There is an inherent beauty in attaining a pure representation of nature's most expressive fleeting moments in a photograph. Eager to learn the tricks of the trade from two seasoned professionals, a group of two dozen amateurs and semi-professionals have come together on the Santis for a workshop entitled 'light and the mountain landscape'. We are being hosted by photography school ViewFinder Center for Photography--and taught in English by owner Matthew Anderson and guest instructor Christian Heeb.
At 2,502 metres above sea level, Santis towers above the gentle hills of Appenzell like a natural fortress. The highest point of the Alpstein massif, it is said to offer views of six countries on a clear day. From my vantage point outside mountaintop lodge Alter Santis, I can pinpoint three of them straight ahead: Switzerland, Austria and Germany.
Lit by the late afternoon sun and offset beautifully against a backdrop of deep blue, endless sky, the mountains are bathed in a warm orange glow. The low light defines and contours the landscape, gracefully highlighting differences in topography and texture. As I turn the ring on my 28-300 millimetre lens, two hikers pop into focus on a nearby ridge. Zooming out, I can see the vast expanse of Lake Constance framed by the bustling city of Bregenz in Vorarlberg to the south, and Constance further north. After a spell of storms, we are unbelievably lucky with the weather.
I carefully study the scene of broken mountain ranges, deep valleys and emerald lakes through my viewfinder. Having decided to make the rugged peaks my centrepiece, I align the horizon along the top third of my picture and start metering the light. "Try to use the bluest part of the sky as your reference point," recommends professional photographer Matthew Anderson and quickly takes a shot to illustrate. A series of shutter buttons are pressed, as a number of students follow their teachers' example to capture this picture perfect moment.
This is the first of many photo shoots to take place on top of this landmark summit over the next two days.
Life explored in landscape
In order to inspire our muse, Heeb officially opens the workshop by showcasing powerful masterpieces from his collection of outstanding natural perspectives. Ranging from seascapes and moonscapes to cityscapes, each sample makes maximum use of a photographer's secret weapon--light.
"Light is what makes a picture; everything...