Friday, October 21, 2011

ND Filters

ND Filters can be very useful for many things, but they are mostly used to reduce the amount of light, for instance when photographing waterfalls or seascapes.  I have been owning a ND 4 filter for quite some time now, but I find it still lets too much light go through.  The obvious choice to change that would be to purchase the famous Lee Big Stopper which is basically a 10 stop ND filter!  Yes, you read correctly:10 stops...! However, I wasn't able to find a store that was actually carrying it. Apparently, Lee is not producing enough of them and the demand is higher than the rate of production therefore nearly all stores are sold out. I decided to settle for the latest version of the HiTech 10 Stops, which is supposed to be very close in performances to the Lee Big Stopper. If you're interested in a real life comparison between these two filters, check this link:

In the meantime, I received my HiTech filter, but unfortunately I still haven't had enough time to test it.  Perhaps this coming weekend? I should take advantage of the last remaining autumn colors... before it gets too cold to get out and everything is dead and colorless.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Exploring Le Châtelard in the middle of the Swiss Alps

Less than 2 weeks ago, was my Dad's birthday.  As he really enjoys hiking and nature, we decided to surprise him with a trip to le Châtelard.  It's a small village in Valais, in the middle of the Swiss Alps very close to France and Italy. In Geneva, the weather was very foggy and one could barely see further than 10 meters away!

This is how thick the fog was
in Geneva the morning we left

What's unique about le Châtelard is that it features the steepest cable-car ride in the world!  At 87 degres in its steepest part, it's almost like going on an elevator ride!  The ride is a unique and truly impressive experience!

Looking down from the cable-car

At the end of the cable-car ride, we reached another station. This time, we had to take a mini-train ride which led us to the Emosson dam.  This little train looked like it was out of Disney Land!  Apparently it's even possible to rent the whole train for parties of 20 or over and enjoy an apéro while ridding the train through the Alps :)  This is certainly an exceptional experience which doesn't happen very often in a life-time for sure ;)

Enjoying the train ride
About to enter a tunnel; check out the
awesome view of the Alps in the distance!

We arrived at the destination at the bottom of the dam.  In order to reach the top of the dam, we had to take some kind of gondola for a few hundred meters.  We were rewarded with the following amazing sights:

View from the top of the Emosson dam

View of the Emosson lake

The view of the valley from the dam was simply astonishing. Unfortunately the photos don't do it justice!
Fall is right around the corner as you can already see from the orange foliage. That's the one great thing about autumn.

View of the valley and the mountain
range on the other side

The sight from a different angle

We crossed the dam to reach the other side.  Unfortunately in this season the days are not nearly as long as summer.  At aroun 16h30, the sun was already quite low, but in counterpart the colors were already quite nice.

Emosson's lake and its amazing autumn colors

Another shot of the same view; I can't decide
which one I like best (what do you think?)

Normally it's too late in the season to still find blueberries, but luckily we still managed to find a few that were quite tasty ;)  Here is another view of the lake from a different view point:

The lighting was fantastic

And then the view from the middle of the dam. We spotted quite a few trouts in the icy waters which were lucky enough to not get caught by a fisherman near by.

View from the center of the dam

Finally, we took the last train back to the cable-car station:

Family shot; unfortunately I didn't bring my tripod :(

Our last cable-car ride down the mountain:

Riding the cable-car back
to the village of Le Châtelard

On our way back, we decided to drive through France instead of Switzerland.  As the village is very close to the border, after a few minutes we were already in France and shortly we arrived in Chamonix where we could admire the famous Mont Blanc's glacier:

View of the Mont Blanc's glacier from Chamonix

I forgot to mention that this time around I didn't have my K5 with me as it was sent to Pentax for AF calibration. Instead, I used my old trusty K10D (from back in 2007 which is an eternity in digital photography time). I have to say the image quality is still very impressive and it remains a fantastic tool for taking landscape shots!