A little over a week ago I spent 2 days in the mountains nearby, the Alpstein. These mountains are part of the Swiss Alps, sort of a northeastern promontory with a very interesting geology, craggy and steep ridges intercepted by lovely valleys and ‘Alps’.
I stayed overnight in an Auberge ‘Gasthaus Bollenwees’. The next morning I met a fellow photographer, Kathrin Grissemann. In a spontaneous decision we agreed to hike together a route up to the Säntis, the highest peak in this mountain range. We were spurred by the promise of improving weather, clearing skies and potentially awesome conditions for creating photographs.
We left after an extensive breakfast, but fairly late in the morning. I had been up at the crack of dawn to create some photographs in good light. A few of the images, I would find out later, turned out to be pretty good. Once downloaded, imported into Lightroom and viewed on a lager screen images are much easier scrutinized and judged.
So off we went Kathrin and I. We were hiking up a valley and as we climbed ever higher, passing the 2000 Meter mark, way above the tree line, we changed plans. Looking at the mountain saddle we had to cross we, I, got cold feet. I was unsure, if we could handle this more technical section. It was a gut-feeling more than anything, that made me change my mind. My gut has served me well in such situations in the past, so I tend to listen…
What to do, what are the options? A shortcut, a traverse across small crevasses intercepted with grassy patches, following Chamois trails promised to lead to another marked trail. The one that had forked off our initial route a few miles back. We wanted a shortcut because we were unwilling to go back and cover the same ground again, let alone loose all the altitude we had gained. We had been climbing steadily. But shortcuts in the mountains can be tricky, you never know what obstacles you encounter on the way. Anyway, we got lucky, had to do lot’s of ‘bouldering’, the going was a bit slow, but other than that we reached the marked trail unscratched. At the next fork on this trail we turned left and headed east, in the direction of the ‘Chreialpfirst’. We were again at over 2000 Meters and now the going was easy in contrast to the trail earlier on.
The view was spectacular and our spirits soared. In this state of happiness we reached the ‘Mutschsattel’, a pass leading into an other valley (Roslenalp), that would eventually return us in a roundabout way to out starting point in the morning. From there we would still have to walk out of the mountains for an other 2 hours, most of it downhill, but relatively easy going…
Well, we were walking in total for around 6 or 7 hours. It got me thinking? It was not my initial plan to walk so much. I was overcome by the ambition to cross this steep and somewhat technical ‘Altmann’ saddle, climb down the other side and reach the Rotsteinpass. The rest of the route I knew from and other trip. The ambition to see this route through to the end, got in the way of my own and maybe Kathrin’s photography plans. It changed them.
Creating images, especially landscape photography is a process where you have to slow down in your tracks, at least long enough, to occasionally smell the flowers. You may be at the right picture-taking-hight too now. Let the scenery, well all there is, absorb you and give yourself time to digest all the impressions. With a little time and experimenting you may see your compositions improve. Waiting minutes or whatever time it takes at a given spot, may provide better light, different light or more drama. This way you have a better chance, to come up with your own original way to capture what is before your eyes…
So get your priorities straight, hiking or shooting? The faster you go the more ground you cover, or slow down and return with more keeper photographs! The choice is yours.
An old song by Simon & Garfunkel just popped into my head:
Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin' groovy.
Ba da, Ba da, Ba da, Ba da... Feelin' Groovy...