Text and pictures © 1996-2015 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2012/12/19
"Instead of just recording reality, photographs have become the norm for the way things appear to us, thereby changing the very idea of reality, and of realism." — Susan Sontag, On photography.
The idea of this page is very simple: I'll just put here some of the image I like best, for one reason or another. Maybe because I like the image itself, maybe because taking it was a real challenge, maybe because it reminds me of something special... So it's a bit of a mess with images dating way back and just about every technology of film, scanning and digital imaging available.
Left: Traveling to Antarctica can be fun when you are flying above icebergs in perfect weather, but it can also be a near-death experience when you are sailing through 30m waves... Sorry but I don't take pictures in that case.
Right: Visiting an ice cave in an iceberg during my first winterover. The ground was strangely bouncy and elastic, due to seeping seawater.
Left: This moon rising above an Antarctic glacier was my first double page publication. And like most great shots it was taken out of pure luck: I just happened to be there when the moon came out. I had only a few seconds to get the equipment out of the pack and adjust all the shooting parameters.
Right: Witness the birth, or rather the hatching, of a baby penguin.
Left: A perfectly classic shot of a perfect bird. My only two regrets: I lost the original negative of this image and I didn't take nearly enough images of emperor penguins during my first winterover, only a few ridiculous rolls.
Right: Is it the water or is it ice ? We have little time to ponder the question as we try to start the engine of the tiny boat, on our way to check out bird nests.
Left: And after being over the icy water, here's what's underneath in this challenging shot: penguins are very fast underwater and the water temperature is a little low for me to stay for very long, particularly since I had _no_ diving equipment...
Left: An adelie penguin precariously balanced on ice filled with the wastes of generations of its friends.
Left: Emperor penguins showing off their chicks in various positions.
Right: The title for this self-portrait taken off a weather mast on the high Antarctic plateau could very well be 'the edge of space': curvature of the Earth due to the fisheye lens, spacesuit to withstand the extreme cold and, above all, extreme remoteness. Surprisingly, it's also the very first image I ever took with a digital SLR ! I wasn't mine and I almost dropped it.
Left: The ice forming on the face of Christophe shows all the difficulty of working outdoors at such insane temperatures as experienced at Concordia. On that day the temperature was barely below -60°C and it was sunny; it would drop an extra 20° at the height of the winter darkness.
Left: The despair is clearly visible on the faces of the discoverers of the tragedy right after it struck: first week of the winterover and all our bottles of wine are found frozen, corks pushed out by the ice. Will we be able to survive the winter ?!?
Right: Yes, we are crazy and we enjoy it. Outside temperature: -65°C, requires special survival gear. Water temperature: way too hot to stay inside more than a minute, requires bikini. The only question left to solve is: how do you get in and how do you get out without freezing your butts off ?!?
Left: OK, this is probably my most requested picture ever, the original slide being now scratched beyond repair. We were on our way to climb that massive pile of ice, and climb it we did, even if it took a lot longer and was a lot harder than expected.
Above: I know I'm the hairy guy on the picture, but far from me the intent of imitating Leonardo. I just wanted to test the possibility of doing a panoramic image from the middle of the sunday table. It took 6 shots and a little bit of photoshopping to adjust the people who had moved against my recommendation. Tricky to do and requires some collaboration.
Right: This is probably the image that took me most time between concept and having it in the box: a good 15 years. It shows the sun going its merry wave above the horizon on a polar summer day.
Left: This image symbolizes very well the difficulty of being a hacker on the white continent: you can't call you local shop to order a longer cable if in need. Sometimes you just can't escape having to move the computer where you need it ! And many other kinds of technical unpleasantnesses.
Right: In Antarctica when sh
Left: The contrast and the deepness of the color is almost out of range of the gamut of the film but this is one of my favorite pictures ever as it shows the complete alienness of the glaciologist in the bare polar environment. The pole just seems to say: 'You are here. Now try to figure out where 'here' is...'
Right: This one was taken is similar conditions that the previous image: add a flash projecting a strange shadow on the wind blowing snow from the back, pure darkness except for the beam cast by the belly-lamp, strange custom face protection and you have all the ingredients of a story in the making.
Left: No wonder astronomy has such a wonderful future up on the high Antarctic plateau: even with a handheld cheesy compact camera you can see more stars than anywhere else in the world, thanks to the high altitude, extreme cold and perfectly stable atmosphere.
Right: Putting ice in the Champagne. Yes, but not any Champagne, a bottle kept for 10 years and opened upon completion of the Epica ice drilling project. And not just any ice: chips shaven off the ice core recovered from the very bottom, more than 3 kms deep under our feet. An ice cube almost a million year old. Humans weren't even shaving their armpits back then.
Left: This image combines several elements I like: it's a 120° vertical panorama, one of my very first HDR images, and the belay of the 2nd pitch of my favorite climb ever: the Scenic Cruise in the impressive Black Canyon of Gunnison. I rarely shoot black & white while climbing, but here with the black rock it was almost customary. The apprehension of what's coming on the next 13 pitches of strenuous climbing is also clearly visible in her faced enhanced by the right amount of flash from my GR21 (is that enough links to keep you busy for the next hour or what ?)
