About an hour by car southeast of Munich, among the foothills of the Alps, one finds a beautiful small lake called Schliersee. Surrounded by hills and low mountains, gentle slopes and peaceful villages, Schliersee is idyllic for holidays and short visits for walks on the shore and exploration in the woods.
A few weeks ago I decided to visit the lake on a Sunday morning and walk up the mountain next to the lake to find the ruins of an old medieval castle called Hohenwaldeck. The ruins are a couple of hundred meters over the southeast bank. The location is strategically chosen to offer an unobstructed view of the lake and of the surrounding mountains (they knew where to build in those days). The last few hundred meters need to be traversed on foot and take around 40 minutes.
I set out early, aiming to be up on the ruins at around dawn but a time miscalculation resulted in me arriving at the foot of the mountain already after dawn. Anyway, I parked the car and started walking up the side of the mountain. Lesson one: if you can afford a good, light carbon tripod, get one! They are ridiculously expensive, but so is your spine. Lesson two: Shoulder bags are perfect for quick access to your camera gear as long as you don’t have to carry them more than 2,5 m away from the car. Anything further away and you need a real backpack with two (2) shoulder straps.
Forty minutes later, after having regretted multiple times not having bought a backpack for my camera gear (the carbon tripod is a dream I can’t afford), I reached the ruins and settled to catch my breath and enjoy the view. It was a perfect day for a picnic and fortunately not a perfect day for photography. The sky was blue with not a single cloud, there was no humidity or frost on the ground, no fog over the lake, in short nothing dramatic to make a photo more interesting. Which made me particularly happy because being about an hour late, I would have missed the most dramatic moments during dawn and that would have really pissed me off.
It was still only 07:30 and I had the whole place to myself. I set up the tripod and started looking for interesting spots around the lake. The light was still very low and I decided to focus on details.
I processed this one to accentuate colors and blurred it a bit to give it a dreamy look. The white houses were very bright in the low direct sunlight and I overexposed to keep the look and feel of the real scene. I think I overexposed a bit though because the houses in the photo glow enough to light the whole lake. I then focused on a detail on the other side of the lake.
This photo was taken over a direct distance of 2.5km and it tested the resolving power of my zoom lens and the stability of my tripod. As always, you buy what you pay for and although the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD SP AF is not a bad lens, its limits are shown here. Again I went for more vivid colors and for a blurry look during post processing. I particularly like the small blue boat in front of the house.
I am posting the next photo as a lesson on missed opportunities.
I wanted the boats to be as prominent as possible and went for full zoom. In the end I seem not to have photographed anything at all. I missed the nice trees and the lake house on the left. Had I included the lake shore on the left and bottom this might be a good photo.
The problem with all of these shots and with every shot taken from a high vantage point like the one that I was on is the lack of foreground. There was little I could do about this though, so in the end I ignored it. To finish off, I took three HDR photos to create the following panorama:
I was facing west and the sun was coming up from behind me, so the whole slope in front of me was still in the shadow. I took three shots (from left to right) and a total of twelve exposures to compose this panorama. Looks like a touristic postal card now, but the location has potential. With some frost or fog and some cloud, this could be a much better shot.
I took several more photos from this location until about an hour later the sun scaled the peak behind me. I then turned around and focused on the Hohenwaldeck ruins. Come back in a few days for those photos along with the story of the ruins.
© 2014 Epameinondas Stamos