Dhaulagiri, in the Annapurna Region of Nepal, is the worlds 7th highest mountain, topping out at 8167 m (26,795 ft), and while I have no desire to climb so high, to gaze upon the beautiful ferocity of these icy slopes has been a life-long dream.
The combination of fate or good fortune has allowed me to make a living in some remarkable places in the world, and living in the mountains of South West China gives us access to plenty of wild places, including Tibet and the Himalaya.
As with many of my favorite images, there is an odd irony to this one. Juanli and I had spent about 3 weeks trekking through the Annapurna Sanctuary, having a great time, being exposed to wonderful mountain landscapes day after day, taking a relaxed itinerary through the park. We’d made it as far as Ghorepani, at the foot of the famous Poon Hill, with one of the finest Himalayan views before us. As I was here primarily to work on images for my night photography eBook, I was keen for an early start to make the most of the pre dawn moonlight.
3am saw Juanli, or guide and myself hiking the steep trail to the summit under a beautiful moon. The peaks were shining in the ethereal moonlight and mist hung in the valleys. It’s a steep trail, and breathlessness is par for the course, but the views transcend all fatigue.
We spent some hours on the summit and before too long the first tourists began to arrive, head torches blazing and voices raised beyond necessary. It’s a popular spot, and a must do stop on the itinerary of anyone trekking the Annapurna trails. There were still images to be taken, but by around 07:30 I was ready for bed again, and we made a quick running descent to our guesthouse.
Our bedroom window looked north, directly at the peak, and as the sun rose, shadows caressed the face of Dhaulagiri. I was tired, having been quite sleep-deprived for a few weeks, but the allure of the view forced me to set up my tripod right by the window and make some images. The light was not so harsh, but it was “past it’s best” and from the outset I was thinking in Black and White, allowing the graphic interplay of light and shadow to tell my stories. The clarity of the high altitude air did the rest, giving me a super-sharp image, well-exposed. All I need at the time of capture – sharp and exposed.
Reluctantly we drew the curtains and fell quickly into a deep sleep.
Months later, sat in my office in Yunnan, gazing north to our local big peak – Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, itself over 5500m (18000ft), it is not much of a stretch of my daydreaming to take me back to the high peaks of Nepal. Processing the image was straightforward, darken everything except the snowy peak, allowing the contrast to articulate the graphical nature of the scene; each crevasse and fluted ridge sharp and forbidding. Dozens have died in their attempts to climb this peak, the slopes make icy graves for the brave, foolhardy or unfortunate.
For me, to gaze on these peaks is reward enough, not to defile their slopes with my abandoned tents or oxygen cylinders; the paraphernalia necessary to keep me alive where the Alpine Chough and Himalayan Griffon Vultures play on the wind.