My name is Roberto Bertero, I am a musician and mountain photographer based in Turin, Italy. I am presenting you a selection of shots taken in high mountain, all in very special moments: when I happened to find myself above the clouds, or fog and haze (often a mix of these elements).
Clouds are generally obscuring our sky when we are on the plain... but if viewed from above they are a pure spectacle! These impalpable visions, so simple, elegant and ever-changing, are priceless... so detached from the material world. It’s like embracing a new ephemeral dimension, typical only of our most fantastic dreams.
As a matter of fact, after all the wonders I have seen, I could not even conceive photography if released from this mystic quest toward the infinite. In front of these scenarios, most of the time, especially at night, all my certainties must give way to the immensity of the unknown. It's like facing the bridge to the absolute, the gateway of awe.
Only from this desire to live again such priceless moments I take the strength and determination to regularly hike back to these higher “vantage points”, all located in truly remote places of the alpine range.
Definitely, I am not going there to conquer (what?), or to test myself, to see how long it takes me to accomplish a certain path (I couldn’t care less!)... but rather to earn the privilege of spending some time in these locations I deeply love. If for a moment you wish to imagine yourself spending a day/night above the clouds, longing for a higher dimension, well, sincerely I hope this series of images can help.
"There are moments in every man's life, when he glimpses the eternal" - Quote from James Hilton’s classic novel Lost Horizon.
More info: robertobertero.com
#1 Night Above The Clouds
An otherworldly view, captured during one of the nights spent above the clouds. In this case atop Mont Chaberton, a 3.131 metres (10,272 ft) peak in the French Alps in the group known as the Massif des Cerces in the département of Hautes-Alpes.
#2 A View From Above
One of my many photos taken at night from the summit of Mount Rocciamelone (3.538 meters / 11,603 feet), depicting part of the Susa Valley below and the distant lights of the city of Turin (Italy). The slightly cloudy night offered that extra touch of magic.
#3 Gateway Of Awe
Night view from the summit of Mount Rocciamelone (3.538 m) toward the Punta Lunella (2.772 m), a mountain in the Graian Alps (Italy) whose summit here emerges from an infinite bank of thick clouds. We can therefore approximate the altitude of the cloudscape around 2.600 meters, or so... which means about nine hundred meters below me. More in the distance are visible the lights of Turin (one of the largest cities in northern Italy) that lit up from beneath the mass of clouds. Then the universe, with planet Jupiter clearly visible on the left.
#4 Rivers Of Clouds At Moonlight
A sea of clouds, exposed to the south-east, is lit by the moon (63%) rising in the east. Yes, a huge mass of clouds slipping down steep rocky ridges from a height of about 2.900 meters. Shot taken at night on September 6th 2012, from the summit of Mount Rocciamelone (3.538 m), Italy. This is one of the most otherworldly photograph I've taken so far. Thanks to the intrinsic magic of the night and to the privilege of being there, silently admiring this amazing moment. This 195 seconds exposure, at 115mm on full frame, turned the slow passage of the clouds in a sort of "silky waterfall". A few star trails are already visible, despite the exposure wasn't particularly long. I guess we all know as the consequences of Earth's rotation are more obvious when using a telephoto lens. Intensity of colors, contrast and white balance are strongly faithful to the scene.
#5 Mont Blanc With The Hat
Mont Blanc at sunrise, Italian side, admired while emerging from a carpet of clouds. The sommital area (4.808 m) begins to be lit by the sun's rays.
#6 Overlooking An Ocean Of Clouds
The sun is rising, and a carpet of clouds is covering the Valle d'Aosta (Italy). Shot taken from the area around the bivouac Pascal, located just a few meters from the summit Testa di Liconi (2.929). Clearly distinguishable in the distance, the pyramidal shape of the Grivola (3.969 m) and, to its right, the Gran Paradiso group (4.061 m).
#7 Mists Of Time
Self-timer shot, taken on the summit of Mont Thabor (3.178 m), Vallée Étroite (France). An epic dawn in a severe environment, showing primordial traits.
