Half buried but alive

Winter is tough when for several months you are half buried in snow, but the coniferous trees of the Alps are used to it and they do indeed survive.

This image was taken within a minute or two of the image in my previous post featuring the North Face of the Matterhorn, click here to see that post. This image caught my eye because of its simple minimalism. One small tree, with an even smaller one balancing the composition with ski trails providing a link.

The main pistes around Zermatt can often be crowded and when they are it is safest to keep going at a steady pace just like one tends to do when driving on busy roads. School holidays, particularly the half-term holiday weeks in February, can result in over-crowding and lengthy queues for uphill lifts. We always avoid those weeks, and on our most recent trip I never had to queue for more than a couple of minutes.

The quietest pistes at Zermatt tend to be the ones from Schwarzsee down towards Stafelalp or Furi. The Hirli lift has now been extended and provides a way to get back up above Schwarzsee, but if you ignore that, then you are on the long way down to Zermatt, and in the middle of the day not many people are wanting to do that. At times it can feel like you are the only person on the mountain – in total silence.

This image was shot on the last day when I had decided to head down for lunch and then a quiet afternoon back in the village. The piste was almost empty. Under those conditions it’s nice to dawdle, pause, and admire the view and take a few pictures.

The Nikon is around my neck, the chest strap on my slim-line rucsac secures the camera to my chest so it doesn’t flap around. The lens cap is off (yes, off), the camera is ready to use. You may be shocked by that! Skiing with a thousand pounds worth of camera exposed to the elements! Am I crazy? Well, I don’t think so, but my wife might disagree! When the Nikon is out, I ski a little slower than normal and take care. The bonus is that I am primed to take a picture, and therefore pictures get taken. If the camera is in the rucsac, then its a hassle to unstrap the rucsac, get the camera out, and remove the lens cap without dropping/losing it (very easy to do that while wearing gloves). And if the camera is hidden away, then images get missed. Life is always a compromise and for each of us we have to weigh up the risks and benefits of a given situation and make our decisions accordingly.

A lot of the images I take in the Alps – summer and winter – are the result of being in a position to shoot immediately. Having your camera in hand sends a signal to your brain that says: I’m looking for pictures. Your eye is switched on, you are hyper-aware.

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About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'.
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13 Responses to Half buried but alive

  1. oneowner says:

    This is a wonderful composition, Andy. Your technique with the Nikon is working for you. I see no reason to change.

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    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Ken. I’m a skier who takes pictures to show where I’ve been, but I’m also a photographer who skis to find images. There’s a difference. You can’t be both at the same time. I ski fast to enjoy the exhilaration of the sport. Then I find the time to slow the pace, get the camera out and ‘See’.

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  2. Sue says:

    Life is, indeed, a compromise! Love the simple minimalism of this, Andy

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  3. seekraz says:

    Another beautiful image, Andy…very simple in composition, but elegant in what it represents…I can imagine the broader environment based upon what has been captured. And yes, I, too, hike with the camera out and ready to go…I agree that its ever presence primes the mind and eye to be ready to “see” what’s out there and photo worthy.

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    • LensScaper says:

      Good to hear we have similar approaches and attitudes, Scott. So many of my images have been the result of being prepared to ‘shoot’. If a camera is hidden, the mind becomes lazy I believe, and that laziness can lead to a ‘I can’t be bothered to extricate the camera’ attitude.

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  4. bluebrightly says:

    Brilliant narrative, very interesting, too. And gorgeous image, Andy. I really like the minimalist feeling and the way the arc of those tracks plays against the filigree of the tree’s branches. I love the sense of distance in this photo, too. You were inspired, I can feel it, and you had the tool you needed, right when you wanted it.
    It’s amazing how those alpine trees manage – I’ve seen them up on Mt. Rainer in winter and summer, and it’s impressive. 🙂

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  5. Vicki says:

    Totally agree. When I used to do Street Photography in the city centre, I always had the lens cap off, a fairly general camera setting and the camera in my hand (with my tiny backpack on my back to free both hands).

    I love the minimalistic image. (I think it takes more skill to capture this type of composition and draw the eye into the scene).

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    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Lynn. Opportunities are missed if we aren’t prepared. I do the same as you in cities too. Minimalism requires patience, I think. I only saw this because I was pausing repeatedly to take in the view, and my gaze just scanned the scene to find an image that somehow summed it up.

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  6. paula graham says:

    Wonderful story about you and your Nikon…and yes, gorgeous shot, as alwaysl

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