Portraits in the Swiss Mountains
Two Days in Appenzell with the 28-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Contemporary
Words and Photos: SIGMA Ambassador Kam Vachon | @kamvachon
The Appenzell region in Switzerland is known for its bucolic landscapes and beautiful mountains. If you want to experience traditional Switzerland culture, this region is the most suited for it. As a travel photographer, I’m always searching for authenticity in the countries that I visit. I also have a special interest for old traditions and seeing how life might have been like hundred of years ago.
When I visit a new country, I always plan a multi-day hike. It’s a great way to meet remote communities and photograph interesting stories. While I was in Switzerland, I set out on a 2 days hike to see Saxe Lucke and discover the charm of the Falensee lake. I spent an incredible night at a family farm that made their own cheese.
My journey began after taking a cable-car up the mountain ridge that would lead me to Saxe Lucke. As soon as I got up there, I was mesmerized by the landscapes. I started walking towards Saxe Lucke and for a few hours, I had a panoramic view of the lush greenery, pristine alpine meadows and majestic mountains surrounding me. This part of the hike was very sunny, therefore I tried to play with light and shadows to create contrast in my images. Here’s one that I particularly love:
A few hours went by and I finally made it to the Saxe Lucke, this mesmerizing mountain peak that I was very excited to see as soon as I arrived in Switzerland. I took a few minutes to take photos of it before descending to the Falensee lake.
For this overnight hike, I decided to bring the Sony Alpha 7 III with SIGMA’s 28-70mm F2.8 | Contemporary lens. Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that when I hike, I want my gear to be as light as possible while being versatile at the same time. I love the 28-70 focal range because it is wide enough to capture the magic of a landscape while also allowing me to zoom in on mountain peaks. Additionally, 70mm when stopped down at F2.8 is a great focal length for environmental portrait. Before leaving the sight of Saxe Lucke to go down to the Falensee lake, I saw a man putting up a tent at the bottom of the mountain. I decided to take a few more photos because having a human element inside landscape photos really help to give a sense of scale.
On my way down, I met a Swiss family, locals from the Appenzell region. They were all wearing the typical Appenzell hat and earring. I stopped them and explained that I found them very interesting and I’d be honoured to take their portraits. I also grabbed their email to send them the photos afterwards. People love this and it’s a great memory for them.
After taking photos of them, I walked down to the Falensee lake without stopping. It was getting late and I was very hungry, so I didn’t spend too much time around the lake. I walked a few more kilometres before I arrived to the family farm I would be staying at for the night.
When I arrived, I immediately laid my eyes on a very interesting man. He was the elder of the family and his name was Albert. I knew I had to get a portrait of him. A few hours later, Albert went on top of a small hill and did a mountain call with an old Alphorn. The photo opportunity was perfect and as soon as he was done, I asked him to take his portrait. The light was perfect and the mountains in the back made it even more amazing. I can easily say this is one of my favorite portrait in my photography career. For the rest of the evening, I was flying on a cloud being very happy about what I just captured. I slept in the cow’s barn and fell asleep to their mooing.
The next morning, the family served me incredible homemade cheese for breakfast. I saw Albert again, working in the barn. I said a warm goodbye and made my way through the valley, back to my car.