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.


One response to “Landscape: Night Light

  1. One book with an interesting passage on the personality of mountains is a rather obscure volume written by a Greek engineer about his experiences training with a daoist ‘magus’ – ‘The Magus of Java’ by Kosta Danaos. In it, whilst staying on a Greek island for a while, the ‘King of the Mountain’ comes to him requesting help to get the new mining development project stopped. It is a fascinating passage, but more importantly hints that there is indeed more to the physical world, such as mountains, than just rock and ice.

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