View from the top

Last winter while staying with family in the French alps we visited Chamonix and Mont Blanc. Newly opened was the Pas dans le Vide (Step into the Void), a glass box suspended off the Aiguille du Midi with a looooong straight drop underneath. The Aiguille du Midi is a peak adjacent to Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, which stands on the border between France and Italy. It is as close as you can get to Mont Blanc without hiking/climbing it. At just under 4,000m in altitude, the Aiguille du Midi takes two cablecars and an elevator to reach. From Chamonix at the bottom of the mountain, the top looks like a little dot (as seen in the first image).

I captured a lot of images while I was up there, today I’ll just focus on the eastern flank, where skiers negotiate a knife-edge of a ridge to a staging area where they can put on their skis in order to ski back down the mountain. I could barely take my eyes off all the peeps who were sidestepping along the ridge and then becoming tiny dots before disappearing from view. And check out the sheer drop off to the left of a group of skiers getting ready to go… Yikes…

•Aiguille du Midi, yep that little pimple on the top!
•Aiguille du Midi from Stage 2. You can see the glass cage on the right side, there’s actually a person in it.
•Two photos showing the bridge leading from Stage 2 to the Aiguille du Midi, accessed via elevator in the middle of the rock, with skiers hiking down the ridge in the background.
•Stage 2 with Chamonix way down in the bottom of the valley.

The following images show the area accessed from Stage 2 where the skiers negotiated the ridgeline down to the staging area before skiing the rest of the way down the mountain.  Italian and Swiss alps in the background.

And yes, I stepped into the void… 🙂



Gruyères Part 2 & Monochrome Madness

I’m combining my second post on Gruyères with this week’s Monochrome Madness submission which – unusual for me – doesn’t feature an animal! Don’t get used to it! 🙂 I liked the way the top of the gate – arched, with a thingamajig on top – echoes the shape of the mountain behind. And then there all the different straight line textures as well. It was surprising to me, when looking at a map or seeing the castle and town from a distance, to see how far away the mountains actually were…on site it felt like they were looming over my shoulder all the time, it felt as if I could almost reach out and touch them.

Anyway, back to MMC, to see everyone else’s great submissions head on over to Leanne Cole’s blog, click here.

Click on each image for larger view.Gate to Gruyères castle grounds, black and white


After lunch the rest of the family opted not to climb up to the castle (this was not their first trip to see it), so I made a whirlwind tour of it, just capturing images that caught my eye on the way around. I wish now I had images of the interior, but I didn’t have a tripod with me and I only saw a few of the rooms. Finding extensive history of the castle is difficult, so I resorted to Wikipedia, which has this to say about it.

“The castle was constructed between 1270 and 1282 in the typical square plan of the fortifications in Savoy. The end of the 15th century stands out as the golden age in the history of the counts. In 1476, count Louis takes part in the Burgundy war by the Confederates’ side. Following this deed of valour, modernization works were undertaken. The castle loses its fortress appearance to become a stately residence.”

Below: the entrance to the castleSteps to Gruyères castle entrance

The next 3 images show the forecourt of the castle.

Looking east from Gruyères castle forecourtLooking east from Gruyères castle forecourtLooking east from Gruyères castle forecourt

This small chapel, below, was also located in the castle forecourt next to, but outside the castle keep, which you can see next to it. There were tiny rooms, possibly cells (?), inside that tower that forms part of the keep wall, and it must have been miserably cold in there.

The small chapel in the Gruyères castle forecourt

Below are various views of and from the castle ramparts and include the French gardens within the castle walls…you can see the maze which in summer is filled with flowers.

Looking northeast from Gruyères castle ramparts

The maze garden in Gruyères castle from the ramparts Looking along Gruyères castle garden ramparts Ramparts next to Gruyères churchLooking east from Gruyères castle ramparts

Looking north along Gruyères castle garden ramparts

Looking down into the castle keep’s small courtyard. This part of the structure is the main living area.

Overlooking the courtyard in Gruyères castle

Looking out over the town from one of the castle windows, over top of the town towards, I think the southwest.

Looking west from inside Gruyères castle

The archway that leads into and out of the castle looking more or less southwest or SSW. The town is to the right, the church that you saw in yesterday’s post to the left.

Looking southwest from Gruyères castle entrance


Gruyères, Switzerland – Part 1

This time last year, while visiting family in the French Alps, we visited the picturesque medieval walled town of Gruyères, famous for its delicious cheese, cream and meringues. Gruyères is located in the foothills of the Swiss alps a couple of hours or so east of Geneva. The night before we drove there it had snowed lightly in the area, which made it even more beautiful.

