for that night. Inevitably there is a schedule to keep to. Photography requires time – demands time – waiting for the light, that elusive break in the clouds, hunting for the best vantage point and a good composition. At best it slows you down, or it can easily add an hour to the day if repeated stops are made. At worst it is disruptive.

So every time I step out for a day in the Alps I have to make a decision. Is the walk more important than the images – are the images just the narrative (= visual memory) of the day? Or is the day an opportunity to slow down, allowing photography to dictate the pace; having the time to sit and wait for the light? A chance perhaps to hunt down the detail and find the images that, when walking, are missed or ignored.

On this particular day, I remembered from my previous visit, that there was some fascinating rock strata close to the point at which the trail descended sharply to the glacier’s edge. And for an hour or so I enjoyed simply pottering around with the camera, finding an interesting bit of rock, focusing in on a bit of the glacier below, and photographing the alpine flowers. It felt good.

The image above is just a foretaste of the rocks that I found. the next post will be rather more dramatic.

PS – the blue and white marking on the foreground boulder is a way-mark arrow. Paths in the Alps are well signposted. Valley walks are usually marked by yellow diamonds; more strenuous walks have red and white stripes; high alpine trails that have sustained difficulties of one sort or another and which should only be attempted by serious walkers are marked with blue and white stripes.

 

 

 

 

 

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Shapes

First impressions are often wrong, sometimes very wrong. My first glance as I approached this building did not inspire me. But when I crossed the road my opinion changed. Completely. I loved it.

This is the Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne which we were visiting to see ‘Ravillious and Co: The Pattern of Friendship’. It is a brilliant exhibition that explores in great detail the collaborations and relationships between Ravillious and his contemporaries in the 1920s, 30s and early 40s. The exhibition ends on 17 September but will travel to Sheffield Millennium Gallery from 7 October 2017 to 7 January 2018 and then to Compton Verney next year from March to June.

It’s not often that a new (to me) venue will excite both for what is being exhibited inside and for the structure of the building itself. This place did exactly that.

I was very lucky to see this on a sunny early Autumn day when the shadows were deep and the facade bright. The light was just right. All I had to do was find compositions that explored the inter-relationships between the various ‘shapes’ that were on show.

I’m quite certain that on another visit, other ideas will present themselves. In the meantime enjoy these images and I would be interested to know which one you prefer of the four shown above. Click on an image to see an enlargement.

The Towner Gallery opened in 2009. It was designed by internationally acclaimed Rick Mather Architects and was awarded an Architectural Achievement Award.

 

 

Posted in Architecture & Buildings | Tagged , , , | 20 Comments

Balcony Cafe

There are some buildings that I return to time and time again because they just appeal to me so much. This is the Balcony of the Backstage Cafe – part of the Backstage Boutique Hotel above the Cinema in the centre of Zermatt.

Click here and here to see two previous posts of this balcony. Depending on the weather there are some wonderful reflections to be seen in these floor-to-ceiling windows, but on this most recent occasion, on a cloudy day, I particularly liked the minimalist feel of the scene.

Do click on the image to see an enlargement, the image really comes to life if you do that.

 

 

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Goat Skin Throws

Our first morning on holiday in Saas Fee in the Swiss Alps started off with this image; shot on the terrace of our hotel immediately after breakfast. One of three seats cushioned by goat skin throws.

Saas Fee is a high Alpine traffic-free village advertised as the Pearl of the Alps. It’s the next valley eastwards from the Zermatt Valley. Compared to the bustle of Zermatt, Saas Fee is quiet, unspoilt, relaxed and not so well-known as the Zermatt valley; and it’s surrounded by a magnificent horseshoe of high peaks. I know the area well and I’ve photographed it many times. This year I was determined to find something different to photograph and the texture, flow and colours of this throw (and the two others below) got me off to a good start.

A herd of goats grazes the slopes of Hannig high above Saas Fee, cattle can be found in the lower fields close to the village. Every animal with a bell round its neck. Strangely didn’t see any Black Face Sheep here; they are common in the Zermatt valley where I don’t recall ever seeing cattle. Each valley is different, in so many ways.

 

 

 

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The Great Reveal

Back from two weeks in the Swiss Alps and it’s time to start working  my way through over 1,300 new image files, plus iPhone images. That’s going to take some time!

We were blessed with thirteen days of dry weather (unusual in the Alps), but there were a couple of occasions when it rained overnight. When you wake after overnight rain up high in the mountains, the world you look out on is likely to be swathed in cloud.

Don’t despair. Get the camera out, find a vantage point and be patient – and the clouds will start to lift and part. And if you are lucky you will observe The Great Reveal, as peak by peak the mountains shed their cloud coverings.

It is always a remarkable sight. These images were taken an hour apart, and the reason the sky is darker in one than the other is due to the direction of view. The second image was taken almost into the sun, the first at about ninety degrees away from the sun – note the cross on its summit.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been to the Alps, but all told it is well over thirty times, winter and summer. The mountains are now like old friends, well-loved and easily remembered. I still feel compelled to capture some of them yet again, but what I have tried to concentrate on this year are the finer details in wood, stone, rock and ice and as the next few weeks go by I will be posting images of what has captured my imagination.

And, of course, catching up with all those I follow – I’ve had a three-week break, which was welcome. It’s now exactly six years since I started this blog – I had no real idea what I was taking on or where it would lead. Click here to see that very first post.

Some of you have followed me for much of that time and we have got acquainted as members of this great community of photographers. I truly value our friendships. Starting this blog turned out to be one of the smartest things I have done. There have been 832 Posts, 2272 Images uploaded and now nearly 2,500 followers and subscribers. Those statistics are mind-boggling! Every day a new gallery of images lands on my desktop – a constant stream of inspiration and creativity. Every day I learn something new.

A very warm welcome to all who have started to follow me in recent weeks – I hope you enjoy what you see and it’s always good to receive your comments. And don’t forget that you can always click on an image to see a higher quality enlargement. It’s worth it.

Posted in MountainScape, Swiss Alps - Summer | Tagged , , , , , | 25 Comments

Please Explain

It is not uncommon to find pavements in London and elsewhere ‘marked up’ to indicate where cables run underground prior to the pavement being dug up, but this set of markings – that reminded me of Morse Code – were indecipherable to me.

Posted in Eclectica | Tagged | 15 Comments

Black Down again

We were back on Black Down last week, on a day of fleeting sunshine, and this is the panoramic view from the southern promontory looking out over the South Downs National Park and West Sussex.

This viewpoint is called The Temple of the Winds, named after a Bronze Age circular bank. The poet Alfred Lord Tennyson loved Black Down and must have stood on this spot many times.

This was our third visit to Black Down – click here and here to see those earlier posts. On each occasion I have photographed this view but not posted those images, which are shown below for the first time.

The real reason for going back a third time was that we expected the Heathers to be in flower and we were not disappointed. The two images below are straight out of the iPhone with a bit pf processing for Instagram where you will find me as @andyhooker.

This is a really special place and one that we will keep re-visiting.

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