Last winter images of the season

by Kristel Schneider


Col de la Croix Saint-Robert
March 2015


As nature was already showing all signs of Spring I decided to go out and take some last winter images.  Considering the warmer temperatures coming up this week I think this will probably be the last change for a nice photo day on snowshoes in my area. Last Friday (6th March 2015) I first drove to my favorite valley, Vallèe de Chaudefour, but  I was unlucky, the snow was already very soft so I had to walk to the middle of the valley to get some thicker snow. I decided to walk to the end of the valley on my snowshoes and enjoy the nice weather, great walk but no interesting photo-subjects for me, so the camera did not move the whole morning.

After a long lunch break I drove higher up  and saw that the road to Col de la Croix Saint-Robert  was still closed for traffic, a good sign!
I put my snowshoes on my camera bag and started walking up the closed road, higher up I could see a nice white open landscape . The weather was a bit too sunny, not what I had in mind for my last winter images of the season, but that is also nature photography, you have to work with what you have, you can’t have it all 😉
Knowing the area a bit without the snow, it was handy for me to have some landmarks and interesting point to photograph. For example a group of lonely trees on a hillside, that looked totally different now as it was surrounded with snow. Unfortunately in front of the trees I saw some elements that would be distracting in my frame,  so I decided to put myself flat on the floor to try to get an other angle. I used a  snowbank for a  ‘new’ foreground and looked for lines in my composition.


Another spot I wanted to visit was a group of birch trees, higher up.  These trees are  always a nice subject for me to explore.  At the spot  I noticed, by the many snowshoe tracks, that more people had the idea to walk to Col de la Croix Saint-Robert today. The composition I had in mind with the trees was impossible to do now so I had to be creative. With Puy de l’Angle in the background and just a small group of trees in the front I turned around to avoid the tracks in my frame.

Col-de-la-Croix-Saint-Robert_2I walked to the Puy de l’Angle,   overlooking a great winter scenery, ….nobody around…empty, with only the sound of some happy birds in the air and the cracking snow under my snowshoes.
Although I had hoped for a more exciting light, I had a great time exploring the area with my camera. Later in the afternoon, white stripes and clouds appeared in the blue sky and I had to make a decision, wait for a nice sundown or walk slowly back and be home before it got too dark. Looking at the sky I decided to be reasonable and not get disappointed by a closed sky.  I took some last images from the winter scenery and I know that next year I will definitely come back, earlier in the season with hopefully more snow and rougher weather conditions!Col-de-la-Croix-Saint-Robert_5 Col-de-la-Croix-Saint-Robert_5b

First winter shots

Vallée de Chaudefour | Auvergne | France

The two participants of last Sunday were lucky  during their one-on-one workshop.
Weather forecast prediction was good, snow and cold temperatures with some sun in the late afternoon .
The sun came unfortunately a bit earlier than planned, this meant that we had to act fast to get some  shots with ‘frosty trees ‘.
Skies were changing during the day and the mountain tops appeared from behind the clouds.
A nice beginning of the winter season !

© Kristel Schneider

© Kristel Schneider

© Kristel Schneider

© Kristel Schneider

Mountains in the sunset

Sunset Photography
by Kristel Schneider

Wow, what a reward it was after a hard climb up to a 1,746-meter height on snowshoes!


Puy de l’ angle – Massifs de l’ adventif
Auvergne | France

A snowshoe hike I will surely never forget.
That day was the 3rd time I got on a trail with snowshoes on, so the mere idea of climbing up to the top of the high mountains in the Sancy was exciting and hard at the same time, but also sounded like a real adventure. My friend, photographer Cyril Coudert had said, “Pack light: your bag has to be very comfortable! Bring a couple of lenses and remove everything you think you won’t use”. I followed the advice and took my only heavy lens, the Canon 70-200L lens.

We started to move around 4.00pm, along the Val de Courre, a beautiful valley now entirely covered in snow. The sun was getting lower and lower, its shades already visible in the whiteness of the snow. Looking to the summit, you could see an almost transparent line on top of the mountain range. The snow was a bit frozen on top and the only thing you could hear was our moves making that unique crispy sound at each step.


