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Visual storytelling: Val des Dix in the Swiss Alps

There are many trends in photography, which — as trends tend to do — come and go pretty quickly, but there is one that is probably going to stay: visual storytelling. Visual storytelling is based on the idea that a series of photos is more meaningful than one single photo. It took some time for me to let this idea sink in and I must admit that, initially, I regarded it as some vague concept from a bunch of photographic snobs. However, gradually I learnt that the idea holds some true merit. A set of photos covering a particular theme or subject simply comes across more powerful than a single photo, especially if the photos complement each other in what they reveal about that particular theme or subject. Moreover, it is quite pleasing to look at a series of photos that are related in terms of subject, atmosphere, or visual properties (such as color, luminosity, and contrast). I won’t even try to explain here why this works so well, but I do want to play with the idea and put it into practice on this blog. My intention is to post some visual stories documenting my trips to different parts of Europe.* Let me start with our visit this summer to the Val des Dix, a beautiful valley situated in the canton of Valais (Wallis) in the Swiss Alps.

My wife and I first visited this valley in 2005, when it was the backdrop of a beginner course in mountaineering that we had enrolled in. It was one of the most exciting experiences in the mountains we have ever had. One hut we stayed in was the Cabane des Dix, which is situated on a small hill overlooking most of the valley. During the course, we practiced lots of techniques, such as the most important knots, how to set up a rope team, and how to get out of a crevasse in a glacier (definitely the most exciting exercise of all). We also climbed two peaks: La Luette (3,548 m) and Pigne d’Arolla (3,798 m). During the ascend of the latter, I got fascinated by the Mont Blanc de Cheilon (3,870 m), which dominates the Val des Dix with its beautifully pyramid-shaped north face and the impressively thick layer of ice on top of it.

This summer, we revisited the valley with our two daughters of ten and twelve. Where in 2005, our starting point was the village of Arolla in the Val d’Hérens, this time we approached the valley through the nearby Val d’Hérémence. We started at the Barrage de la Grande-Dixence, one of the largest dams in the world, and hiked along the Lac des Dix (a giant lake formed by the dam) to finally ascend into the Val des Dix. The experience was magical, not only because of the jaw-dropping beauty of the area, but also because we very much enjoyed seeing our girls taking it all in for the first time. We stayed in the Cabane des Dix for one night and I took the afternoon, evening, and early morning to photograph its surroundings. The circumstances were great, with clouds moving in and out, constantly modifying the light into beautiful colors and patterns. In the early morning, I witnessed a true cloud inversion: there were clouds hanging at the bottom of the lower valley while the sky above was almost clear. The clouds slowly moved into the upper valley, surrounding the mountain hut, while being lit by the first beams of golden sunlight.

Way too many words for a visual story, I know, so let the photos do the rest of the talking.

The Val des Dix, photographed from around the Cabane des Dix. The snow-capped Pigne d’Arolla is visible in the upper right corner of the first shot. Back in 2005, it was a long way over the Glacier de Tsena Réfien before we reached its summit.

*After writing this post, I realized that some of my previous posts already contain visual stories, such as this one. I will just continue with it, but now more intentionally.

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