The day we were there, most of the shops were closed. Only a single restaurant, a souvenir shop and a deli were open. On the plus side, there was a mere handful of other tourists which was wonderful. There were no crowds or lineups and I didn’t have to worry about people obscuring the subjects I wanted to capture in my images. My brother in law was disappointed that his favorite restaurant was closed, but it worked out just fine. We had lunch in the one restaurant that was open, thoroughly enjoying a totally delicious cheese fondue in the style of the region and we all ate far too much! Afterwards I was able to buy meringues and a large tub of Gruyères cream to indulge in at home, lol! I did a whirlwind tour of the castle before we all headed off to nearby Broc for a tour of Maison Cailler, the factory that produces superbly yummy chocolate, where we were treated to decadently rich hot chocolate and far too many chocolate samples! Definitely NOT a diet day!! Afterwards I felt like a beached whale! 🙂 🙂

I’m going to split this post in two, the second post will be featured tomorrow. Today’s images will show the walled town, and tomorrow we’ll take a look at the 13th century castle.

Images below:

1.  The walled town and the castle (off to the left) with the Alps in the background
2, 3.  Gruyères castle from the north.  The main entrance to the town (not accessible to vehicles)
5.  Looking west along the town’s only street, castle is behind me
6.  Dog lounging outside one of the town’s shops
7.  Seasonally-decorated window alcove
8.  View of the church
9.  View of the castle from the north side of the church
10. Looking the other way, the Chemin des Morts, whereby the dead were brought in from the surrounding area for burial in the town cemetery
11. The church from the castle’s easternmost ramparts
12. The archway leading from the castle to the rest of the town
13, 14, 15. Descending from the castle into the main part of town

Click on the images for larger view.

White Rock sunset

I was down at White Rock pier again yesterday. It had snowed lightly the day before and the temps were hovering around freezing and there was still snow on the pier decking, making the footing a little treacherous and icy. Once the sun got low on the horizon the colors in the sky started to put on a show.

The first image was captured from part way along the pier, looking approximately ESE, the volcano Mt. Baker on the left, and part of the Cascade range to the right of it. The Cascades are a pretty hefty range of mountains, yet Mt.Baker almost dwarfs them. The tide was on the way out and the gulls and ducks were hunting for clams and other edibles in the tidal pools and along the receding waterline.

Click on images for larger view.

The second image overlooks the pier a little later, looking in an approximately SW direction towards the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island in the background.


You can’t see me…

While out walking I came across this rabbit hiding in the grass. S/he was sure I couldn’t see her/him at first. I stayed very quiet and still for a while and then s/he started to groom his/her whiskers. So very cute!


Chamonix valley, France

While I was in France this summer, one of our day trips was to the Chamonix valley where we took a cablecar up to Planpraz in the Aiguilles Rouge mountain range, on the opposite side of the valley from Mont Blanc, at 4807m the highest mountain in the Alps, and also the highest mountain in the European Union.

Chamonix is a year-round resort, with skiing in winter and hiking and climbing in the summer. Each year a number of people die during activities in the Mont Blanc range, in fact the day these images were captured 6 hikers died on the Aiguille d’Argentiere which is one of the peaks near the Aiguille Verte (4122m) area of the Mont Blanc range, the really pointy peaks in these images. The weather changed very quickly while we were there and it’s thought the climbers were caught in it and fell to their deaths. The second to last (less colorful) image shows the Aiguille du Midi, 3842m. Not possible to see it in the size of this image, but at the top there’s a viewing area with a glass box that extends out over a straight drop-off (on the right of the mountain in this image) that people can step into…I did it shortly after it opened last winter. I’ll post images captured last winter later in the year.


Snow Geese in flight & Monochrome Madness Week 37 — 6 images

snow geese flying with mountains behind, monochrome

These are a few of my images of the snow geese that visit us each year on their way to and from their breeding grounds on Wrangell Island in the arctic. The above image shows them flying low over the intertidal zone just west of Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, a few miles south of Vancouver, BC. In the background are the silhouettes of the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island behind them. Georgia Strait, which is part of the Salish Sea, lies between the geese and the islands. This is the image I submitted to Leanne Cole’s and Laura Macky’s Monochrome Madness Challenge for this week. You can see everyone’s MMC images on Leanne’s blog, click here to visit.

Some of the geese overwinter along the Washington and southernmost BC coastline.


snow geese in flight, digital art treatment

Trio of snow geese approaching a landing

snow-goose-takeoff-2076-snow geese in flightflock of snow geese taking off