#8 Above The Darkness Of The Night
Shot taken on June 27th 2012 at 10:42 p.m. from the summit of Mount Rocciamelone (3.538 m), Italy. On the right we have the moon (phase 57%), while on the left is perfectly visible the Scorpius constellation. Under the "primordial ocean" of clouds are filtering the lights of the Susa valley 3.000 meters below.
#9 A Rare Sight
One of those scenarios that only the mountain (or a plane) can offer, for obvious height issues. Shot taken at 4:49 am, from the summit of mount Rocciamelone (3.538 meters / 11,603 feet), Italy, when the clouds were covering the world below till to the horizon. Even in its immensity, this is a minimalist shot.
#10 A Walk On The Clouds
My friend is walking in the direction of a carpet of clouds covering the Val Varaita. In the overall composition of the image I've left also enough room to the nuances of the sky, which I think is a good thing. The place is somewhere above the Col Agnel (2.748 m), located on the border between Italy and France.
#11 The Silent Dialogue
Night shot, taken from the summit of Mont Malamot (2.917 m), France, showing the most interesting part of "our" Milky Way - the Great Rift - pointing south in between Mont Giusalet (3.313 m) and Dents d'Ambin (3.372 m). Perfectly recognizable the Scorpius constellation, just above the Dents. As always, the camera produces night images much clearer if compared to what the human eye is able to see on moonless nights. I think it's important never to forget that our visibility in such nights is pretty close to... nothing! Therefore, I always try to reach a compromise: I take advantage of what the camera allows me to discover, although avoiding excesses of clarity, colors and intelligibility that nothing have to share with the mysteries of the night.
#12 Monviso Emerging From The Clouds
Shot taken at sunrise from the summit of Mount Rocciamelone (3.538 meters / 11,603 feet), Susa Valley, Italy. While the clouds are covering the entire plain up to the eye can see, in the distance the summit area of Monte Viso (3.841 m) emerges from this lovely, soft and colorful, ocean of clouds.
#13 Pristine Vision
P.te de Ronce (3.611 m), pure and white, thanks to a good snowfall the previous day, portrayed with a 300mm telezoom from the summit of Mount Rocciamelone (3.538 meters / 11,603 feet), Italy. Contrast and brightness very faithful to the scene. Everything is blinding at that altitude.
#14 The Immaterial World
This is an intersection of slopes in the upper Susa Valley (Italy), a landscape lost in a thousand delicate veils of mist... almost like a hand trying to grasp the intangible.
#15 Mont Gruetta At Moonlight
Just a "detail" of the magical landscape in front of me, lit by the moon and caressed by clouds and mists. From right to left: Col de Petites Jorasses, Glacier de Frebouze, Aiguille de Leschaux (3,759 m), Glacier occidental de Gruetta, Mont Gruetta (3,684 m), Glacier de Gruetta, Monts Rouges de Gruetta. Mont Blanc massif, Val Ferret, Aosta Valley, Italy.
#16 Matterhorn Above The Clouds
For most of my visit the Matterhorn was covered by clouds, only at night (and a little bit at dawn) it emerged from above the sea of clouds that was covering the Valtournenche. The point of light at the "base" of the mountain is the refuge Oriondé Duca degli Abruzzi (2,802 m), the light of its reflector filters through the clouds.
#17 Floating Mountains
Shot taken from the top of the Rocce Alte del Losas (2.837 m), above the Giacoletti hut, Monviso area, Italy. It's evening, while the sun goes down many ridges are tinged with red, and my gaze goes far away till to the Gran Paradiso, clearly visible on the right with its glacier. Mountains that seem to float lightly on the delicate veil of mists shrouding the valley below.
#18 Magic Twilight
These are the Dents d'Ambin (3.372 m) emerging from a sea of fog and clouds at twilight, after sunset. I was on the summit of Mont Malamot (2.917 m), France, so I decided to set a slightly long exposure just to fix all the magic play of light & color of the moment. Considering that I've reached this remote mountain location after some hours of hiking in thick fog and rain, this opening from the mists (which occurred from sunset onwards) has been definitely an unexpected pleasure (hopefully a bit deserved!). While being above the clouds is something absolutely normal for people who usually go to the mountains, I must admit that every time it is a priceless privilege to admire these lovely, almost intangible, land(cloud)scapes.
