Monday, July 15, 2013

Switchbacks and Snowdrifts

One of the major disappointments from our trip through the Alps was the weather.  As scenic as specific areas were we could get no respite from the haze.  I have dealt with fog and low lying cloud covers before and at times they can make for some really intriguing compositions.  Click HERE or HERE or HERE for examples.

Haze not so much.  Haze can be useful for shots where there is a planned recession in the layering of peak lines or mesas, but that was not happening with the scenery available.  So in the end, I didn't shoot as much as I had planned that I might. 

After I got home and started processing what I did shoot, I started realizing I could mitigate some of the effects of the haze with Lightroom.  The final images would not be what would be captured on clear days, but it did make me wish I had shot more. 

On the day we first crossed over the spline of the Alps in Western Austria we took the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse.  The road is traversed slowly and for a fee as it passes through the Hohe Tauern National Park.  It reaches a highest point of 2504 meters, or 8215' with a view of the Grossglockner, the highest mountain in Austria at 3798m or 12,461'.  If you are looking to travel quickly, you take the autobahn from Munich to Innsbruck to Bolzano instead. 

As we crossed back and forth on the switchbacks, we stopped numerous times to take touristy pictures of the nephews standing on snow drifts etc.  At one of the stops we could look across the valley to the lower slopes of the Grossglockner.  When gravel and sand erode down the side of a mountain and into a dessert flat like Death Valley, it is called an Alluvial Flow.  As I looked across at one particular snow drift that was still melting, the mixture of snow and rocks reminded me of something similar though I don't know the geological name.



As we were looking across, we noticed the melting drift encompassed parts of a small narrow road with switchbacks as well.  We then saw a car drive up the road past one particularly treacherous looking stretch that crossed the drift, only to find after 7 more switchbacks, crossing the drift again was impossible.  After waiting for the car to back down to the previous switchback where it did a 13 point turn and headed back down the mountain across the drift at a creepingly slow rate, I took the image in today's post. 

I liked the tension between the manmade diagonals of the switchbacks being confronted and overwhelmed by the diagonal fingers of the drift itself.  The image was shot through a lot of haze as mentioned above, so there is much more processing than I would normally do, but sometimes, you have one shot and you take what you can get.

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