2017 was a year of endings and new beginnings. On the last day of January we left Canada after two incredible years to move back to our hometown Rostock in Northern Germany, where had the chance to take on an academic position. It was tough to begin with, as we had just settled in in Edmonton and we were leaving behind new friends and of course the beautiful Albertan nature. But the new beginnings not only brought more and more work and the excitement of setting up my own research program, it also came with exploring our home with the camera. Before we lived in Canada I was only doing sports photography and aside from the holiday snapshot, landscape photography never really was something for me. That changed after being the aurora the first time, thats what got it all started. So coming back home with a new vision was special. we live directly on the Baltic Sea and that was my main objective. Throw in a trip to Mallorca and the Dolomites and I had quite a good photographic year.
So in the following see my personal seven favorites and the story behind them!
No 1. Easily my shot of the year. This the lighthouse at Cap Formentor on Majorca, Spain. This is the North Eastern tip of the island and I really wasn't expecting the Milky Way to arch perfectly over the light house that night. I was there all alone. Playing with angles a bit I soon found that from my viewpoint I could use the stairs as a leading line. Add in the strong airglow (or aurora, as this was May 28th) and you have the perfect shot. Panorama from 10 vertical frames shot at 20mm.
No 2. Well this one was a great way to say goodbye to Lady Aurora, we were granted a superb show starting somewhere over the Hudson Bay and lasting all the way to descending into Iceland. This here was taken over Labrador and I was blown away that this is looking south as you can see Orion in the shot. Haven't seen the Lady ever since (we are to far south magnetically in Germany here).
No 3. A last big road trip in the Canadian Rockies in January when I went with four friends and met others at Abraham Lake to shoot sunrise. We opted for Preachers point and I particularly liked this huge stack of bubbles, which was hard to expose in the twilight of the morning. Had to focus-stack to get it all sharp and was happy that the last stars were still shining through the break of dawn. Just fell in love with the blue hour this year as you will see.
No 4. The coastline around Rostock is subject to strong erosion and coast protection is achieved for example through these lines of wooden poles (called Buhnen). On a stormy summer night I luckily opted to go east of the City where the clouds eventually broke and created dramatic light. Got quite some shots of the Buhnen but this one is my favorite of the year.
No 5. Venus rising over the Odle Group short before dawn as seen from the Seceda-2500 lift station, one of the most popular spots in the Italian Dolomites. We had hiked up here under the light of the 50% waning moon gaining 700m in hight. The conditions were very wintry, which we did not expect. But we still made it and short before the top I saw Venus and immediately wanted to use this in the comp. Opting for f4 I was also able to get a Venus-Star if you look closely. Also loved how dawn was breaking in the east and how the moonlight casted the scenery in dreamy light.
No 6. Looking in the other direction at Cap Formentor 200m high sea cliffs drop vertically into the Mediterranean Sea and I found it hard to believe that plants grow on these bare rocks. This comp really kept me thinking that even in the most miserable surroundings nature finds a way to adapt and evolve into something bigger.
No 7. When I first met one of my favorite photographers Paul Zizka he was standing waist deep in Lake Minnewanka, getting an under-over shot of the aurora. Well having so much water around in Rostock I now know that being in the water is recommended to get the one special shot. This here was on the island of Rügen, with is chalk coast that belongs to the Unesco World Heritage. I know there was a line of wooden poles in the water, but the tide was a bit high and it only briefly got exposed. So I took roughly 100 shots until I eventually got the perfect water motion and the poles were uncovered, while the chalk cliffs were glowing in the morning sun.
This week I eventually had the time to pursue sunrises in Rostock and it was well worth it.
On Wednesday I looked out the window and saw some hints of color in the southeast. I quickly checked the satellite image and saw that the cloud edge was indeed ca. 100km southeast of Rostock, which would give amazing colors with medium high clouds. I decided to head towards Gehlsdorf to get a view of the city skyline. Arriving on the Warnow shore I was happy to see the first hints of red over the skyline. However, the wind was blowing and destroying any reflection that could have helped with the composition. Instead I decided to go with just the skyline and the vibrant sky. Also I used some wooden poles and a long exposure to create some interesting compositions. Here are my favorites from this morning.
