Tag Archives: Switzerland

An Evening in Zürich

Fraumunster and boats on the Linnat River, Zurich, Switzerland

I was in Zürich for one night with my wife and an exhausted toddler. It was the tail-end of a two-week train-bound vacation that had been extraordinary, but grueling. And Switzerland had squeezed our pocketbooks for all we were worth. Bringing our little caravan to an end in one of the world’s most expensive cities seemed like a bad idea. Our collective mentality seemed to be: “Let’s just check into our overpriced, 2-star student-project hotel and hide under our pillows until its time to fly home.” Continue reading

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Photographing Zermatt (Sans Matterhorn)

Wild ibex in front of Monte Rosa, near Zermatt, Switzerland

In a previous post about photographing the Matterhorn, I noted that the town of Zermatt was “nothing to scream about.” That might have been a bit harsh. True, Zermatt is choked with tourists and their souvenir-trinket fallout. True, many of the adjacent mountainsides are marred by cables, fat roads and disenchanting signs of the overzealous Swiss compulsion to engineer everything.

However, the location is sublime, and that would be the case even if you shaved the Matterhorn down to a nub. Situated at the top of the Mattertal — an impossibly long and deep valley and one of the headwaters of the Rhone River — Zermatt is surrounded by no less than five mountains exceeding 14,500 feet. These are the Pennine Alps, and they include Switzerland’s highest peak, Mount Rosa (pictured above with a completely real and not staged ibex). These mountains are utterly captivating.

Reflection on the Schwartzsee, near Zermatt, Switzerland

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How to Photograph the Matterhorn

how to photograph the matterhorn

Imagine you took the world’s 50 most famous mountains — Everest, K2, Denali, Fuji — and put their image on a flash card. Now imagine that you’ve flipped through the entire deck and quizzed yourself. Could you name most of these mountains based on their profile alone? The unique silhouette they cut into the sky? Odds are, only two of those mountains would be gimmes. Kilimanjaro and the Matterhorn. Even Kilimanjaro might be a maybe, but the Matterhorn? Their ain’t another mountain on earth that rivals its facade.

On the train ride into Zermatt last summer, I had my back to the town as we rolled up the tracks. What I saw in reverse was the sight of every passenger leaning out the train windows seeking their first glance of the Matterhorn. At one point, I turned around, looked up the hillside, and bam: there it was. The sight of it made my heart skip a beat. I’m not kidding.

Photographing the Matterhorn is easy. Creating a unique image that hasn’t been done before … now that’s hard. Here are some things I learned on how to photograph the Matterhorn during my all-too-brief stay in Zermatt last June. Continue reading

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Switzerland Through a Tilt-Shift Lens

Swiss flag flying off the back of a steam ship on Lake Lucerne

(Click on images for a larger view)

OK. So it’s been three months since we went to Switzerland, but I’m not done posting images. I’m just catastrophically slow at updating my blog now that I have my own business (by the way, check out our killer website, designed by HeyDay Creative).

On top of that, our little family has decided to move to a bigger house. Where this house will be, we don’t know yet, but getting our current place ready has been pretty consuming. The plus? Eventually, there will be new wall space in a new home to decorate with enlargements of Switzerland.

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The Moment: The Matterhorn Eclipses the Moon

A nearly full moon passes behind the Matterhorn's summit.

It took nearly an hour to discover what was happening.

We had hiked up to this meadow just outside Zermatt, on the trail that eventually leads to Zmutt and the North Face of the Matterhorn. It was getting hot, and Varenna was inspecting the gravel on the trail, handing her best specimens to Mom, and then pushing her stroller like the big girl she was proclaiming to be (“bick guhr! bick gurh!). We were all content, and not planning to go too far. After all, this appeared to be it: the iconic view of the Matterhorn, the one that conjures visions of alpenhorns and men yodeling “Ri-co-la” into the crisp glacial air.

But as we turned to head back to town, the moon was suddenly quite noticeable and on a very interesting course.

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The Semi-Complete Shooters Guide to: Berner Oberland (Part 2)

The North Face of the Eiger, Berner Oberland, Switzerland.

Photographing the Eiger…

Every story needs a bad guy. In the Book of the Berner Oberland, its the Eiger. Its history of mountain climbing is layered with one tragedy after another. From its Wikipedia page:

Since 1935, at least sixty-four climbers have died attempting the North Face, earning it the German nickname, Mordwand, or “murderous wall”, a play on the face’s German name Nordwand.

