So….I had a gallery of photos to choose for the background of my web site. Forests, lakes, seascapes, vistas of classical English countryside. Why this one? What’s so special about a family of Austrian farmers making hay while the sun shines somewhere in the Tyrol?
Well, for one thing, I think it conveys a sort of pastoral idyll like one of those Victorian paintings that portray the countryside as a sort of rural Disneyland in which the skies are always blue and food is plentiful. For another, there’s a beautiful backdrop of the Austrian Alps in all its pristine ‘The Sound of Music’ glory. And I guess I just like the emotional draw of a father, his wife and two children all pulling together to make things work. The good Volk.
But mostly, I chose this shot because I felt I’d earned it…..
I’d been staying in Mayrhofen, a typically scenic alpine town in the Ziller valley and a favourite haunt. I took the cable car up to Penken, a mountain towering over the community. The views were, as expected, quite spectacular. Having drunk my beer and sauntered around, I decided I would hike down the mountain. I discovered a lonesome track leading around the unfashionable side of Penken. I had no mobile phone and no maps. It seemed ideal. I’d barely made a start when I tripped on some wet moss and took a tumble down the side of the mountain. My left ankle hurt something fearsome. Any sane person would have limped the kilometre back to the cable car and take an easy route down; I decided to stuff some snow on the inside of my boot and hobble down the mountain. I like to think of myself as stoical, determined and bold; in actuality I’m just stubborn and stupid.
It took me hours and the continual pressure on my good foot made the journey something of a double trial.
Halfway down, I came to a clearing in which a family of farmers were raking the hillside of hay for their cattle’s winter feed. Behind them was a magnificent backdrop of pure alpine valley. Generally, I don’t like taking shots of strangers without permission so I asked first: “Bitte, kann ich ein photo machen?” He nodded, then carried on. I took the photo – and carried on.
I was unable to walk for a couple of days. In time the torn ligaments in my ankle healed. But the image in the photo is forever.