Daily Archives: July 18, 2007

Landscape: Night Light

Twin PeaksI’m a sucker for good night light. Here in the Alps, the evenings draw on; the sun sets slowly, and mountain shadows stay silhouetted against the sky until around 10:30 at night. When the sun dips behind the Aiguilles Rouges, the opposite side of the valley—the Mont Blanc massif—lights up in the colors of a soft fire: pinks, salmons, golds. Once the alpenglow has crawled up and disappeared over the snowy peaks, the cool colors come out: the hazy blues, the purples, and then the blacks.

Sometimes the glow is so magical that the peaks look like they’re blazing. From the balcony of my chalet, I caught this light as the sun’s final rays skirted over the Aiguille du Midi, its needle-summit covered in clouds:

Aiguille du Midi on Fire

And sometimes the night light makes you realize the shape of a place. When the jagged peaks are set against a cool evening sky, every spike and tower seems to be a distinct feature. In the day, so many can blur together.

Dusky Aiguilles Rouges Peaks

Sleeping outside, of course, is the best way to appreciate this kind of thing. You get a real feel for the night when you’re sitting on a rock outside of your tent, drinking your last cup of tea. A photograph can’t recapture the experience, but I took this one on Monday night from a camp in the Aiguilles Rouges. Our tent is in the foreground, facing the Dru:

Dru at Night

You watch the night fall from a place like this, and you’ll see it come slowly, like a black velvet curtain dropping from ceiling to floor.