The mystique of this mountain is palpable the moment you lay eyes on it. From Männlichen, it appears like a blunt arrowhead piercing the clouds. From Kleine Scheidegg (above left), it resembles a lurking sharks fin. Both places are ideal spots for the classic Eiger photograph, but to capture images with a little more nuance, you really have to hike underneath the mountain’s legendary North Face.

We tooled around in the pastures underneath it at the Alpiglen train station (above right), located halfway between Kleine Scheidegg and Grindelwald, and it turned into one of the most transformative travel moments of my life. I’ll devote a whole blog post to it at some point, but in short, the Eiger began to shed loose ice chunks and snow plumbs in a display that was at once intimidating and exhilarating to witness. Our neighbor at the hotel hiked the North Face trail — which skirts beneath the entire length of the mountain — and he reported that at one point he discovered a single climbing glove beneath the rocks. Who knows how it got there, but it clearly captivated and slightly haunted him just seeing it there.

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The Semi-Complete Shooters Guide to: Berner Oberland (Part 1)

The Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau as seen from Männlichen, Berner Oberland, Switzerland.

Here’s my dilemma: I have too many good photos from the Berner Oberland for one post.

This has little to do with me and my photography skills. It has everything to do with the extreme beauty of the area. Never before have I been anywhere as dramatic and scenic as this alpine region smack in the middle of Switzerland. We spent almost an entire week here, and it still wasn’t enough. Every day was different, and we kept moving, but even then, I can’t pretend that I am a fountain of definitive photography knowledge on the area.

But what I did learn, I’m putting here, so hopefully there are a few kernels of insight.

In full disclosure, I ran out of time (and money) in the valley to shoot the following areas: Interlaken, Brienzsee, Thunersee, Jungfraujoch, Shilthorn/Piz Gloria, Schynige Platte, Gimmelwald, Grindelwald, First/Bachalpsee and — tops on my Unfinished Business List — Hinteres Lauterbrunnental.

That’s a ton. In fact, if you are reading this because you are researching a vacation in the area, it may sound like I didn’t see any of the big sights. Not true. There’s just simply that much to see and shoot in the Berner Oberland.

This post covers the following subjects:

  • The Lauterbrunnen Valley
  • The Jungfrau
  • The Jungfraubahn

Part 2 will cover:

  • The Eiger
  • The Mönch
  • Staubbach Falls
  • Mürren
  • Swiss life
  • Cows, cows, and more cows.

I’ve included a Google Map of these places — and where I took these images — at the bottom of this post.

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Alpenporn: Hardcore Swiss Mountain Vistas

A lone hut beneath the Jungfrau, Berner Oberland, Switzerland.

(Click on images for a larger view)

Go ahead. Ogle all you want.

The Jungfrau emerging from the mist, Berner Oberland, Switzerland.

Words often fail me. They fail me the most when it comes to mountains. Grandeur. Majesty. Magnificence. Please: those words are chumps when you are beneath the Jungfrau (above two images), a hulking mountain that towers over the Lauterbrunnen Valley like a glacier clad bully. It’s name (roughly translated as Young Girl in German) is hardly worth dissecting. It makes little sense. This peak is a beast.

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The Semi-Complete Shooters Guide to: Lucerne

The Chapel Bridge, Jesuit Church and a moored boat, Lucerne, Switzerland.

Lucerne is said to be one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. I still have a lot of Europe to cover, but its hard to imagine a cleaner, more idyllic, more photogenic city than Lucerne. The place seems designed for postcards, coffeetable books and small 1-inch-by-1-inch decorative chocolate wrappers.

To get my best shots in Lucerne, I made my way to these places:

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Switzerland: Desaturated, and in Black and White

A banner cloud drapes around the summit of the Matterhorn near Zermatt, Switzerland.

(Click on images for a larger view)

I recently spent two weeks touring around Switzerland with my wife and our one-year-old daughter. It was a magnificent trip — one of those get-it-out-of-my-system-now kinds of trips while Varenna is young and portable. Ha! That’s at least what we thought when we booked the trip in January. She’s a bit more … mobile, shall we say.

But we had a very good time, and ultimately, I was pleasantly surprised with the images I returned home with. In the moment, we both were a bit distracted trying to keep our daughter entertained, engaged, and safe. We worked hard every hour of the trip, just not on photography. Or so it seemed.

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