American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Snow on the Hills

  • Book Reviews
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1949

Snow on the Hills, by Frank S. Smythe. Large 4to., 119 pp., 47 illustrations. London, 1946: A. & C. Black. Price, 25/-.

Another book of mountain photographs by Smythe, his seventh. It consists of two essays, “The Beauty of Snow” and “The Photography of Snow,” and 47 of the author’s photographs, from the British hills, the Alps, the Canadian Rockies and the Himalaya. The book is large enough (10” × 12½”) to do the photographs justice, and the reproductions are good.

The essays, 20 pages in length, are a pleasure to read. Few men have had Smythe’s opportunity to observe snow in so many places and under such a variety of conditions, and still fewer have had his keen eye, poetic sensibility and photographic ability. Even those who may have felt as he does about snow have rarely taken the trouble to try to put their feelings into words. On the subject of photography, on specific points of technique mentioned in connection with his pictures, Smythe is sound, practical and not over- emphatic. He mentions the causes of failure as well as the secrets of success.

The photographs include nine of British hills—five of the Cairngorms in Scotland. The emphasis here on the use of clouds and sunlight for relieving the monotony of the landscape is pertinent. The pictures of frost, though not outstanding, serve to illustrate the possibilities and easy accessibility of this type of subject.

There are 17 photographs of the Alps, including four intimate woodland scenes of shadows on snow, with good texture. The mountain views are pleasing, but not remarkable. It is well known to many photographers of Nature that early morning is often the best time for taking pictures, and Smythe shows again the value of being out by sunrise. His advice to choose a camera easily operated in cold weather, without too many gadgets, is also well considered.

The photographs of the Canadian Rockies are average, except for three aerial views of Mount Robson’s summit, probably the most striking of the whole group. There are also aerial shots of Mount McKinley, but these do not measure up to the Alaskan pictures of Bradford Washburn or Walter Wood.

The 13 views of the Himalaya are varied and of high quality. Smythe may have seen as much of the mountains of this part of the world as any white man, and he has certainly made very good use of his camera in the foothills and on the glaciers as well as in high places. His view of Kellas has caught the effect of wind on snow remarkably well; there is a beautiful picture of Nilgiri Parbat and a good recording of an avalanche on Kangchenjunga. The final picture, a view northeast from 26,800 feet on Mount Everest, is remarkable not only as a fine record of a magnificent scene, but also for the conditions under which it was taken.

Beckett Howorth

This AAJ article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.