Right: A view on the Priest and some of the mesas before the Colorado river. Utah is so like a Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner cartoon, you just have to laugh when you see some landscapes.
Right: Dawn of the third day on El Cap. In a few hours we'll be on the summit, the hardest is done, but we wake up still punch drunk from the strain of the previous evening up the headwall.
Right: Maybe the most famous roof in the world. On the most famous route in the world. A hair-thin crack leading to a horizontal roof under which the rock is so smooth as instantly remove all hope of free climbing. That is until Lynn has some time off.
Left: We were behind a low party on the Salathe Wall, with still 2 pitches to go as it got dark. Out of boredom I took a picture of guy jugging up in near complete darkness. I knew that the exposure time was way too long, and was surprised to enjoy the result.
Left: A picture reminiscent of a hangman: having to lead the most infamous squeeze chimney on the planet is so so far removed from a death sentence by slow torture: a combination of reptation, straining spine, litters of sweat, nose too big to turn the head, wall so smooth you can't relax even for a second without dropping back down, useless cursing and holding your position by simply breathing in. Claustrophobes need not apply.
Right: It's so hard to capture the majesty of Yosemite in picture that I just decided to get the reflection of it and let you imagine the rest...
Right: Ice climbing can be viscerally beautiful, or so does the dog think as it follows its master up the Fang, in Vail. It's late in the season and who knows when it's gonna come crashing down...
Left: One of the most graphic climb I've ever done. OK, the solo inside the eye of the Needle is just for the picture, I stopped when it started getting too large. What was crazy was the face climbing on sharp crystals, protected by just one stopper and one old piton to get to the summit from the left profile of the Needle. With all the tourists watching from the parking lot and waiting for a pummeling.
Left: I guess the Grand Canyon does the same effect on everybody: it may be a cliché to repeat it for the umpteenth time, but that thing is big and mighty impressive when you start hiking down.
Right: Less known than the Grand Canyon, Grand Gulch is more interesting historically, with lots of well preserved native houses under rock cliffs. Here visiting a perfectly preserved kiva.
Left: The east face of Longs peak is visible from a hundred kms away and stays a remote target for many climbers. Being on it is unforgiving due to the altitude, the length of the descent, the thunderstorms always threatening in summer and just the plain difficulty of the route.
Right: Our last climbing trip with Brad before we left the US, and the last trip of his old dog Dozer. He took us to his new domain, a little known granite cliff with a large name in Idaho: Elephant's perch.
Left: Some more Utah precarious constructions. If it hasn't fallen with the last climber, it's probably good for this time. Or so does everybody think. Anyway, by far the craziest summit one is likely to experience.
Right: Liberated from the exhausting chimney pitches of Epinephrine, we enjoy the upper face pitches of the route.
Left: Beautiful. And there's some fine looking rock too.
Right: A first desert tower is quite an experience, and as experiences go, it's also quite addictive. Here on Castleton.
Left: In the middle of gentle hills, who else than the Devil or aliens could have erected such a dark tower.
Left: In the long open chimney of the Matador, you hold the position fine for a few moves. And then your calf begins to heat up. And burn. And cramp. And rot away. And fall off.
Right: There's only one step but it's a big one. With the Arizona landscape 120 meters under the feet and plenty of slack on the rope, it turns into a mighty step indeed.
Left: One of the best souvenirs from Alaska: setting up the tent on the ridge of Mt Hunter in perfect weather with to crazy aussies, after a successful climb of Denali.
Right: That's one of the best pictures of Jenny, even winning a contest. As our luck had it, it was raining in the Australian outback and the only sheltered climbs were above 7b. Here I'm fighting my way up a route that would normally be beyond my level.
Left: She's faking it... In order to take that picture I had to tie her off, untie myself, move to a different position along the ledge, ask her to act as if she's climbing hard before I could shoot. You can tell by the slack rope...
Right: Jenny holding to the tent in a fierce 3 day long winter storm in northern Sweden.
Right: Peru, my second expedition and time of my biggest mountain solos. After we took turns being sick at various base camps, I felt like a lion soloing a vertical km of 60° ice in a few hours. On top a lone rock offers the first rest of the last 2 hours of repetitive hammering. And an impressive sight.
Left: Crack climbing is an american delicacy, with precious little of it in Europe. That's why we had such a good time on the Elephant's Ear in Val d'Orco.
Right: One day while climbing in Grand Sasso, I saw climbers on a slabby pillar that looked so pure, I decided to go climb it the very next day, although the route wasn't in the guidebook, I had no idea of its level and I was alone... I loved it. Same story for the girl, with minor variations to the story... Gran Sasso remains on of my favorite spots ever.
Left: Getting lost opening new routes in southern italy, and then having to rescue friends carried off by the raging waters of the river below. A tough weekend.
Right: The female members of the expedition taking it easy near the end of our expedition to Cho-Oyu... This contrasts with another picture of them behaving in a very different way...
