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Mer de Glace, Chamonix, France by Richard Gibbens

The Mer de Glace in the massif of Western Europe's highest mountain, Mont Blanc, near the meeting point of France, Italy and Switzerland. After a cloudy walk along the 'balcony' path from the Plan de l'Aiguille du Midi, we arrived here at the Signal Forbes (2198 metres) in light rain. Suddenly rents and tears appeared in the clouds, opening windows on this classic view. The viewpoint is named after James Forbes (1809-1868), who first described the bands of alternating light and dark ice on glaciers and after whom these are named. A delightful facsimile of "Travels through the Alps of Savoy and other parts of the Pennine chain : with observations on the phenomena of glaciers" can be found here: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=hvd.hnqpxa;view=1up;seq=16

I wonder what Forbes would have made of the impact of human activity on this great glacier. Shrunken it may be, but its gouging of the landscape is all the more stark, and it remains the centrepiece of an awe-inspiring scene.


Camera Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Lens Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM @35mm. UV filter only.
Aperture f/9
S/S 1/100sec
ISO 100
Additional Notes Hand held. Image Stabiliser ON. Backbutton autofocus with centre spot on the furthest foreground rocks, where they start to fall away towards the glacier. Keeping AF separate from shutter operation meant the camera didn't refocus itself on the distant glacier (infinity), which would have wasted the precious depth of field needed to maintain sharpness in the beautifully lit rocks at my feet. RAW file processed in Lightroom: Minor colour and tone adjustments and reduction of exposure in some sky areas with Lightroom graduated filters.
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4 Comments

    • Belated thanks Marco. I had only a few seconds to capture the ‘just right’ amount of illumination on the wet rocks – that transition between full sunlight that was way too harsh and distracting, and the approaching overcast sky that left the rocks too dark and robbed them of their subtle sheen. This was one of those occasions when I had to work more quickly and flexibly than a tripod permits, and I was grateful that with image stabilisation 1/100th second more or less guaranteed a critically sharp image for the beautiful texture and detail.

    • Yes, Jean-Paul, thank you – it was a very grand moment arriving at the Signal Forbes, as coming from the Plan de l’Aiguille du Midi one is suddenly at the viewpoint overlooking the glacier. A very dramatic arrival! And we had the good fortune that the moment coincided with this break in the weather – something it would have been difficult to plan. I appreciate your comment and your understanding of the pleasure of the experience.

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