#19 A Night Of Wonders
Self-timer shot taken along the path that runs along the summit area of Mount Thabor (3.178 m), Hautes-Alpes (France). A night of wonders admiring the countless valleys below, all shrouded in mystery by that lovely mist.
#20 Like Mighty Cliffs
During this lovely and foggy blue hour you can see on the left the poisonous planet Venus, Mount Cristallo, then at center image the lights of the Auronzo Hut, while on the right are towering the impressive rocky ridges of the Cima Ovest (2,973 m) and Cima Grande (2,999 m), part of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. The fog was receding at this time allowing me to take this picture. The term "cliff" is generally used to indicate a steep rock face at the edge of the sea... and indeed that evening there was a sea, made of clouds rather than water! By the way, the term cliff sounds more suitable than we can imagine to describe the Dolomites, given that during the Triassic began the genesis of this type of carbonate rock, subsequently emerged from the waters during the Alpine orogeny in the Cenozoic. These are nothing but former coral reefs! So I've really enjoyed this "maritime version" of the Lavaredo area, it seemed to go back in time... only fishes were missing ;-)
#21 Grivola And Gran Paradiso
In the impalpable early morning atmosphere, in a constant dialogue between light and mist, here is the pyramid of the Grivola (3.969 m) and, to its right, the Gran Paradiso (4.061 m). Concealed beneath a lovely carpet of clouds, the Valle d'Aosta.
#22 Startrails Above A Cloudscape
Star trail, single exposure lasted 1 hour, taken of course in a moonless night. Since the late evening this carpet of clouds was entirely shrouding the Valle Gesso, Natural Park of the Maritime Alps (Italy). From my vantage point I saw that this valley was pointing slightly to the north, so I instantly knew that thanks to Earth's rotation through a very long exposure I would have got the trails of the stars converging right into the cloudscape! Almost like a logical continuation, an extension of it, with some distant light pollution coming from the valleys of Cuneo that would have provided a proper hint of light. It has been really fascinating to fix this interrelation between such elements so ethereal and peculiar (stars, light, clouds). A minimalist and silent dialogue... as I love to understand and live the mountain, in serene and peaceful solitude, admiring these bridges toward the otherworldly.
#23 Above A Sea Of Clouds
One of the countless times that I've found myself above the clouds. Here from the the bivouac Pascal (2.920 m) observing in the early morning towards the Grivola (3.969 m). Valle d'Aosta, Italia.
#24 Our Star
This is one of the most balanced scenes depicting the sunrise that I've had the privilege to admire from the summit of mount Rocciamelone (3.538 m). You know, sometimes even when the sun is rising the light is just too strong, other times it is too much veiled by high clouds... Luckily not in this case. Actually that morning the balance was just as good as you could wish, especially from a photographic point of view, which makes always rather tricky to manage direct shots to the fireball of "our" star, especially if the final aim is to portray as faithfully as possible the scene, as our eyes have seen it. Under the sun you can see the presence of the classic sea of clouds, with the lovely muted colors of the very early morning. That must have been definitely a morning with veiled/covered sky down to the plain.
#25 Blue Hour Above A Carpet Of Clouds
Bivouac Jacques Guiglia (2.437 m), Val Gesso, Natural Park of the Maritime Alps (Italy), portrait during the blue hour. On the other side of the valley you can see mount Argentera (3.297 m). Special "bonus" of the evening was the beautiful carpet of clouds just below!
#26 Ringside Seat
Picture taken at sunset from the summit of Mount Rocciamelone (3,538 m - 11,608 ft). Among the interesting things of the southern and western faces of this mountain, I wish to point out the gap of 3.000 meters which goes practically directly till to the plain, without encountering any visual obstacle! Yes, absolutely with no other mountain or valley in between, like often happens instead in many other mountains of the Alpine range.
#27 Wave Cloud
Like a true sea wave, the clouds are here crumbling on the ridge of the mountain. Taken while descending from mount Rocciamelone, on the other side of the valley is visible the Orsiera-Rocciavrè natural park, Italy.
