Workshops & Tours

"Valley of the Butterflies"
Alpine Wildflowers & Butterflies in Switzerland

Scheduled Tour Dates:

17th-24th June 2017 (6 nights - starts and ends at Geneva)

Max. group size:

5 participants (trip will run even if only 1 person signs up)

Cost:

£1500

 

Alpine MeadowBurnt Orchid (Orchis ustulata)Apollo (Parnassius apollo)Alpine Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla alpina apiifolia)Grizzled Skipper(Pyrgus malvae)Large Red Helleborine (Cephalanthera rubra)Glanville Fritillary (Melitaea cinxia)Cobweb Houseleek (Sempervivum arachnoideum)Fly Orchid (Ophrys insectifera)

Introduction

Switzerland, and in particular the Valais canton in southwestern Switzerland, has one of the highest diversities of wildflowers and butterflies in Europe, with the large altitudinal differences from the floor of the Rhone valley to the high mountain tops of the western Alps providing easy access to a wide range of habitats in a very compact area. Up to 100 species of butterflies can be found during their peak flying times of late June/early July and many of the alpine meadows provide dazzling displays of colour with the added bonus of the constant backdrop of the spectacular Swiss Alps.

The main focus of this workshop will be to teach you a wide variety of the photographic techniques you can use to photograph the abundant wildflowers and insects, particularly butterflies, which inhabit the area.

This workshop/tour is suitable for photographers of all levels of skill, from absolute beginners to experienced shooters.

Itinerary

We will meet in Geneva and spend the first day and a half exploring a few of excellent lowland locations where there is an abundance of butterflies and orchids, which may include species such as Late Spider and Fly Orchids (depending on how advanced the flowering season is).

For the remainder of the trip we will be based in the Rhone valley making short trips to explore the nearby side valleys and high passes. By visiting the full range of altitudinal habitats available we'll be able to photograph a wide variety of flora and fauna, including up to 30 species of orchids (depending on the advancement of the flowering season). Examples of some of the orchids we may find include Fly Orchid, Burnt Orchid, Sword-leaved and Red Helleborines and Violet Limodore. At the higher altitudes, Pasqueflowers and Trumpet Gentians are common among a host of other alpine flowers.

In late June there are over 100 species of butterfly on the wing in the Valais region and we should see a large proportion of these during the trip, including large numbers of Apollos and fritillaries. Butterfly-like Ascalaphids can also be abundant.

There is also no shortage of beautiful vistas to photograph too if you want to hone your landscape photography skills!

Although we will be focusing on the plants and butterflies, for those interested, birds we may encounter include Snowfinch, Alpine Accentor, Alpine Chough, Golden Eagle and, if we are very lucky, one of the Lammergiers that are part of a reintroduction program there (I saw 3 in 2014). Nutcrackers are common in the forests and Bee-eaters, Red-backed Shrikes, Great Reed Warbler, Marsh Warbler, and Bonelli's Warblers all nest in the area.

During the six full days we spend in the mountains, you'll have the chance to learn numerous useful plant photography techniques, most of which are transferable skills that can be applied to many other genres.

Our time will likely fly by far too quickly and, before we know it, it will be time to make the return journey to Geneva for you to catch your flights home.

Learning objectives

  • making the best use of ambient light in wildflower and insect photography

  • how to control the ambient light and provide fill flash to reduce/remove unwanted shadows in harsh lighting conditions

  • controlling white balance to ensure accurate colour rendition in your photos

  • use of focus-stacking to ensure your entire subject is in sharp focus while maintaining a blurred background (focusing rails will be provided if you don't have your own)

  • in-the-field "studio" flash techniques

Costs:

  • The cost of this workshop is GB£1500

  • A £300 deposit is required to reserve your place on this tour

  • Full payment of the remaining balance is due at least 90 days before commencement of the tour.

Please read the booking policy carefully.

Included in the price:

  • All accommodation, meals and ground transportation during the tour

  • All expert photographic instruction

Not included in the price

  • International flights and transport to the start and end points of the tour are NOT included in the price and are the responsibility of the individual participants.

  • Bar bills

  • any additional accommodation or meals outside of the dates of the workshop

  • other sundry items of a personal nature (eg. laundry, hotel phone bills, tips, etc.)

  • travel and medical insurance costs

  • any fees incurred for medical treatment, evacuation or repatriation.

  • passport or visa fees

Fitness Requirements

Most of the walking involved will be of relatively short distance on good paths or tracks or along the roadside but due to the mountainous nature of the landscape, some of the areas in which we will be photographing are on steep slopes at high altitude (>2000m) so a reasonable level of fitness will be required if you want to get the most out of the trip.