With this post, I have the pleasure of introducing Bethany Lloyd, walk leader and photographer in the Alps, as a regular contributor to the Travel Stories section of the site. From now on, Beth will contribute one article every month about her adventures across the mountains of Italy, Austria, Spain, and others. Besides being an experienced walk leader and a talented photographer, Beth is also a terrific writer. If you don’t want to miss any of her stories, leave your email address in the form below to be notified when we publish new articles by Bethany and by our growing team of travel bloggers.
Through the kitchen window I find myself locking eyes for a moment with the classic Alpine cow, bell around her neck. Indifferently she turns away her light brown head and I’m left working my way over the numerous chalets, pine tree valleys and rocky peaks that have become so familiar in the shadow of the Zugspitze Mountain. It’s amazing to think that this nine day visit is already at a close and tomorrow I’ll be heading back to Italy on the train. In that time we’ve visited turquoise lakes, scaled the side of waterfalls on metalwork and wire and even summited the highest mountain in Germany. All the time I’ve been snapping photos with my D3500, rarely short of inspiration.
Walking in Europe has been a love of mine for some time now. Being brought up on craggy Dartmoor in the South West of England, my childhood was spent being ushered outside into all weathers, exploring what the outdoors had to offer. Usually on Dartmoor that was mostly the wind and rain. There were many walking holidays too as I remember. Family trips to the Swiss Alps in the shadow of the Eiger and a few times up and down the Snowdonian peaks must have kindled something for me from that young age.
Photography was intrinsically linked to my time outdoors. Firstly it was a kind of hand-me down from my parents. Their enjoyment meant that I got to play with cameras and snap pictures with disposables and then little compacts wherever we went. I quickly also learnt that having a camera in hand was a great way to take regular breaks on long walks when Dad was pushing the pace. Suddenly I could spot something that ‘desperately’ needed a photo taking of and I was encouraged to take my time and I could catch my breath. That’s a technique I hold dear to this very day. Over time the excuse became something to improve and with practice and a long series of happy mistakes I started to learn my craft.
Now I’m working as a walk leader, photographer and blogger across the Alps and I regularly look back to my origins and what may have led me here. Working the last seven seasons came as a happy mistake after finishing school. One ski season as part of a gap year before university (which never happened) became four seasons and three summers with no sign of stopping. During that time I’ve done almost every chalet and host job you could think of in France, Spain, Italy and Austria. The one that I’m at my happiest in though is as an outdoor leader.
The summer walking season and photography go hand in hand. In the French and Austrian Alps, the Picos de Europa and my personal favourite the Italian Dolomites there’s endless opportunity for shots. In fact it’s rare to come back from a walk with any less than 200 photos. Deep glacial valleys, endless rocky cliffs, pink and gold sunsets, fathomless nights and shimmering lakes make a photographer’s job an easy one. Plus I can still use my DSLR as an excuse for a break when I need one! The job is simple enough too. Groups sign up for a day’s walk the night before and after a brief safety talk and equipment check we head out into the hills. The walks range from easy strolls to long hard days with thousands of meters of ascent and difficult terrain. As long as no one gets lost then the main aim of the day is to chat with as many people as possible whilst enjoying the stunning scenery. Oh and finding a good lunch spot is important to!
Every place I have worked and walked has something unique about it. Whether it’s the rolling vineyards of coastal, Northern Spain, the self-assured infrastructure of Austria or the wild, brittle Dolomites cliffs each one has a great argument as to why you should explore there. In each of the following blogs I will write about my experiences in these places; where the best sights are, the best times to visit, the people, the culture and the travel. I’ll also share some of my favourite images from my travels there too. I hope you enjoy!
Bethany Lloyd is an outdoor enthusiast who takes her photography with her into the mountains. Winter or summer, feet on the ground or seat in a harness she endeavours to find her view from a new angle.