Today I was again seeing some hints of breaks in the clouds and considering that I had some time before heading to work, I decided to head to Warnemünde at the Baltic Sea. One subject that I hadn't had the chance to shot in good photographic conditions yet were the iconic lighthouses. Arriving at the scene I was happy to see waves of 1m rolling in and breaking on the rocks of the pier that the lighthouse is built on. I opted for some long exposures, as well as exposures between 1/4 and 1 second, as theses exposures help to retain structure in the water and create very dynamic sceneries. I also looked into the other direction towards the famous hotel Neptun and here I was waiting for a wave to break directly in front of me to create the splash I wanted, after 60 images I had what I wanted. And in that moment a hint of color was also showing in the sky.
If you only have limited time to explore you need to have a great plan to maximize the number of spots and photography opportunities you get on a given trip. This September I was happy to find the time to go the Alps for six days. There were two areas I badly wanted to visit to get my mountain fix: The Italian Dolomites and the Alpstein Region in northern Switzerland. So on September 12th I flew from Rostock to Munich, picked up my rental car at the airport, which turned out to be a Ford Galaxy, which helped my case to sleep in the car. After some grocery shopping in Erding (yes, the city with the Weissbier) I eventually left Munich at 8 pm. Two hours later than I had hoped for, so on day one sunset was cancelled. I quickly gained kilometers and headed directly to Ortisei in the Dolomites in Val Gardena. There I was meeting with Toby (SNP-Photography) and Peer (p1xoneDesigns), two photographers I knew from facebook who were both in the area at the same time. We met at the pass road to Passo Gardena (Grödener Joch) to shoot the Milky Way over the Langkofel (or Saslonch, or Sassolungo). I found this spot using combination of Photopills, TPE and GoggleMaps, and looking at the images it was a great find. However, I was late to the show and the moon had already risen. Combine that with a fresh snowfall and conditions were almost too bright to photograph the Milky Way, also at midnight, the core of the Milky Way had already set. But I still like what I got at the first spot.
Next up was a hike to the top of Seceda-2500 to shoot sunrise (note that sleep was not part of that night). We quickly drove to Santa Christina, from where it would take 6.5 km to reach the Seceda-Ridgeline. Last minute we had decided to start from there and in the aftermath we believe it was good call. After some snacks and putting on some extra layers we left in bright moon light at 2.30am. We quickly gained way and came out of the forest after 3.2 km just to see that we still had ways to go and that snow might actually become a problem. Well it was, with each meter in height we gained a centimeter of snow (literary). The path was frozen over and I only had running shoes on. But fighting through steep icy patches on the path and cutting through knee-deep pockets of snow we eventually reached the top after 3 grueling hours of ascent. On the top I was noticing that venus was aligning perfectly with the Odle Group and I quickly set up to get that in. After that it all looked like the sunrise would be rather boring as it was a clear night. But ugh clouds were making their way in from the east and so we got some epic pre-sunrise burn over Seceda and some amazing Alpenglow on the east-facing Langkofel. The last shot we wanted to get was a sunstar behind the Odle Group and on that day the lack of clouds played in our favor. At 7.13 am the sun was bursting behind the peaks and I got an amazing sunstar using my Nikkor 20/1.8 AF-S (nikons best lens for that purpose). In the following you see a collection of the best shots from that sunrise-hike.
Standing up on the Ridgeline in the wind for 3 hrs we were frozen to the bones and slowly made our way back to the parking lot. On the way I found some cool compositions, but I was getting too tired to really go for it. We reached the car at 10.30am quickly ate a bit and then slept for 4 hours, just to be faced with the decision where to head for sunset. After a brief discussion with Toby and Peer we decided to camp at a camping lot near the Seiser Alm (Alpe di Siusi) which would give us a good starting point to shoot sunrise the next morning and also a the Lago di Carezzi would be in reach for sunset. After a shower and quick refresh we left the campground at 5.45pm and made our way up a very narrow winding road towards the Karersee (Lago di Carezzi) passing the Rosengarten Group, which was an impressive sight. We reached the lake well before sunset and that place was packed with people. The shores were fenced and we didn't dare to step over the brigades with so many people around (not spoiling everybody's shots). When we arrived the skies were clear with a little cloud in the west. But that should change quickly. Clouds started to engulf the Later Group, which reflected perfectly in the emerald-green water of the lake and when the sun eventually set nothing of the breathtaking mountain scenery was visible, but as a consolidation price, the clouds were shining in cool red tones and we still got some breathtaking shots. After that we waited a little longer, just to see that the skies were not clearing and left knowing that we had some unfinished business here.
to be continued
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