on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Auvergne 2016

Graham Cook

Graham Cook

In retirement, Graham Cook is a painter of portraits and a free-thinking abstract photographer with determination to retain an openness of mind and capacity for wonderment.


Réserve Naturelle de la Vallée de Chaudefour…or was it Narnia?


The Chaudefour Valley Corrie, one of the Auvergne's most beautiful glacial valleys, is a superb mix of habitats from lush alpine pastures, scrubland, rocky crags and beech woodland. With snow and winter light enhancing its natural beauty it had the power to transport the mind. Being in such a magical environment, I was reminded of what Keats called ‘taking part in the existence of things’. The Chaudefour, this seemingly timeless arena, demanded my participation and challenged my default preset and its preference for abstraction. These images characterise the woodland but represent only one element of riches the valley has to offer but is, arguably, the most important. Trees not only stand as symbols of isolation, intricacy, strength and the inclusive nature of woodland, they also allow entry to a different world.

Through them we can hear the wind and see its action, we can tell time and place, connect land to sky – and we can lose ourselves in dreams, and the destination of those dreams is a journey limited only by one’s imagination. To set foot – or rather snowshoe – in the Réserve, on this particular day, I felt extremely privileged. The soft, still beauty, the gentle wisps of snow, so theatrically arranged, almost overwhelmed. Seemingly every turn teased my imagination as I recalled childhood memories of Rupert Bear sheltering from a snowstorm in Nutwood or perhaps I was entering the fantasy world of Pan’s Labyrinth – or Narnia. I could just as easily be in an Arthur Rackham illustration, with sumptuous dark, subtle tones blending with menacing shadow, occasionally uplit by a spot of light borrowed from the snow. This is my world, this open-minded, open-eyed view, full of mystery and imagination transferring nature’s beauty to another dimension.

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