A chance encounter with a band of intrepid climbers on a French alp proves rewarding for a budding photographer, reports Barry Oliver
HE jagged peaks of the French Alps cloaked in swirling cloud with a clutch of mountaineers ‘‘ dwarfed like ants’’ had Melbourne information technology consultant Chris Howarth reaching for her ever-present Canon 20D camera. ‘‘ I knew when I took the picture it was something special,’’ she says. ‘‘ I knew somewhere along the line I’d find a place for it.
‘‘ It was such a majestic view: Mt Blanc, like a crown in the background, and these tiny mountaineers in perspective. Just tiny ants, yet we do so much harm along the way. To me it conveyed man’s insignificance. In scale, we punch well above our weight in terms of the damage we do to our climate.’’
Howarth’s hiking holiday in France’s Aiguille du Midi region took place in September 2005 but it wasn’t until two years later that she found a perfect use for her
Tbest shot when she heard luxury international travel company Abercrombie & Kent was running a photographic competition based on climate change. Howarth’s arresting image — she calls it Man AgainstMajestyofMtBlancMassif — was a stand-out winner with the judges and has won her a $US18,000 ($20,260) trip for two to Antarctica, an area Howarth, an avid traveller, visited earlier this year, though she can’t wait to return for another look.
The competition, which attracted entries from across Australia, was part of A & K’s Climate Change Challenge worldwide effort to raise $US1 million this year — in partnership with the British-based charity Friends of Conservation — to fight global warming. The money will go towards conservation efforts on all seven continents, including buying essential scientific equipment to monitor environmental changes in the
Sujata Raman, managing director of A & K Australia and one of the competition judges, says the standard of entries was excellent. ‘‘ We had trouble cutting it down to a short list of 12. It wasn’t just in terms of the quality
‘ Antarctic. In Australia, A & K is helping fund work at the research station on northern Queensland’s Lizard Island into the effects of global warming on the Great Barrier Reef. of the photography but in terms of the creativity.’’
Travellers were asked to submit images capturing the sense and spirit of global landscapes or images capturing the quality of life and living in different global environments. Susan Kurosawa, editor of Travel & Indulgence and also a competition judge, echoes Raman’s remarks about the quality of entries. ‘‘ The diversity was astonishing, from spectacular landscapes and sunsets over the African savanna to small vignettes that illuminated the very essence of a destination.’’
The short list of 12 included a contemplative logger in northern NSW, a Mongolian horseman brandishing a primitive lasso on the steppes, a penguin stranded among bleached whale bones, a stark beach scene in Greenland and novice monks crossing a rushing stream in Laos.
Kurosawa says one of her favourites was of a group of carmine-robed monks in Tibet clustered together as one of their number peers into the viewfinder of a digital camera. ‘‘ There was a real sense of flipping the order of things here,’’ she says. ‘‘ I’d like to think the monks were photographing tourists, observing them as a curious species.’’
Raman says climate change is a subject many people are passionate about but there is even more concern among avid travellers who are keen to protect environments across the world.
‘‘ Throughout A & K’s 40 years of operation, the environment has been a central policy,’’ Raman says. ‘‘ Since founder Geoffrey Kent pioneered his first Kenyan safari, tourism has always been seen as a way of protecting and preserving the natural world. From Antarctica to the Himalayas, fragile ecosystems are
Top shot: Chris Howarth’s award-winning picture taken during a hiking holiday in France two years ago. To me it conveyed man’s insignificance,’ she says. We punch well above our weight in terms of the damage we do’