Going out into the field – be it climbing a mountain, heading off into a forest or diving in a lake – and impregnating myself with the knowledge gleaned from others is the part of my work creating habitat panoramas that I most enjoy. Taking the required photos is always a challenge as I need a vast number of images to be able to create a collage that is both detailed and believable.
In this case, the challenge was multiple. First of all, we had to climb up to the lakes of Colomers in the heart of the Aigüestortes National Park, in the high Pyrenees, fully laden with photographic equipment, thick Neophron suits, goggles, snorkels, weights, etc., and then dive into its glacial waters – with all the required permits, I may add! My guide was the ecologist Marc Ventura, Director of the LIFE Project Life Limno-Pirineus, from the Blanes Advanced Study Centre belonging to the Spanish National Research Council – CSIC, not only an expert limnologist but also a great mountaineer who sometimes forgets that we’re not all in such good form as he is …. Nevertheless, I reached the lake and managed to hide my laboured breathing as I followed in his tracks.
Once in the cold water of the lake at over 2,000 m, the main difficulty was to keep afloat at just the right height so as to not disturb the sediment on the lake bottom. I was able to photograph the submerged and emerged landscapes, populated by numerous singular plants and animals, many of which float on the surface.
A further challenge was to photograph in detail and then reproduce in a satisfactory way two very special environments: mires and calcareous springs. These two habitats are populated by small, often almost imperceptibly small plants that thrive in specialised microhabitats with very specific levels of humidity and relief features, that it was my job to reproduce. Also with us was Empar Carrillo, an eminent botanist, who took us to the calcareous springs of El Pla de Beret and the mires in the Vall de Molleres in the Vall d’Aran and Alta Ribagorça, respectively.
All in all, I’ve produced four great panoramas of these aquatic Pyrenean habitats (lakes, rivers, mires i calcareous springs ),for use in displays, leaflets, pedagogical material and in the (highly recommendable!) website of the LIFE Project Limno-Pirineus. It was a pleasure to be able to collaborate with the project, which is already having an obvious positive impact on these fragile upland ecosystems, knowledge of which will filter down into the local population and help perpetuate this positive conservation dynamic. Congratulations to all those who made it possible.