A blog post from Kamil Tamiola with some amazing photos.
Long exposure night photography plays an essential role in our portfolio. Motivated by the success of numerous photographs from Chamonix, but also very positive feedback, and clear demand for "how was it made" type of material, we have decided to put together "Let there be light". We have attempted to create a comprehensive micro-documentary, aimed at enthusiasts of outdoor photography who are making their first steps with this fantastic technique. On the other hand, we had a chance to test various pieces of gear, kindly donated by our invaluable sponsors: Rab, Redged, Clik Elite, Cameraland.nl, Photofuture, Lowe Alpine, Pocket Wizard before setting on more demanding outdoor assignments.
Our photographic excursion that eventually led to "Let there be light" documentary, starts in Chamonix, Mont Blanc in the very heart of French Alps. Aiguille du Midi, depicted below is believed to be the gateway to the northern part of the massif. In my humble opinion it is one of the most picturesque summits of the French Alps.
One of the most spectacular features of A. du Midi is the famous cable car that climbs more than 2.5 km of vertical granite wall, before reaching its final destination, the summit. On the photo above, you can see the view on the summit from the intermediate station.
Just after reaching the summit, one needs to start unpacking the gear, clear the ropes and put on harnesses. During summer the ridge that runs directly to Glacier Blanche (check the photos below) becomes rather thin and exposed. The descent during a windy day can prove to be problematic (we had 25kg+ of gear per person).
Another significant danger arises from numerous crevasses that expose severely fractured nature of alpine glaciers during summer season. Crossing of aforementioned "glacial grooves" requires some skill, experience and good judgment. It is sometimes wise to invest some extra time to scout the terrain for easier route and find a detour rather than risk your life pursuing the most "straightforward" path.
The last factor that I should mention here is the weather. A variable that renders mountaineering so exciting yet sometimes a risky endeavour. During our approach to the north face of La Tour Ronde (from Pointe Helbronner) low-level clouds were making this relatively straightforward route via glaciers a tedious task, forcing us to stop on numerous occasions due to complete lack of visibility.
Below, yet another example of whiteout, this time a short peak on our "camp" on Col du Midi.
Probably the most rewarding side of a ridiculously slow process of hauling loads of gear on glacier are the outstanding views on the surrounding summits, as the one with the teams of roped alpinists crossing the Vallee Blanche Glacie with prominent summits of: (from left to right) Grandes Jorasses, Arête de Rochefort, Mont Mallet, Aiguille de Rochefort and Dent du Géant.
The photograph below, demonstrates this point even further. The glacial plains, make the "surrounding" mountains "pop-out" even more creating the spectacular prominence effect.
The first part of long exposure photographs for "Let there be light" was taken on Col du Midi. A glacial plain spanning between Aiguille du Midi and Mont Blanc du Tacul. On the photos below you can see scenes from daily life in a small camp.
A clear, cold night! It’s the sign that we will have work to do (more detials in the documentary). The colder, the better. In the next shot, I am rigging the gear for the first long exposure phtoographs.
On the photo below, Lumi, bravely holding on to Redged tripod, warm and focused thanks to Rab Neutrino Endurance jacket, our favorite piece of RAB gear. In the background our new RAB Latok Mountain tent. It tooks some decent beating by the cold winds on the next day, yet it stood solid against unholly blasts :)
The outcome of the Col du Midi night photo shoot was outstanding. Many shots were featured by National Geographic International Edition and NG Traveler. The photo below has made to the cover and "scored" more than 160 000 LIKEs on Facebook. On the photograph, yours truly prepares a warm beverage for Lumi, around 3 a.m. In the background groups of climbers venture up the icy face of Tacul du Mont Blanc.
On this photograph you can see Grands Jorasses and Dent du Geant with the perplexing beam of light from the direction of Pointe Helbroner.
And... A glimpse of our camp at 4 am.
A wide angle perspective on climbers venturing up the north face of Mont Blanc du Tacul at 4 am.
An attempt to capture the essence of an early morning start: me and Lumi roped up against Deant du Geant and Grand Jorasses illuminated by the very first rays of morning sun.
Our camp at 5 am with the sout faces of Aiguille du Midi in the background.
As mentioned before, the first part of our photo excursion to the foothills of Mont Blanc was taking place in the vicinity of Aiguille du Midi and Mont Blanc du Tacul. However, in order to get different angles we have also visited the "Italian" side of this great range. Thereafter, next photographs were taken from our small camp located at the foothills of La Tour Ronde. On the photo below, our fellow climber, Santiago Katz, as seen on the approach to Aiguille d'Entreves on a stormy afternoon. In the background, the NE face of La Tour Ronde.
The alpine landscape looks far more appealing on a sunny day. A view on Deant du Geant. Clear inversion of the warm air can be observed in the glacial valley.
The very first day on the "Italian" side of the massif was very laid back. On the photo below, Lumi, warm and happy, enjoying a dinner at the foothills of La Tour Ronde.
On the second day, we have decided to do some basic climbing on the SE ridge of La Tour Ronde. On the photo below you can see a wide-angle perspective shot of our camp site.
Once we have reached the ride, we could not resist and started some basic climbing. However, we have found most of the rocks quite loose. The shot below is staged, as we were testing the light conditions and framing for a short promo video for Clik Elite and Redged. In the background the Brenva face of Mont Blanc in full sunlight.
Just after the arrival at our base camp we could enjoy the spectacular display of colors on the surrounding summits.
Strong winds and plummeting temperature were clear signs of an atmospheric front sweeping though the massif. Hence, we have decided to get rest and prepare for a long night of long exposure photos.
We have spent at least 5 hours outside, shooting the "Let there be light" footage outside our camp. The complementary footage has been acquired inside our small, heavily fortified Rab Latok tent, that stood very well against gusts of cold wind. In total, we have acquired 3h of raw footage, which has been "compressed" to 22 min. micro-documentary about long exposure night photography in Mont Blanc Massif.
I have to admit I am very pleased with the performance of our outdoor gear. The RAB clothing kept us warm and dry, even during prolonged period of complete lack of physical activity, shooting the outside-part of our footage. I want to also stress that it was the first time when we have been taking all our long exposure photos under relatively heavy wind conditions (50 kph+ gusts). I was afraid that our carbon fiber Redged tripods were simply not stable enough for these conditions. Once again, I was very positively surprised by the outcome of the photo shoot. 80% of the photographs were super-sharp even without using an extra weight attached to the tripods. "Let there be light" documentary will be available free of charge on the 4th of November.
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