When the fascinating ‘floating peaks’ were introduced by David Cameron in his 3D blockbuster, Avatar, we thought we have seen it all. Well, close on their heels is another set of awe-inspiring natural formations called the ‘earth pyramids. These real-life columns, located in South Tyrol, an autonomous province in northern Italy, seem straight out of some science fiction movie.
The pyramids caught the imagination of Kilian Schönberger, a colour blind professional photographer and a geographer from Germany. Instead of snapping these alien-looking columns in the daytime, he climbed the Alps late at night and waited for dawn to break.
What he captured in his camera was really spellbinding. The columns, enveloped in the morning fog in the hazy dawn light, appear like stalagmites growing out of the ground. The whole scene appears surreal and other-worldly.
South Tyrol is not the only place where such ‘earth pyramids’ are found. They are also found in Ritten, a plateau in the vicinity of Bolanzo in northern Italy and in Platten, near Percha in Puster Valley that extends from East Tyrol to South Tyrol. There are much more.
These unusual formations originate from morainic rocks of glacial origin. These structures were created by erosion, rising from the clay soil left behind by glaciers from the last Ice Age. The pyramids have a typical elongated shape and the taller they get, the thinner they become. Most of these are ‘crowned’ by a large boulder on top, which protects the soil below.
Due to continuous erosion, these pyramids are constantly evolving. Eventually, due to constant erosion, the columns can no longer support the weight of the boulders and they collapse, but make way for new formations. Usually, these pyramids are formed in places well sheltered from wind and thus escape damage. The existence of such pyramids is also dependent upon the climate.
Schönberger, who have also clicked the hoodoos in the Southwestern United States, finds parallels between the two formations that were created through two very different geological processes. The interests of this photographer are not only limited to natural formations. His range extends from natural landscapes to cityscapes, since he feels that the remote rural areas are photographically as interesting as the lifestyle of urban melting pots.
All the photographic works of this colour-blind photographer are par excellence. Asked how he manages it despite this handicap, he says, “I developed my own unique photographic view. For example, while getting a picture of a chaotic forest scene, I can’t clearly distinguish between the different green and brown tones, I just concentrate on the patterns of the wood to achieve impressive image structure.”
Little wonder, his creations are creating a wave on Instagram and Behance!