#28 Planet Of The Clouds
Here you can see a first dialogue of the morning, between: new light of the rising sun, articulated mountain ridges and a sea of clouds. Almost a harmonious play of resistance between light, shades, shapes and ephemeral substances. A wonderful situation observed from the summit of Mont Thabor (3.178 m), Hautes-Alpes, France. Sometimes I hardly believe myself to have taken some of my pictures still on planet Earth... but, without a doubt, the privilege of certain visions is closely correlated with the "otherworldly" wonders that you can only witness being at high altitude at certain times of the day.
Night shot taken, looking east, from the summit of Mount Rocciamelone (3.538 meters / 11,603 feet), Susa Valley, Italy. In the distance an opening in the carpet of clouds, just above the city of Turin, let filter all the light pollution of the big town. Also thanks to a proper long exposure, this source of light appears as a sort of portal leading to distant universes. Presence also of faint moonlight (phase 27%) almost set in the west.
#30 Aosta Valley Beneath The Clouds
Night shot taken from the Testa di Liconi (2.929 m), portraying the Aosta Valley covered by a thick blanket of clouds, glittering thanks to the lights below. Clearly discernible in the distance the pyramidal shape of the Grivola (3.969 m) and the Gran Paradiso (4.061 m) to its right.
#31 Walk Above The Clouds
Colle Gnifetti (4,454 m), Monte Rosa massif.
The impalpable visions of high mountain are priceless... This is Punta Lunella (2.772 m), a mountain in the Graian Alps (Italy), as seen on August 2nd 2012 at 5:44 a.m. from the summit of Mount Rocciamelone (3.538 m).
#33 Slanting Rays
View from the summit of Mount Rocciamelone (3.538 meters / 11,603 feet), Susa Valley, Italy, looking towards Mount Chaberton. Rather than the classic carpet of clouds here it's possible to see the haze of the evening caressed by the slanting rays of the imminent sunset.
#34 The Cloud Whisperer
Self-timer shot (taken at sunset with the help of my tripod). It's always a pleasure to be in contact with clouds, something that usually from the plain we see as very high, practically unapproachable. While in the mountains are often below us, on one side, almost joining us along the way. Sometimes there is a price to pay: the return here was a mixture of rain, hail and, fortunately not too close, thunderstorms.
#35 Glimpse The Eternal
Night shot taken on September 14th 2011, at moonlight (phase 87%), from the summit of Mount Rocciamelone (3,538 meters - 11,603 feet), Italy. In the total silence of the night, an infinite blanket of clouds is wrapping the valleys and the mountains approximately 1.500 meters below me... Far away, on the right, you can see the lights of Turin, one of the largest cities in northern Italy.
#36 Above A Mantle Of Clouds
Shot taken on September 6th 2012, from the summit of Mount Rocciamelone (3.538 m), Italy. In the elegant warm evening light, we have Mount Croce Rossa (3.546 m) emerging from a soft mantle of clouds, and, aligned behind, the distant massif of Monte Rosa (4.634 m).
#37 This Lovely Dreamy World
Slightly long exposure, taken on September 27th 2012, from the summit of Mount Rocciamelone (3.538 m), Italy. A most evanescent moment. Soft clouds and mist silently floating in the night, above the Viù valley till to the Turin's area... all enriched by the lights of a few small villages in between. This is looking east. The light comes entirely from the Moon (at 79%) risen at 5:22 p.m. so already high in the sky to the south.
#38 At World's Edge
Self-timer shot taken from the ridge of Mont Malamot known also as Pointe Droset (2.917 m), France. This photo depicts the blue hour with myself looking in the direction of Dent Parrachee, Dome Chasseforet, Punta Clairy, Grande Casse, Grand Roc Noir... the Vanoise National Park.
#39 The Ethereal World
"To get an higher vantage point"... yes, that's definitely one of the main reasons that lead me to explore the mountains. Here you can see the Punta Lunella (2.772 m), a mountain in the Graian Alps (Italy), as seen from the summit of Mount Rocciamelone (3.538 m). This is an early morning shot, taken when clouds, mists and many slanting rays were shrouding the mountain in mystery.
#40 Gently Floating
I am not entirely sure to remember which mountain is this, it might be the Ostanetta or something close to it... anyway the light was interesting, I thought there was a lovely dialogue of colors, and also the low clouds were floating in a very choreographic way. Shot taken from the top of the Rocce Alte del Losas (2.837 m), Monviso area, Italy.