My first visit to the Cascade d’Ardent in France was too short, and I came away knowing that I’d left some great shots on the table. That’s never a satisfying feeling! So on my second trip I arrived with plenty of time to explore the smaller falls upstream.
It’s interesting to see how the water flow changes throughout the year, and I’m always surprised by how much it’s affected by the weather. On this occasion the river was pretty shallow, allowing me to get to spots like this that I didn’t dare to venture into before.
I’ve been caught out a few times in places I didn’t expect to be slippery and it’s always a quick wake up call! When the torrent is weaker it’s easier to get closer to the water, and it also reveals some nice details in the falls you might not see when they’re at at full strength.
Last time I visited the Cascade du Rouget I had to hike for an hour through snow. It was a nervy journey with a few slips here and there. Not my most enjoyable hike in the French Alps! As I parked the car just metres from the waterfall this summer I felt conflicted about the road being so close by. Surely something of such natural beauty was worthy of more effort than that?!
Unfortunately I actually prefer the wider composition of my winter shot. The falls are much more powerful in the summer, and there was way too much spray to get into the same position. I set up my tripod further to one side and started shooting, but it quickly became clear the spray was still going to be an issue.
I had to cover my lens with a lens cloth, start the 10-second timer I use for tripod shots to avoid camera shake, count to 9 and then remove the lens cloth just before the shutter opened. Of course this was not an exact science, and I had plenty of attempts where the lens got wet before the shot was taken or I removed the lens cloth too late. I should really invest in a remote shutter release!
Just after washing the elephants in a nearby river, I snapped this one wandering away from us back to the fields. I was very wet at the time and the afternoon heat was slowly drying me off. Our experience at the Elephant Nature Park was full of magical moments like this.
I recently spent some time going through my back catalogue of photos to clear some hard drive space. I took far too many photos of elephants during our day here! I guess you don’t have much choice if you want to capture the moment with unpredictable animals.
That reminds me of a quick Lightroom tip that may be helpful – if you press the ‘x’ key on a photo Lightroom will mark it as Rejected. You can go through a bunch of photos marking the ones you don’t want. Then select “Delete Rejected Photos” from the Photo menu options, and voila! All the bad eggs will be gone. It’s a nice way to make your workflow that little bit more efficient.
Hiking along the Grand Balcon Sud in the Chamonix valley was the highlight of my summer exploring the French Alps on foot. The 90 minute trek from the Index cablecar to Lac Blanc and the Lacs des Chéserys was full of incredible views no matter where I turned.
But the hike along the same path in the opposite direction was even better, with Mont Blanc in view almost the entire time. I took this shot just after I started hiking back to the cablecar station to head home. I really can’t recommend this route enough!
On the right you can see one of the Lacs des Chéserys, a beautiful collection of small mountain lakes at an altitude of 2111m. To the left in the distance is Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Europe at 4810m. From here I spent a bit more time shooting at the lake, before continuing my journey back up the rocky face behind it.
I’d been shooting with a wide angle lens all morning, but decided it was time to focus on the detail of the majestic mountains I could see in the distance. I sat down, switched to a long zoom lens and scanned the surrounding landscape for interesting features.
Something about this peak in the Mont Blanc massif caught my eye. I loved the leading line created by the mountain’s ridge. Following it from bottom to top I felt like I could imagine it climbing higher and higher as it was created, forged from the earth.
Mountains at high altitude often make great subjects for black and white photography. There’s so much contrast to play with between the snow-capped peaks, perfect blue sky and dark rock formations. I had great fun experimenting in Lightroom!
After seeing the wonderful beauty of Staubbach Falls up close and personal, the next item on our itinerary had a lot to live up to. But we did not need to worry in the slightest. Trümmelbach Falls proved to be one of the most awe-inspiring sights we’d seen (and heard) in Switzerland.
At the end of my walk to the Männlichen cable-car station from Kleine Scheidegg the real challenge began, although I didn’t know it at the time! The ascent to the top of the Männlichen is only around 1.6km in length and you gain just over 100m in height. Looking up at it from the cable-car station it didn’t look too bad, so I nonchalantly set off to reach the summit.
I was at around 2200m which I did not think of as very high. I had just been to the Top of Europe at the Jungfraujoch reaching over 3400m. I laughed in the face of 2200m after being up there! Evidently I wasn’t laughing quite so hard as after less than 5 minutes I was absolutely exhausted. I looked up and could see that I still had a very long way to go, and it only got steeper. I could feel my heart beating in my head and I knew that was a sign of serious altitude sickness. My mood had changed from one of joyfully walking up the mountain to concerns that I would faint at any moment. I decided to take it a little slower from that point on, one step at a time and lots of stops to rest and catch my breath.
When I finally reached the summit I felt a great sense of relief and accomplishment. The views from the top were slightly disappointing but I felt like I had achieved something in getting there, even though it only took 25 minutes. It was a hard 25 minutes and I was right there at the peak taking in the view. I thought that my struggle in making it to the top was down to my complete lack of fitness, and whilst that’s probably true I was quite pleased to see other people huffing and puffing when they got there as well.
My legs were aching more than I could ever remember, but the way back down was much easier. I could spend a bit more time thinking about the beautiful area of the world I was in, taking photos and enjoying the view. If I was to return I don’t think I’d walk to the top of the Männlichen a second time. It was great to do it once, but the views were probably not worth the climb given that it left me completely exhausted for the rest of the day. I expect if the skies had been clearer the views would have been much more spectacular with the backdrop of the Jungfrau and Eiger mountains in full view. Unfortunately it was not to be while I was visiting. If you’re planning to reach the summit I would recommend leaving it for the end of the day, as if you’re anything like me you’ll need some time to recover afterward. It’s probably not the best way to start a trek in the mountains!