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Permanent Tourist

A personal website by Mark Howells-Mead

Going the extra mile

When I first started getting serious about my photography, I never thought that I would gain so much pleasure from landscape photography. I just couldn’t “see” the views and scenes that so many talented photographers seemed to conjure out of thin air. Then I went to the Lake District in England for a long weekend and began to “get it”: it’s not always about the wide views and majestic panoramas, but also about the details and the structure of a scene. What makes a scene stand out and what makes it photogenic?

The answer is manifold and it’s impossible to answer in a concise fashion. Learning to shoot landscape photographs in the Lake District was comparatively easy, given that there are picturesque views around every corner. The same can be said of Switzerland, too: every bend in the road in the alpine area has something about it to draw the eye.

The waterfall in this photo has always caught my eye, ever since I began touring the high alpine passes between Meiringen and Andermatt when they’re open in the summer months. Usually, this particular shot has been a mental note each time I pass on the final stages of a long day’s drive over Grimsel, Furka and Susten passes. “Next time, I’ll stop and take that photo.” This time, I decided to take advantage of glorious warm weather and the Easter bank holiday to go straight for my twin goals along this stretch of road: the Steingletscher glacier and this waterfall.

The roads over these passes are only completely open during the summer months due to their altitude and the large amounts of snow which fall and block the road out of season. This stretch of road leads up from the Alpin Center Sustenpass at Steingletscher and as you can see from the historic photo on the linked website, has been a popular destination for many years. In summer, the roads are prey to hundreds of motorcyclists and the deep valleys echo to the roars of exhausts and over-revved engines, making the area a relatively busy day out and one which hardly affords the visitor any real peace.

Landscape photography is a peaceful exercise for me and so it was great delight that I discovered how peaceful these upper reaches of the Susten pass are when the top section is closed. By parking near this waterfall and walking up the partially snow-covered road for about a mile or so, I discovered an easily accessible wonderland: peaceful enough for the marmots to scamper about and look surprised as I turned up and started setting up my tripod. The simple act of getting out of the car, donning a warm, windproof jacket and stretching my legs over easy ground provided a great couple of hours and both lovely photographs and lovely memories. Which goes to show that in Switzerland, going an extra mile past where most tourists stop and turn back results in some truly wonderful experiences, without necessarily going into dangerous territory or exerting a great deal of effort. All that’s needed is a warm jacket, some good shoes and a little care for one’s surroundings.