Val de Courre – Monts Dore
Auvergne | France


Val de Courre  – Monts Dore
Auvergne | France

Contrary to me, Cyril knows this part of the mountains by heart and he had started the hike with his mind set on a shot he really wanted to take. As a consequence, our goal was to reach the 1,746-meter height, and then, take a little break at the summit before we could head right and hike along the mountain range. This way we would see the Puy de l’Angle in the declining lights of the sunset.

Once we reached the mountain top, the view was so magnificent that we got carried away and forgot about the time: our little break had become a little longer than originally planned, and Cyril had to rush to his location to take the image he had had in mind for such a long time. The sunset was very light and delicate, and, as always, very short, so we had to act and work fast before night fell. I didn’t follow Cyril, and let him fulfill his dream-image: I was just there, looking around, overwhelmed in the beauty of the moment, totally unable to even consider composing a mental shot, let alone looking at the scene through a camera lens. At one point I really made myself think and get started not to get back home with an empty memory card.

Puy-de-Chabane-detail_other-wbPuy de Chabane (detail)
Auvergne | France

The scene was moving in an amazingly blue light lingering on the whiteness of the snow. It was really difficult to get what I think was the right foreground. As we were standing on the ridge of the mountain, there was no way I could move forward or backward, considering that it was slippery and steep.

As always when you merge in the beauty of a landscape and let yourself be guided by your camera, you totally forget about the time. That’s what happened then: time flew by and it was dark before we could even think twice. We sure had to hurry. Luckily enough my tripod was not being difficult on me that day and my cable release had just enough battery spare for me to take the last images I didn’t want to miss.


La tour carrée
Auvergne | France


Puy de Redon
Auvergne | France

Walking up was something, but it was nothing compared to the way down. There is no true word to define that trip down, even “adventure” doesn’t do it justice. The nice snow-covered valley was now a pool of darkness and the hill down a steep of ice. Cyril told me how to use the snowshoes efficiently not to slide all the way down, warning me about muscle-pain in the morrow! He did the walk backward: we only had one headlight and he wanted to be sure we stayed in contact with each other, in case.

And we made it! Safe back to the car. A trip that I will never forget, photography-wise (because I had to act fast in a difficult light) and mentally (because I think I passed all the mountain-hike tests in one go!

Trees in the winter

Trees in the winter
by Kristel Schneider

” Snow, chaos and trees”

Comparing earlier winters I experienced in the Auvergne, I can say this year was mild so far.  Last year I bought my own set of snow rackets but because of the lack of snow in my area I  decided yesterday  to look for some white powder higher up in the mountains.

Image by Cyril Coudert (2)

Kristel by Cyril Coudert


Readers who visit this blog more often know how much I love trees and one of the things I always wanted to do was walking on snow rackets in the forest. So together with photographer Cyril Coudert (partner from Massifs Centraux) I planned a photo day in the Sancy area (Auvergne, France).

Image by Cyril Coudert

Kristel by Cyril Coudert

Beech-tree-branch-in-winter_2Destination:  Vallée de la Fontaine Salée | Chastreix-Sancy  (1299m), the weather forecast was not that great but in the mountains it can change very fast so we gave it a try. Knowing that I had to walk for the first time on these snow rackets I decided to empty my camera bag. Camera body and only two lenses, the canon 24-105 and the canon 300 mm and my lunchbox + tripod.  Already missing my my 70-200mm lens, my favorite  ‘brick’ .
After walking for a while I was so happy with my earlier decision (LOL).

The tree branches had just enough snow to give it that little extra you like to see in your images. The view leaves gave a little touch of color in the brown/grey scenery.
The challenge was to find a nice  composition amongst the chaos.

Beech-tree-branch-in-winter Beech-tree-branch-in-winter_13

Hopefully next month the snow will return so that I can experiment some more in the winter forest. For more images click here

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