I climbed thirty minutes up the road from Parzan to the start of the walk. When I arrived I saw a taxi card nailed to a fence post. It was a difficult decision: how much would the taxi cost, how long would I have to wait. I walked back to Parzan. What I didn’t expect was no answer at all, after I asked a Spanish woman to make the call for me in the cafe where the previous night I’d spoken with a friend. I wasted an hour and a certain amount of energy. It was hot. My rucksack was heavy. I didn’t want to undertake the long tedious climb up the track to the Ordizeto lake and Collata Chistau. Last time I hitched a lift and was very glad of it. At the top, Jose chatted with me for an hour giving me Pyrenees advice while his pretty wife looked after their toddler. “Get down to Benasque as fast as you can” he said. Use it as a base for day walks, don’t be confined to the HRP. They enjoyed the lake and I then descended to Viados. As I neared the top this year the rain started, gently at first then stronger. I stopped to recover Goretex jacket and trousers from my rucksack. Gloves and hat too. The wind started and it was suddenly winter in august. I was cold. I didn’t know the Collata Chistau hut was there but was glad of it. Two French chaps were sheltering inside, halfway through the GR11. They told me one day the temperature had dropped twenty degrees in ten minutes. When they left I considered sleeping in the hut. It was difficult to judge but I wasn’t prepared if the weather became worse. My layers were adequate but not if it became colder. My sandals and Goretex socks were sufficient for a few hours but not for an extended time. I reasoned the conditions would improve if I set off down to Viados and brisk walking would warm me. You don’t find that advice in hill walking books because it’s a borderline strategy. I do however sometimes rely on it. I was tired, cold, wet, disconsolate, and worried for my safety. It was the worst day of my trip, possibly the worst ever in the Pyrenees. The view here is looking back towards Parzan as the weather started to turn. I considered retreating and changing my plans, calculating the travel connections I would need. Paradoxically, this is one of the most poignant photographs from my trip.

 

Pyrenees Photography Book: Collata Chistau

Friday December 27, 2013

 
Notes From The Mountains: Photographic Composition And Light

Photographic composition is both an art and a science. The science part of it can be taught technically with reference to the Rule of Thirds, leading lines and the psychology of the gaze: what attracts your attention in a shot, where does your eye travel, and why? The art part of composition is more vague and nebulous because it concerns subjective feelings. Ultimately, as in art so with photography, we like what we like and there’s…


 
Notes From The Mountains: Authentic Photography And The Lake District

Difference between entertainment mountain material, and my experience mountain material. I will write about this. pic.twitter.com/WnzqSN6VPg— James Lomax (@james__lomax) February 7, 2014 I was recently struck by the above realisation. There’s a difference between writing, photography and video designed to entertain, and that which expresses something more personal and direct. Are you aiming for an audience or something more intangible? Trying to capture interest or inviting it? Serenity or action – and which is the more…


 
Notes From The Mountains: Photo, Video, Dreams

About fourteen months ago I bought a Sony RX100 for two reasons. I wanted a video tool and preferred the ergonomics of a compact camera rather than a video cam as such. I wanted a back up to my DSLR which would also serve as a useful extension for photographic work. This meant two things: a zoom range beyond my Canon L Series 17-40, and inconspicuous size useful for street photography. Any compact camera gives…


 
Eccentric Hills

Pre-dawn starts are the way to go. I knew it was going to be a good one as soon as I left the trees, the first faint traces of red backlighting gravid cloud. It peaked at 08:30 – and ten minutes later it was over. I’d seen the same thing walking through Inverness the previous morning, shifting layers of pink and red cloud lit up with pinpoint clarity; I could hardly take my eyes…


 
Robert Macfarlane, Nan Shepherd, The Cairngorms

I don’t think there’s enough poetry, philosophy, rapturous appreciation of the hills. Look at the books, and you find overwhelming emphasis on heroic battling and the claiming of summits. Look at the magazines, and you find a constrained format with a particular house style. Look at the big films and you find The White Spider, Touching The Void, Everest assaults and similar. It’s tedious. With my literary background I want a great deal more than the…


 
Cameras For Mountain Photography

I bought my first digital SLR many years ago after waiting for the quality to improve and the price to drop. It was right on the cusp of it, because prior to the Canon 10D reports suggested DSLRs were inferior to film and they were too expensive. The reason why the first sensors were cropped in size is because they were so expensive to manufacture. It was the same with full frame sensors concerning cost. Way…


 
Great Gable Cloud Inversion: A Lake District Walk

Through the summer, the landscape’s most frequent mood had been dim and gloomy. The damp air coming through the window was rich with the fragrance of rot and growth, and to the eye it had much the same shimmering dense quality as looking through a telescope. The burden of moisture in the air worked on perception as optics of poor quality do, distorting, expanding, and diminishing distance and altitude, altering the sense of mass moment…


 
A Walk Through The Alps: Mountain Photography And Manipulation

Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit – Edward Abbey Everything’s choreographed now, it’s fucking rubbish – Noel Gallagher We will teach our twisted speech to the young believers – Joe Strummer To conclude my reflections on the topic of photography and manipulation I’ll refer to the work of a former colleague. I’ll consider the term manipulation in more subtle and complex terms which are not confined to photography technique, but I use…


 
Mountain Photography And Manipulation (2)

In a previous article I referred to the aesthetic limits of traditional film photography and how they remain an important part of the digital medium. This is historic if you are interested in the cultural history of photography and pedagogic, aesthetic, and ideological as follows. Many young people have little or no experience of photography beyond an automated compact camera or iPhone. It’s peculiarly difficult teaching such people – and with adults too – for those…


 
Photography Twitter And British Hill Walking

Twitter and the Internet There was a recent internet debate about the authenticity of mountain photography in which I participated. I’m going to comment on what happened addressing the following points: social media, what authenticity means to me, and what it means for photography. It started at Twitter and I’ve since read this perceptive essay by writer Kathryn Schulz whose book Being Wrong is worth reading. She talks about her experience of the internet and “social media”…