Mountains

Mountains are the cathedrals where I practice my religion.
— Anatoli Boukreev
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I certainly share Anatoli’s sentiment when thinking about and shooting mountains. I think I am at my happiest when I’m in the mountains, camera in hand. I’d never describe myself as a landscape photographer. However, place me in the Alps or the Scottish highlands with a camera and tripod and try to tear me away.

As well as the incredible views, mountains also invoke a strong emotional reaction, tapping deep into anyone who has an appreciation or passion for nature and the lives that form it. As Ansel Adams mused, “The whole world is, to me, very much "alive" - all the little growing things, even the rocks. I can't look at a swell bit of grass and earth, for instance, without feeling the essential life - the things going on - within them. The same goes for a mountain, or a bit of the ocean, or a magnificent piece of old wood.” For me mountains, more than anything else bring out this awareness of essential life in nature and an overall sense of peace.

When I started getting into photography I tended to gravitate to portraiture and social commentary but I always had an eye on great landscape photography, particularly works featuring mountains.  Therefore, I became well acquainted with the likes of Ansel Adam’s, Don McCullin and Peter Lik. I remember attending a Peter Lik exhibition in Australia and being blown away by the power of his imagery.

I have not shot extensive mountain imagery, but when I have, I have more often than not had the images of the above photographers in mind. Especially Don McCullin, which may seem like an odd choice compared to the perceived landscape master in Adams, but I really connected with the mood of McCullin’s eerie black and white landscapes.

In April, I had the chance to visit some friends in Veysonnaz, Switzerland. Veysonnaz is a very rugged, farming town and ski resort in winter. The town nestles in a valley surrounded by sharp alpine peaks, densely populated by pine forests and the odd hunter’s shack. I was blown away by the scenery and was glued to my viewfinder for much of the trip.

I was there for a week and in that time the weather changed dramatically. Initially, we propped up ominous, dark clouds that allowed little light to permeate onto the slopes. However, halfway through the week, the clouds broke and then disappeared completely leaving blue skies and sun in their place. The changing weather had a huge impact on the mood of the mountains. Under the thick cloud there was a constant ominous foreboding yet when the sun fought it’s way though a sense of calm filtered into the valley. Throughout both contrasting weather conditions however, the mountains retained a regal poise and a dominant presence in the valley. They also continuously summoned my awareness of essential life both natural in the forms of trees, earth, snow and rocks and man made in the form of; huts, dams, crosses and agriculture. I don’t currently have any trips booked in but I look forward to visiting my cathedrals again soon.