In a series of interviews this autumn, we’ll introduce you to the local photographers who’ve kindly donated a stunning image to our charity calendar project. You’ll find more details about the 2021 Morzine, Les Gets & Avoriaz charity landscape calendar in the Source Shop.
First up, Neil Sharp.
How long have you been living in the local area and what brought you here?
My first season was in the summer of 2006, to work as a mountain bike mechanic over in Les Gets. I had finished uni the year before and didn’t really know what to do with my life. After having worked eight months in a job that I was only supposed to do for two weeks, the thought of working in the French Alps was too hard to resist. I packed my bike and bags and came straight over. I guess that first season set the seed (as it does for many of us) and by 2009 I had moved here permanently. At the moment I couldn’t think of a better place to live, although it would be nice if the waves were a bit closer!
Tell us about the photo you’ve included in the calendar – set the scene!
Despite this now being my 14th summer season in the area, up until this year, I had still never hiked up the Roc d’Enfer. A thumb injury at the start of the summer has kept me off my bike and forced me to explore the mountains in a different way. As such I’ve been doing more hiking (normally i’d pedal and push my bike up to ride back down) which has led to more photo opportunities. This shot was taken on a perfect hiking day. Blue skies with a sprinkling of clouds, not too hot and very few people (the guy in the shot is the only person I passed on the hike). Add to that the extreme angle of a fisheye lens and you get this sort of view!
What makes our valley so unique for photography?
The opportunities for photography in the Vallee d’Aulps/Chablais are pretty much endless. The mountains, lakes and villages are always in the same places (obviously), but with the four seasons and the constant change of light and weather, no two photos are ever the same. And that’s just your “basic” landscape shots. With all the different activities on offer, you can also add other elements into the shots to make them stand out. And then you have the encounters with wildlife, which can transform a great shot into a fantastic one.
Are there any landscapes or views that you haven’t photographed yet?
Of course! I’ve still not explored the whole area, whether it be covered in snow or not! But there must be millions of different views that I’ve not seen. Or ones I have seen but didn’t have a camera on me to get a shot. As time goes on I add places to a “shot list” in my head. Either shots I’ve imagined beforehand and then found the right place to shoot them. Or places I’ve found that I’d like to shoot when the time (or light) is right, or with someone adding a bit of action. I will often take multiple shots of the same view at different times of the year.
What are you most looking forward to this winter?
Next summer??!! No, it’ll be great to get some turns in some deep powder again. I didn’t really get the chance last year. And to show around a friend who has recently moved out here. Take him to all the good spots. Hopefully I’ll also get the chance to tick off some of the photos on my list. It’s been a while since I got some good winter riding shots. I really need some good powder shots and some split boarding adventure shots. Often it’s off the beaten track that you get the goods.