on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

The Dolomites

“The mountains are calling and I must go”.

Adriana Benetti-Longhini

I was born in Arusha, Tanzania in Africa below the slopes of Mount Meru and her majestic neighbour Kilimanjaro. During the 70's my parents left Tanzania for greener pastures in South Africa, first to Durban and then eventually to Johannesburg.

I studied Fine Arts in Durban, South Africa, where I ventured into the world of photography, loving the hours in the darkroom developing predominately black and white photos. I started my career in advertising, progressing to interior design and eventually to photography full time.

In recent years I have gone back to live in Asiago, northern Italy near the Dolomites where my ancestors originated. I have a huge love for Europe and the diverse beauty she offers, and this continues to inspire me to use the magic of light and capture what my eye sees and share it with the rest of the world.

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“The Dolomites are widely regarded as being among the most attractive mountain landscapes in the world.” states UNESCO*. Recently inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage List, on June 26, 2009, these mighty mountains hold a wide appeal for hikers, climbers, skiers, cyclists, historians, and naturally photographers. They are a mountain range in the northern Italian Alps, with over 18 peaks which rise to above 3,000 metres in altitude and feature some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes anywhere, with vertical walls, sheer cliffs and a high density of narrow, deep and long valleys.

The range and its characteristic rock take their name from the 18th-century French geologist Dieudonné Dolomieu, who made the first scientific study of the region and its geology. These dramatic mountains are famous for their unique colours. Once known as the Pale Mountains, they become firey at sunrise and sunset, and ethereal purple during the dawn and dusk alpenglow. The verticality provides a dramatic contrast to the verdant, pastoral valleys beneath, and they provide a pure haven for photography.

I remember visiting the Dolomites for the first time in 1996 during my annual visits to my home in Italy whilst still living in South Africa. I remember clearly the first time I saw the majestic Sassolungo peak that is visible through the pine forests as one approaches Ortisei, a beautiful alpine town in Val Gardena, a world famous valley in the heart of the Dolomites. From that moment on, I knew that they would become part of me and my future. Now that I am living here in my home in northern Italy and am a short distance from them, I have taken my time to get to know these impressive mountains, not only the scenery that is so popular and frequently photographed but the lesser known but equally spectacular areas.

Now that I am living here in my home in northern Italy and am a short distance from them, I have taken my time to get to know these impressive mountains, not only the scenery that is so popular and frequently photographed but the lesser known but equally spectacular areas.

Perhaps the most photographed mountains in the Dolomites are the Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Drei Zinnen) and are the symbol of the Dolomite UNESCO World Heritage site. The distinctive shape and colour of the Three Peaks make this massif easily recognizable: the "three dolostone fingers" stretching towards the sky comprise of Cima Grande (2999 m), Cima Ovest (2973 m) and Cima Piccola (2857 m). The Tre Cime are dotted with mountain huts so one can stop along the way for refreshments, a breather or overnight stay during summer and early autumn. Many of the mountain huts close during winter months, so it is always best to check before planning a trip.

Other distinctive peaks are Sassolungo, Sassopiatto and the Sciliar massif to the south-east, which with its unmistakable profile are visible from the famous Alpe di Siusi plateau, also known as Seiser Alm, the largest high-altitude Alpine meadow in Europe.

One can describe at length the beauty of the Dolomites and its spectacular peaks, but perhaps one of my favourites is Mount Nuvolau with its magnificent south facing tower Ra Gusela and Mount Averau situated on the Giau pass a short drive up from Cortina D’Ampezzo. Many walks and hikes can be done from this mountain pass, both for novices and experienced hikers.

Another magnificent peak to visit and easily accessible by cable car from Ortisei in Val Gardena is Seceda. At the top station of the cable car and a short walk to a viewpoint, you can enjoy a marvellous view of almost the entire South Tyrol as well as of the mountains in Trentino, Lombardy and Austria. Last but not least, you can admire the breathtaking peaks of the nearby Dolomites.

One cannot write about the Dolomites without mentioning the magnificent lakes that are dotted around the entire area. One of the most famous is Lake Braies (Pragser Wildsee) also known as the “Pearl among Dolomite lakes”. The emerald green lake became famous in the last years due to the Italian television series “Un passo dal cielo” starring Terence Hill and is extremely popular photographically due to its incredible beauty. 

I quote one of my favourite authors, John Muir, the father of conservation and mountain lover: “The mountains are calling and I must go”.

Other lakes that are magnificent are lake Dobbiaco (Toblachsee) and lake Landro (Durrensee), both in pristine condition, with incredible colours and both surrounded by the peaks of the Dolomites.

All these areas are very special to me and fill me with immense joy, and continue to inspire me to photograph. I quote one of my favourite authors, John Muir, the father of conservation and mountain lover: “The mountains are calling and I must go”.



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