The Cirque de Gavarnie, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of nature’s most unique and spectacular creations. Located in the heart of the Pyrénées National Park, it forms part of France’s southern border with Spain. This cirque is described as a rocky cliff or wall that forms a curved amphitheater. It is about 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) wide at the top and 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) tall from the floor, with the surrounding peaks reaching an elevation of 3,248 meters (10,656 feet) in altitude. The centerpiece, Gavarnie Falls, is a waterfall fed by melting snow and a small glacier. At 423 meters (1,388 feet), it is the tallest waterfall in continental France.
Given its dramatic location, the cirque is known to be at the mercy of the forces of nature with the weather changing rapidly. I was lucky enough to be able to capture the surrounding cirque and its waterfall on this cloudy summer day after a 2 hour hike up with a 30 kg (66 lbs.) camera backpack. The scenery surrounding ‘nature’s coliseum’ is truly breathtaking and a true salve for the soul.
In capturing this natural awe-inspiring wonder, I focused on the feelings that the landscape evoked with its atmosphere, breadth, and individuality. As I entered the cirque, I saw woodland sweeping up to the yawning ice and snow-covered mountain tops with its wedding-veil waterfall. Then walking to the base of the Grande Cascade, I felt like a tiny part of a massive universe swirling around, a small speck in the face of nature. In the distance, I could hear the roar of a river carrying away the snowmelt. The sun disappeared behind the clouds and nearby mountains plunging the cirque into shadow; luckily, no thunderstorms were forecast for the area.
This VAST image is made of blended, focus-stacked, long exposure images, creating a single-column vertical panorama of the Gavarnie Falls. It describes the depths of my connection with the land, which I hope will resonate with others. The atmosphere that I aimed to invoke in this photo is the same as I experienced while immersed in the surroundings and was rendered speechless and miniscule by the beauty and immensity of the natural world.
This image won a Bronze Award in the 2020 Epson International Pano Awards.