Re-birth in the mountains – Spring in the Dolomites by Leonardo Papera

Think of the Dolomites and the first image that probably crosses your mind is of rugged mountains with sharp peaks. The Dolomites are much more than that though. If you visit between the last part of June and the early days of August, you will struggle to decide where to look first: fields sparkling with wildflowers, lush green forests, turquoise lakes and, rising above everything, the famous peaks. 

Tre Cime di Lavaredo in summer at sunrise, Dolomites, Italy

Capturing the rebirth of life in the Dolomites is no easy task; over several years spent shooting the area, I came across many challenges that I had to overcome before I produced images that I could be truly proud of. 

The first challenge and probably the easiest, was a technical one: in order to show the beauty of the emergence of nature after winter, I had to include the so-called rebirth of life together with other non-seasonal elements such as the rocky peaks. I wanted to capture images that show how two apparently different ecosystems are living in symbiosis.

Summer sunrise at the Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm) in the Dolomites, Italy

I had to learn complex photography techniques such as focus stacking and shooting vertical panoramas.  These skills took time to master.  I had to learn to integrate them into my workflow.  The results fully justified all of the effort. My images improved immeasurably.

The second challenge I soon encountered while hiking and backpacking through these mountains was a more practical one: the weather. One of the first things you learn when you start venturing into alpine environments is that you should start a hike when the weather conditions allow.  At altitude the weather has a nasty habit of changing rapidly.

Limides lake near the Falzarego Pass during sunrise, Dolomites, Italy

If you spend a lot of time in the mountains, you will inevitably end up in a summer storm sooner or later. I spent far too many nights lying terrified inside my tent, hoping for a storm to go away, watching the thin outer layer of my tent being lit up by flashes of lightning. It is a good reminder of just how completely powerless you are in front of Mother Nature. 

The night after I took the picture below was one of the worst that I experienced; after a wonderful evening capturing the last rays of light on the mountain peaks, I was rocked by thunder and lightning for the whole night. I slept no more than 40 minutes, and emerged from my tent completely exhausted the following morning!

Cinque Torri in the Dolomiti Bellunesi during a stormy summer sunset, Dolomites, Italy

The last challenge I had to overcome was a physical one; some places are fairly easy to reach, you can even drive to some viewpoints directly by car, but for others you have to make long hikes in to the wilderness. I had to train myself to become mountain fit so that I could make cover long distances with my cameras equipment and camping gear.

Summer sunrise at the Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm) in the Dolomites, Italy

In the end, I can’t help but repeat myself by saying that the Dolomites at the start of the warm season are a true spectacle for those in love with nature. 

After years of shooting in the Dolomites, I feel as if I have barely scratched the surface of all there is to photograph; there is so much more to be captured and to be seen that I’m just at the start of what I suspect will be the journey of my lifetime.

Tre Cime di Lavaredo in summer at sunset, Dolomites, Italy

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