Monte Cervino, as the Italians prefer, or the German name, the Matterhorn – is an absolutely fascinating and spectacular peak. A good friend of mine was kind enough to give me a copy of a book that he wrote based on his travel around the world as a pro photographer, – his photos of this craggy, pyramidal giant rising into the skies got me inspired to want to go and see this mountain for myself.
The town of Zermatt is the base for the Matterhorn – it’s a car free city, so you travel to nearby Tasch, and then take a train into Zermatt itself. I gave myself 2 days to shoot there which I hoped would be enough. After boarding the train in Tasch, I was pretty excited to see how the peak would look – it’s not visible from the train terminal in Tasch, and so as we approached Zermatt, I was waiting for my first sight with much anticipation.
It was not a disappointment, I have to say – the sight of the 4478m peak from Zermatt is literally overpowering – the mountain absolutely dominates the skyline. I arrived in the early evening, just after sunset after travelling from Milan, and stood for quite a while just staring at the mountain – the enormity of it was almost hypnotic!
Eventually I headed off to find my digs for the night – from my room, I had a great view of the mountain, and it wasn’t long before I was venturing through Zermatt, camera gear primed, to see if I could bag a night shot or two for myself.
This first image is from that shoot – the sky was not completely clear, especially around the peak – and it turned out to be very favourable. As I began to shoot from a vantage point in the city, there was some lovely cloud circulating around the peak – I believe the Matterhorn often has what is known as a ‘banner cloud’ form around it – not sure if this was such a phenomena, but it was looking pretty good as the shots came out on the back of the camera.
I was able to time one of the shots so that the peak was just about visible, and with the cloud moving fast, and a longer exposure, I captured a nice sense of movement. This image was shot at a longer focal length, 116m to fill the frame well.
Next morning I was up an hour before 1st light to try to catch another view of the mountain that I really hoped to get – Alpine Glow hitting the peak . I wandered to the same sort of area as I’d shot from the night before, and got myself set up with a pleasing composition ( to me anyway! ) – It was then a waiting game, hoping that the big event would occur. After about 30 minutes, I started to notice the very tip of the mountain developing a warmer tone, and within a few minutes, it had developed into what you see below – Alpine Glow is a beautiful sight to see – I really enjoy seeing images of mountains being lit up in this way, and it was as real privilege to witness this moment, particularly with my camera to record it. Looking at the image now, it’s interesting to me to note the plain blue, cloudless sky, normally this would switch me right off – on this occasion, it did me a sizeable favour! I ambled back to my hotel pretty pleased with my first 15 hours in Zermatt.
After a little rest in the hotel, I gathered my camping / camera gear together and made my way up to Rotenboden, a train station at 9235ft above sea level. My research prior to leaving home for this trip led me to believe that I might get some nice images overnight at an Alpine Lake named ‘Riffelsee’, so I took some gear with me to enable me to overnight at altitude if need be. Upon arriving at the station, it became clear that the remains of winter might be quite prohibitive to my plans – there was at least a foot of snow at that altitude, with very deep drifts.
After a hike through the snow to Riffelsee, I was met with a blanket of ice and snow covering the lovely Alpine lake!! Damn !! As a regular travelling shooter, I’ve come to realise that the plans we make as photographers sometimes don’t pan out as we envision them!! Not to be too disappointed, I began to fire off some shots at this altitude – it was quite soon after arriving that I noticed the clouds around the peak were thickening, – it was a snow storm approaching. The light began to get quite diffused as the weather system moved in – this last shot captured the drama of that moment quite well – foreboding cloud encircling the peak of the Matterhorn, and a darker mood descending around me.
It was just brilliant to be up this high shooting this scene, I really enjoyed it, and captured some other images at this altitude that I’m pretty happy with. Within about an hour the snow storm had completely whited out this area, so there was no overnight camp up here for me in the end – thats for another day now!!
So, shooting Cervino turned out to be a thrilling, unforgettable experience. Mountains fascinate me more and more as time goes on – I keep thinking that it would be interesting to start to climb them – who knows, maybe I will give it a go 🙂