Le Grand Ballon

Last night or rather this morning actually, (it sometimes gets confusing when your sleep patterns change to fit in with taking pictures) I tried a new location, Le Grand Ballon. Also known as the Great Belchen, it is one of the five Belchens' in the region.

What a night! 

I'd spent a couple of hours on top of Le Grand Ballon waiting to see the sunrise. The only thing that I could see though were the thick clouds that surrounded me and the snow underfoot. Occasionally there was a break in the clouds above and I could see a few stars. the occasional view of the stars. The sun was already above the horizon and I couldn't see it at all, in fact I couldn’t see anything more than 20 metres away.

18 mm - f/2.8, iso 100, 30 sec

There were a few breaks in the clouds and there were times that I could see the building right at the top of Le Grand Ballon. While taking this picture I noticed a faint light from behind me.

There was a little break in the clouds and I could see some of the towns and villages in the valleys below.

By the time I had the camera and tripod in the right position the break had opened up some more and I had this view in front of me.

A 30 second exposure even managed to get some stars in to the picture and Orions belt is visible between the clouds.

18 mm - f/2.8, iso 2500, 20 sec

18 mm - f/2.8, iso 800, 30 sec

Taken to include part of the field that I was on to give perspective

 18 mm - f/2.8, iso 800, 30 sec

18 mm - f/2.8, iso 800, 30 sec

Unfortunately this didn't last long, the scene remained for around 10 to 15 minutes before the clouds surrounded me again. I stayed at the top for another hour or so, but the clouds didn't part again. With it not looking like it was going to get any better any time soon and as the sun was now rising above the horizon, I decided to pack up to head back down.

I took this shot on the way down, the camera picked up a lot more than I could see. No it's not crooked and believe it or not there is a path!

18mm - f4.5, iso 100, 1 sec

But as I'm getting accustomed to, as soon as I was back at the parking space things started to change. The clouds were moving so fast at this point, that 30 seconds before this shot, I couldn't see the car.

18mm - f4, iso 320, 1/200 sec

By the time I was at the car the light was stronger and the clouds were clearing. The view from where I'd parked was blocked by the trees, I had driven past a parking space on the way up so decided to give it a go instead. After wandering around in the dark for a few hours and struggling through deep snow on the way down, I didn't want to climb back up!

Although I think that it would have been better from the top, the decision turned out to be not too bad.

66 mm - f/4.5, iso 100, 189 sec

The clouds seemed to separate into two distinct layers, fast moving high altitude and low level fog bank. 

65 mm - f/9.5, iso 100, 199 sec

55 mm - f/9.5, iso 100, 159 sec

I'll be heading back to this region to explore more very soon. 

One last image taken from my phone to show the frost building up on the lens.