Higher ground

A chance en­counter with a band of in­trepid climbers on a French alp proves re­ward­ing for a bud­ding pho­tog­ra­pher, re­ports Barry Oliver

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

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’

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