The changing seasonal moods of Switzerland’s Matterhorn
Joshua Earle shares his experience of travelling to Switzerland to photograph one of Europe's highest peaks in t wo contrasting seasons
AS A PHOTOGRAPHER I’ve always been drawn to mountain landscapes, as they provide the ideal dramatic background for a picture. Mountains also appeal to me purely as a travel experience: there’s something about how they make you feel small and yet also significant, in that moment, that I really enjoy. That’s what prompted me to photograph the Matterhorn during two different seasons. There are perhaps two or three lakes around the mountain where you can see its reflection in the water, and this is one of them: Stellisee near Zermatt. For the whole of the trip I took in summer I was chasing the sort of light you can see here, and the way one face of the mountain is lit up in the sunrise. I used a tripod to take the picture; that’s me you can see in the shot. The second photograph was taken the following year in late winter, so the ski season was almost over, and the landscape was very quiet. I’d been waiting for three days to take the shot. I had hiked in the snow up a slightly roundabout route to reach this spot, and then set up camp there. It’s not a camping experience I would recommend to beginners. Temperatures were around -8°C and I needed a sturdy spade to dig the small trench that I set up the tent in. When you do this, it’s important to know the area well, so that you can be certain you’re setting up on solid ground. Because of my previous trip to Zermatt, I knew where I was and that it was safe
to set it up where I did. It was very difficult to tell: the snow so deep that you couldn’t even see the benches along the trail by the lake. While I waited for the cloud that often hugs the peak of the Matterhorn to clear, and for the sky to gain the luminous quality it has in this picture, I had the chance to quietly absorb the majesty of this vast, nearly deserted landscape. I find travelling alone a freeing experience, because it gives you the space to observe your surroundings without interruptions. When the right weather arrived, I took a picture of the mountain in the same way as I’d done the previous summer, intending the two images to work as a pair. I like both images, but the winter one particularly takes me back to a really special, inspiring experience and the beauty of the mountain.