Inside this issue
Roads and Back Roads
The Aspromonte National Park, in Calabria, South of Italy
Class '81, born and raised in Calabria, deep south of Italy, at the foot of the Aspromonte mountain range, a very narrow land where the high peeks plenty of forests, rivers, waterfalls meet the beautiful sea. After years of university, I moved abroad, England - London, where I spent about 8 years of my life. In 2009 we decide with a friend to embark on a long trip to South America, a bit to escape the stress of the big city, a bit to, "maybe", to find ourselves. As far as I'm concerned, this trip has totally changed my life and how to see things. From here the passion for photography was born. Back to my beloved land, this together with a strong love for nature has pushed me to engage more and more in this beautiful art. I devote most of my free time to the mountain, the trees and the woods, the main subjects of my photography. They succeed in transmitting me positive energy !! I love the smell of wood, earth and wet grass, moss and mushrooms; In the woods, our conception of time ceases to exist, emotions and sensations adapt to the rhythms beaten by nature.
Wake up early, everyone is asleep. You prepare yourself with the things that might be needed, I would say essential: warm jumper, raincoats and knife. Many images that go through your mind driving up the numerous hairpin bends, 12 km from Cittanova to Zomaro (from the Greek Ozómenos - waterlogged), the gate of the Aspromonte, a land of bandits, hidden paths, rugged mountains and landscapes sung and praised by Norman Douglas and Corrado Alvaro.
The name Aspromonte has two potential etymologies. In addition to the obvious meaning of "rugged mountain" that describe the morphology, another possibility is the meaning of "Mont Blanc", the Greek word “aspro”, which means white.
It is a places of history, as it is said that Spartacus has taken refuge and there, at Marco's plans, defeated the Roman legions of Marco Licinio Crasso. Past by many brigands including Nino Martino, Giuseppe Musolino, the band Mittica, Bizarro And Giuseppe Pronestì, the brigand Sonnino all engaged in the fight against the 'mercenaries' of Garibaldi, he himself wounded in Gambarie, sent to conquer the south around the 1850s.
At 1,000 meters high, 20 miles from the Tyrrhenian Sea, 30 miles from the Ionian Sea, someone would now call it paradise.
You get to the top, it is still dark, it starts to rain which is frequent in these mountains. Clouds come from the sea as black walls burst with rain that collides with the mountains and where they then stop.The sun among the trees gives the first timid lights.
While driving you just think about the places you want to reach, the panoramas you want to shoot, but what about the roads that take you to these places? This is the story I want to tell…
The Aspromonte National Park, in Calabria, South of Italy, is part of the southern Appennine mountain range. It sits right in the middle of this narrow land which is Calabria. In many places, you have the rare opportunity to stand right on top of a mountain seeing in front of you the western coast and behind you the eastern one. Amazing views. And to get to these places, of course, you have to take the path to.
I have always been fascinated by the multitude of shapes that a mountain road or backroad can have, the colours, the colour of the pavement, the surroundings… You don’t really need to go and find them, they are everywhere. Most of the people just drive on them, they are just the way to reach places. Nobody wonders how they have been built, why they have been built, what was the original pavement or if they always been like that.
Most of the roads are now just used by shepherds, forest guards and in some cases by woodsmen and wild boars hunters, but a century ago they were the main arteries for trade of wood, coal, where everybody walked them on foot to take their own goods to be sold in markets on the other coast. Much of them have been paved due to the fact that until the 1980s they were the only access to the mountains. But don’t expect to find a smooth way up, as it has been a rugged mountain as the own name says, roads are often blocked by landslides of mud or rocks, fallen trees, sometimes flooded by the rivers that come down from the top.
Once you leave the car and begin to walk through pine or beech forests there are the backroads, mainly now used by shepherds and mushroom pickers. They once were part of the network that linked the myriad of villages perched in the mountains.
There are thousands of these paths, spread out all over the mountain, all different. Most of these paths can be easily found on the National park map, where all are well highlighted depending on the size, the length and the importance. In fact, the park, put a lot of efforts, thanks to the park’s guides, to keep them as clean as possible where possible, to revive the signs that indicate the way from the beginning to the end. This is very important actually, first for people who need to learn to move around on these mountains, second for tourism as these tracks are seen as an important chance to let everybody get to know the beauty of this place.
Is not really much of a challenge taking a good shot, you need just patience. The same road can look very different from a season to another. You will have just to make up your mind on what you want to represent. Some tracks are in the shades, where the light hardly get through, some right under the light of the sun. During fall or winter, these backroads get quite magical with fog all over the place, the smell of mushrooms and underwood; this is where I get connected with nature, a sort of inspiring path that leads to the “wow” place.
Visit Calabria, this is my suggestion The majority of landscape photographers concentrate their efforts on finding the beautiful place where to take the “wow” picture, the one that would give you the appreciation of the public. Now I do not really think this is the way to tell the stories of your own land or the places you visit.
At first, years ago, this was also my way of thinking, I used to take pictures with wide lenses, just because I thought that this was the right way. In time everything has changed, the way of seeing things around me. I started seeing instead of just looking.
I have also changed the main tools, using now tele lenses like 70-200 and also 150-600. It may sounds a bit weird using a 150-600 for landscape pictures, but I can assure that the views sometimes can be breathtaking.
I use Photoshop to post process my images, nothing special though.