IntroIn 2010 I left my job as an accountant in London and embarked on a European photography adventure. My plan was to travel from Provence through the Swiss and French Alps down into the heart of Italy and then make my way up to Slovenia via the Dolomites, part of the Italian Alps in the North-East corner of the country. Throughout the early part of my trip I kept hearing alluring accounts of the magnificence of the Dolomites. I would outline my itinerary to fellow hikers and travellers, and on the mention of “Dolomiti” (as they are called in Italian) a gleam would come into their eyes, “Ah, you know about the Dolomiti”.
And the reverence this range of mountains inspires is well deserved. They are certainly unlike any mountain range I have ever seen and for me, despite the best efforts of the Himalayas, Rockies, Andes and other classic ranges, by far the most spectacular in the world. The fine early autumn day my fiancée and I arrived we spent that first afternoon driving the mountain roads drinking in the scenery in a state of high excitement. The striking originality of this landscape lies in the contrast between the upper and lower parts of the mountains. Raise your hand to block out anything above 2,000 metres lying in your view you will find yourself gazing upon gentle rolling mountains covered with verdant forests and lush green meadowland scattered with old wooden barns. Enchanting villages complete with picturesque churches either nestle in the nooks and crannies, or perch precariously on the steep hillsides. But take your hand away, and soaring rocky spires are revealed, pinnacles and towers of limestone rising like skeletons of mountains up to 3,000 metres above the fairy-tale landscape below.
Well, we fell in love, and became determined to make this place home!
There are 18 major peaks in the region, some in isolated splendour, others forming great sweeping panoramas. The area is surprisingly easy to explore by car at any time of year, as many of the mountain roads go up to 2,000 metres and are kept open all winter (unlike those in the French or Swiss Alps). There is also a large ski lift network, with over 1,200 kilometres of piste covered by the Dolomiti Superski pass alone. Also in contrast to much of the Alps, although the ski lift network is a visible modern development in the landscape it is not so overwhelming as to be ugly and many mountains have been left entirely untouched. Venture down one of the many marked trails on foot and a little effort is quickly rewarded with tranquil solitude in which to enjoy special and magical vistas. A fantastic network of “Rifugi” (mountain huts) populate the upper reaches of the mountains where a hiker or climber can sleep in comfort. Some are simple shelters while others are luxurious; one such establishment even serves Cristal Champagne! It is also possible and permitted to camp overnight in the mountains for dawn and sunset shots, and this is my preferred style of accommodation.
Autumn in the Dolomites
Croda da Lago
Lago di Carezza
Detail in the Larch trees
Man and the landscapeFrom a photography perspective the interaction of man with the landscape has provided many interesting opportunities such as this shot of Val Di Funes, taken moments before sunset with the magnificent Odle range nestled behind the village St. Magdalena.
This image of the Wengen church in Alta Badia was captured in the pre-dawn twilight.
Pale di San Martino
This image of Pale Di San Martino was taken from the stunning Passo Rolle ski area.
Perhaps my most successful ski touring trip gave rise to this image of Mount Civetta. One late winter afternoon the cloudy stormy skies looked very promising. I threw on my ski touring gear and set off in search of locations in the Cinque Torri area. First up was a mid-afternoon shot of Croda da Lago. Caked in snow, surrounded in moody cloud and dappled with rays of sunlight I took my first keeper shot of the day.
I began to wait for sunset and dug a snow hole to keep warm, but presently I spied an even better vantage point higher up the mountain. To the alarm of my fiancée who was watching from lower down the mountain getting there necessitated traversing a two metre wide ridge of snow with drops on either side. As I set off I received a phone call on my mobile phone. “Do you know there’s a big cliff just next to you?” my dearly beloved wanted to know. I assured her I did and was being careful and it was true – I was terrified. I set my sights on Rifugio Nuvolo, a summer only hut near the summit. At over 2500m the hut has incredible 360 degree views from the tiny summit with vertical cliffs in all directions. Heaven knows how it was built. Every way I looked there was a composition to be had and the sky filled me with hope and anticipation. As the sun got lower in the sky I photographed the last rays of light on Civetta and also shot towards the sun with incredible rays of sun bursting through the clouds. I gingerly skied back down across the terrifying ridge and lived to see another day.
Patience at Lagazuoi
For more of my images of the Dolomites, Italy, England, Scotland and more please visit my website: Dolomites Photography