There are moments when photographs are planned months or even years ahead and others where nature’s magic just happens to unravel right in front of you at the right place and time. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate, the lighting is too flat, the season is wrong, or disaster may have struck and altered the scenery, but not on these days. On this particular summer day, it was a journey full of magic and surprises that all came together to capture this award-wining landscape image of the Vallée de Barèges in the Haute-Pyrénées.
The Pyrénées are known for their idiosyncratic weather and many micro-climates. The Vallée de Barèges is especially prone to the phenomenon of temperature inversion, when valleys become colder than the peaks, which protrude like islands from a sea of clouds. So was the case on the day of this photograph. Most of the valley was under low-level clouds and thick fog, and it was raining below. After checking the weather at different altitudes, I decided to venture out to higher altitudes and took the cable car ride to the Pic du Midi de Bigorre.
The Pic du Midi is recognized as an International Dark Sky Reserve and is a renowned astronomical center with an observatory, planetarium, museum, and suspended walkway brushing up against the clouds. When I reached the 2,877 meter (9,439 foot) summit the weather had cleared up, and I was able to gaze out over the most magnificent view of the Pyrénées range: 300 kilometers (186 miles) of peaks rose above the clouds, and pure mountain air filled my lungs.
Wanting to continue to immerse myself in my surroundings, I decided to hike down instead of taking the cable car ride back. As I was heading home after the long hike down the mountain with all my gear, I stumbled upon this beautiful fog event near the Col du Tourmalet, known as one of the “big three” stages in the Tour de France. I quickly set up my gear and stayed through dinner time and sunset to capture this magnificent phenomenon. At times like this, you have to react quickly and know exactly what you need to do to capture a VAST image.
This image won a Silver Award in the 2020 Epson International Pano Awards and was nominated as a finalist for the 14th Annual (2020) International Color Awards in the Nature Category.