Left: When you are bored at base camp, what do you do ? You design a device to capture poor defenseless animals and you play with them before releasing them (and before they get pissed off and bite you).
Left: First light on the east ridge of Mt Cook; the beginning of a very long two days epic.
Right: Jenny traversing on the west ridge of Mt Cook and the view on Mt LaPerouse is nothing short of severe. Our way down will be a nightmare.
Left: Trying to find some trick to go up a smooth boulder at Castle Hill.
Above: Panoramic view of Mt Cook and lake Pukaki. Trying to push the limits of the resolution of the camera. Some of the best routes I've done are visible: the east ridge of Cook (right of the summit), the west ridge (left of it) and Mt Sefton.
Above: The place calls for a great picture, with its hanging glacier, loaded clouds, deep valley, steep couloir, carved snows, etc... but the difficulty was in finding the right place and how to frame the shot. The final touch was Vincent skiing back from the little hill of snow, trying to find a passage down. Unfortunately upon finishing the assembly of the panorama I was disappointed by the blandness of the colors. But once properly converted to B&W the result turned into one of my favorite mountain images to date.
Left: The Ponteil is one of those unassuming and little known cliffs only known by local climbers but its sheltered position makes it an almost year-round target. I've been climbing there irregularly for almost two decades and still haven't outclimbed it. Topping out in autumn it was particularly lovely, bearing in mind that we would move out of the area a few weeks later.
Right: OK, the image doesn't tell the full story of one of the most impressive falls I've ever seen, cartwheeling over the rock cliff visible on the upper left of the image.
Right: Another GR21 image with Jenny on the very summit of Aurore Nucleaire, a long classic rock route in Oisans.
Right: Panorama of the Glacier Blanc up in the Ecrins range. The south face of the Ecrins takes the centerspot.
Right: This wasn't our intended Chartreuse summit on this after-work hike that started in darkness and soon saw us follow the wrong trail, but we enjoyed dusk above the clouds covering Grenoble as a result.
Right: When I first climbed it with wooden shaft axes in 1990, it was sheer madness, but nowadays even the solid grade 6 pillars of the frozen waterfall of the Violins is regularly crowded. Doesn't make it any easier though.
Left: Jumping from one hole to the other on the overhang of Jeff is more fun than the long pitches of technical slabs or getting shot by irate corsicans.
Left: One of the first (and still rare to this day) times that I managed to onsight a route when Vincent had to hang on it.
Right: Some of the boulders at Fontainebleau have to be climbed to be believed...
Left: Good wine, interesting slabs on leaning towers, few people, the Dentelles have gone out of fashion but still offer good routes, if you can stay away from the abandoned pitons and nameless routes.
Right: Too short. Always too short to reach the hold, story of your life, right... C;-)
Right: A nice image, but poorly scanned. Wind was blowing snow crystals down the slope of a remote Appennine peak, shining in the back light.
Right: I too rarely climb peaks with the only intent of taking pictures. In this case I spent a night taking images of the Barre des Ecrins.
Left: Skiing the steep couloirs at La Meije. Another example of a very average color image that turned out great in B&W.
Right: Climbing can be had in the poorest settings, if only you use your imagination and manage to escape campus police for long enough...
Right: Jenny and nephew. Lighting provided by a single narrow roof spot.
Left: In France legal drinking age is 21... months. But the strong arm of the law usually closes its eyes if the perpetrator is a bit younger.
Left: I've never been a fan of 'creative' angles, but in that case I couldn't move back any farther to squeeze them both in the frame. And the out of focus door gives some strange geometry to the scene.
Right: OK, now the trick is to guess why this is among my fave pictures...
Left: A kitchen sized for serving tea to thousands of monks.
Right: Two cameras facing the old town at the same time with remote controls in each hand, a bit of photoshopping and, more strangely, some kicks on the tripod during the exposure.
Left: Playing with vertical panorama and various focus distances to assemble this wide and full focus image.
Right: I'd tried several times to take pictures of lightning, without much success. But now with an apartment high up with a full view on incoming thunderstorms, it's suddenly almost easy.
Left: Base jumping off the high point of the Escales cliff in the Verdon.
Right: A wasp so drunk on fermented flower sap that it can't swallow down its last drop and has a hell of a time taking off. It was also one of my first attempts at macrophotography after getting a new lens.
Right: While on assignment in Croatia, an afternoon canoe trip to a beach hidden in a cave under the city led to this nice HDR panorama.
Right: A tawney frogmouth showing off all its contempt at being woken up.
Left: Testing the new camera at high sensitivity and difficult light conditions in a cave.
Right: Australian Kookaburras after spending the morning screaming their lungs out to wake us up. A regular and unwelcome alarm clock, unless you want to start climbing at 5am in order to avoid most of the heat of the day.
Left: The only decent astronomy image I manage to bring back from Antarctica, due to the sheer difficulty of getting the telescope up and running in those conditions. And this view of a limited fraction of infinity concludes my selection.