Catherine Karnow was recently on assignment capturing Switzerland for Traveler magazine. Follow along as she shares glimpses into her work photographing the majestic Swiss landscape.
Views, views, views: We photographers are always looking for views. Whether we are at the top of a mountain, on a penthouse terrace, above the general store in a small town, or standing on the rental car, we are always trying to make a scene-setter by showing what a place looks like from somewhere higher than ground level.
I almost always include people in my photograph. Sometimes this is to give scale, but often it’s to capture a scene where something is happening. The image becomes a little story suggesting that you might want to be there too, enjoying the view.
I had seen photos of the dramatic Lavaux region a half hour’s drive from Geneva, its steep vineyards dropping dramatically to the edge of Lake Geneva below. On my first day on assignment, I went straight from the airport to this famous wine-growing region. I was eager to get an image of the vineyards in the late afternoon light. I drove along a high road above the lake and came upon plenty of postcard shots of vineyards with picturesque villages. The view was certainly breathtaking, but my images were not conveying the experience of being there.
I am always checking the weather on assignment and deciding to ignore it, as it is usually wrong. That doesn’t stop me from worrying, though. The forecast was rain for the next few days. I had a whole country to cover and couldn’t linger in this region. Please photo god, give me the shot I want, I prayed.
The sun was starting to set, and the light was beautiful. I was feeling dismay. Suddenly I came upon a row of fancy cars parked by the side of the narrow road: a classy terrace bar, cocktail hour, hope!
I immediately noticed a pair of attractive gals at a table closest to the view. They exuded mirth and sensuality. But first I needed permissions—theirs and that of the restaurant—if I wanted to be able to shoot freely and get the best shot possible. I introduced myself to the women, who turned out to be sisters celebrating a birthday, and explained exactly why I wanted to photograph them. They were initially hesitant, but when they saw it was a way to show the view, they agreed. Happily the restaurant was on board and even set down fresh hors d’oeuvres.
After that it was just a matter of clicking the shutter. When you have all the elements, your shot is made. Of course it didn’t rain the next day, or the next, but I thanked the photo god just the same.
Photographed with a Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 24–105mm lens, and a Canon EF 16–20mm lens.