LEAVE YOUR COMFORT ZONE
By Anja Kallenbach
My name is Anja and I am excited to welcome you to my first “think orange” blog post. I initially struggled with what to write about and then it hit me. I must tell the story about my first encounter with Photo Workshop Adventures and how it helped shape and drive my passion for photography in the years to come.
Three years ago in 2014, I met Michael Chinnici, Founder and CEO of Photo Workshop Adventures in Cinque Terre, Italy. He was photographing the sunset with his photo adventure guests. While we were waiting for the perfect light we chatted and got to know each other and have been friends ever since. I had just purchased my first camera about two months prior to my trip. It was an entry level Canon and to learn about photography I read and seriously studied all winter. I was looking forward to getting good results during the “blue hour”, the ideal time to capture an unforgettable image. This became my first favorite theme in photography: cities at the blue hour!
Michael and I got along so well that we have stayed in contact. Last year we spent some wonderful days together shooting my favorite place-the Dolomites. Michael knows my photographic journey from the beginning, so it’s a great honor for me to showcase my images. I have combined my first obsession-biking with my second obsession-mountains. I am absolutely addicted to mountains! First on my bike and then by climbing on foot. Mountains are an incredible playground for landscape photography, and for now, my absolute favorite photography theme is the Milky Way!
It is often incredibly hard to reach the mountain’s summit to gain the best view and to get the best shots, especially with all of the necessary photo equipment, as well as a warm sleeping bag, a tent, and a 44 pound-plus backpack! You really have to be ready to leave your comfort zone, but only then will you experience some unforgettable moments!
I’d like to tell you about one of those unforgettable experiences I had on a wonderful weekend that I spent in the Wägital, an almost unknown hidden treasure in the heart of Switzerland. I have often camped in the mountains, and in snow, but this was a new experience for me because I went out all alone! The avalanche risk was very high that weekend, so there was no question – to climb high would be too dangerous. I really wanted to stay home, but luckily I have a good friend, a mountain climber, who is like a travel guide for finding great places in the Alps. So on his suggestion off I went! These mountains are not very high and the path I planned to take is a hiking pass in the summer, so I assumed it would be easy – no problem for me.
The first morning I had trouble getting out of bed, as it was all grey and cold and no one was there to motivate me. But then I lifted my heavy backpack into my car and managed to get going. After a one hour drive I entered the Wägital Valley. Suddenly the fog lifted to a stunning sight of a clear lake with beautiful mountains surrounding it – what a treasure!
The beginning of the hiking path was a breeze to find, but that was the easy part! The first part of the climb was super steep. I had to fight for every step, my snow shoes kept slipping on stones under the snow, while I was being pulled backwards by my heavy backpack. There were so many fallen trees in the forest that there was no visible path, and with the snowfall, the signs were impossible to find. I had to turn around several times and search for a new route, and of course, ask myself if I could really manage the situation. And I was in a hurry, as all of this took more time than planned and I so didn’t want to miss the sunset! I then had to cross a river, which took up a lot of time, but then, right at sunset, as I was leaving the forest, what an incredible view I had! It made the long trek worth the effort!
Unfortunately, I was not at the top, but it was a wonderful place to be anyway. It was getting dark and cold very fast and there was no flat area where I could place a tent. I was extremely tired and hungry from fighting all day in the snow. Luckily, in the light of my headlamp, I stumbled upon a hay barn. Using my snow shovel I located the door and it was open! Before I could hide in my cozy sleeping bag, I braved the cold again and took some beautiful photos of the full moon. The snow was glittering like a thousand diamonds in the moonlight, That was really a must-see, truly a once-in-a-lifetime moment!
The night was short because my goal was to be at the top of the mountain at sunrise. I left part of my luggage at the hay barn, but it was still a lot of work to get there. It was incredibly steep and for each step I took forward, I slipped back two. Somehow I managed it and had the best breakfast view ever! And the sunrise was certainly not disappointing. On the way back I found this nice alp and spotted the only living beings, some wild goats. Unfortunately, I was not fast enough to get my camera out of the bag. The way back was hard and long and I was totally exhausted when I got to my car, but I was so very happy!
I highly recommend that at least once in your life you go into the wilderness all alone. Without wifi connection, just you and your camera! Your senses will be completely different and you’ll gain a new love for photography. Leave your comfort zone!
For my next blog post, I’ll take you chasing the Milky Way in the Dolomites!
If you are interested in a Dolomite Mountains Photo Adventure, please checkout Photo Workshop Adventures amazing once-in-a-lifetime trips by clicking one the highlighted link above or any of the photos. I am proud to be part of the team. Please write me below in the comments.
Anja lives in southwestern Germany near the Swiss, French and Italian borders which explains her proximity to some of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world.