Behind the Photo: Best of 2016 - Five Minutes
Like the last photo, "Mountain Spring", this photo also comes from Lac Blanc. This photo was taken in July on our first hike to Lac Blanc.
We woke up late and none of us were exactly motivated that morning. The night before was the night we went up to Lac d'Emosson; I can't speak for the other two, but I know I was tired and exhausted for the last few days of early mornings and late evenings.
We finally stopped procrastinating somewhere around 1pm and walked over to the La Flégère cable car. It's about a 15 minute walk from the Camping Mer de Glace campground that we had been staying at. Which, by the way, is a wonderful place. We stayed there last year and when we arrived this year, the owner remembered us. It was nice and welcoming, much needed after a few weeks on the road.
The cable car took us up to the the mid-way station where the ski area starts. From here you have two choices to hike to Lac Blanc: you can take the trail from the cable car station and hike up to the lake or you can take the Index chairlift up and hike down to the lake. Now the Chamonix information booklet states that the hike up is an easier hike, but longer. Not really knowing what we were getting in for, we opted for easier, but longer...
The hike starts with a downhill section, but this is very short and followed by an uphill climb for the next hour and forty five minutes. These are the Alps, so the terrain is steep which makes for a difficult time if you are, how do I say it...out of shape, like I most certainly was (am, whatever). By the first big bend of the hike, I had to stop and sit down because my shins were killing me. I most certainly was not prepared for a steep, relatively lengthy, hike in the mountains.
It felt like forever to get to the lake - each time we started the bottom of a climb we thought to ourselves, "it's gotta be over the next crest", just to get to the top and see that the trail went up yet again. Complaints aside, the views were spectacular - the mountains aggressively dropped into the valley below and as your eyes wandered across the valley you were greeted with the sharp peaks and carved canyons of the Mont Blanc massif. Truly breathtaking, and that's not just because the air is thinner up here than it is in the valley below.
We knew we were on limited time since we needed to catch the cable car back to the base, so we were frequently checking the time. I distinctly remember stopping at a trail junction, tired and out of breath, to tell Antonia that I wasn't sure we were going to make it - physically and with the time. We made the decision that we would climb up the last section and if it the lake wasn't there, we would turn back. Fortunately for us, the lake was and it was worth it!
The water is a turquoise color found in mountain regions. What causes this is finely ground rock, known as rock flour - this material stays in the water and when the sunlight hits the water, the particles distort the wavelengths of light reflecting back resulting in these shades of blues and greens. The color is truly incredible, and to top it off, the scenery surrounding the lake makes it all breathtaking. I walked around the lake to find a spot I could setup to take photos with Mont Blanc and the Mont Blanc massif as my backdrop.
I found a nice spot, set my camera up and started talking with a gentlemen from France (I presume France because he was speaking to me in French). I know very little French, I can say hello, goodbye, good evening, thank you and that's about it. He spoke about as much English as I spoke French, but through a game of charades, we managed to have a conversation about photography. I could see he didn't have a tripod and I was trying to offer mine up for him to use - it was interesting seeing as how we really didn't use words, but rather hand gestures and other forms of non-verbal communication. Eventually he figured out what I was trying to offer, thanked me, but stated he was good. I thought it was a good bit of fun.
Looking at the time, I was very limited. We had roughly an hour and a half hike back down and about an hour and thirty five minutes until the cable car closed... I had to hurry. Fortunately I have two cameras, so I was able to setup my one camera on my tripod, while hand holding my other to get some other images.
This particular image was created by stacking both my LEE big stopper and little stoppers on my filter holder. LEE has come out with a new filter called the Super Stopper, which allows you to dial your settings for 15 stops of light. I don't have one, though I do wish I had one, but for now the double stacked system works. LEE has a wonderful app that's designed for figuring out exposure values - this works out wonderful when you are working with the LEE system. They do send a paper guide with their filters, but I will admit, I'm rather clueless at figuring out the math for myself once you have reached the top of the paper scale. The app lets you dial in far more exposures and also has values for the super stopper, which was the basic guideline I used for my makeshift "16 stop" filter. (If you don't have the app, download it! For iPhone click here and for Android click here - this app is a must have for working with neutral density filters.)
I set my camera up, dialing in my exposure, checking the exposure guide app and then programmed my remote. All that was left was putting the filter holder on and pushing the start button on my remote. The result was a five minute long exposure (hence the title of the image) of the clouds passing through the peaks in the distance and the water moving slowly across the lake.
This was the last photo I grabbed before I had to pack up and we had to hurry down the mountain to catch the cable car. The trip to the lake was short, but it was sweet and definitely one to remember. I'm thankful for this image as it's one of my favorites and I'll always remember the story behind it.
I have also attached a video from the lake, so please enjoy.