• Landscape,  Travel

    Winter in Elmau Valley

    It’s been a long time since we’ve seen so much snow as in this small Alpine valley on the border with Austria: Elmau. A wonderful area in all seasons, in winter with plenty of peace and quiet and no tourist overload. Certainly not a destination for hardcore winter sports enthusiasts.

    Farewell to the Elmau Valley © Julian Köpke

    For us, it was perfect for a quiet time with walks in the countryside, swimming in wonderful outdoor pools, reading or taking photos. Few motifs are immediately apparent to the photographer. Repeated viewing or, better still, „sticking with“ a composition brings about the happiness of a better picture as if by itself.

    Wintery Elmau Castle with some sunshine © Julian Köpke

    The event of the week for me was a 4-day daily photography course for hotel guests, which focused on photographic composition. A topic in which I had been aware of my weaknesses for some time without having improved through reading.
    The central question of the course instructor Micha Pawlitzki was always: what does the picture do to you? This question is aimed at the emotions, which are a always good guide.

  • General,  Heidelberg,  Landscape

    Infinite avenue of trees

    On Sunday we met with friends to walk in the castle gardens of Schwetzingen, especially to the cherry garden of the mosque, because the cherry trees are starting to blossom. Weak intermittent clouds created a diffuse light in the park with warm intermediate tones. The well-designed baroque grounds everywhere show the joy of technical possibilities to expand – or even deceive – the human horizon of experience.

    There is a small section in the park with a trompe l’oueil designed to make infinity tangible. In summer, ivy grows along the tunnel-shaped lattice to create a tube view.

    Trompe l'oeuil at Schwetzingen Palace Garden © Julian Köpke

    When photographing the following avenue of trees at the edge of the mosque, it was of course clear that the perspective should give the impression of a long path. I tried 2 days later to increase this effect by repeating the image in the picture, which can easily be done with digital photography and post-processing. After the second repetition, I think the eye is very well deceived and no longer perceives a real end.

    Compare to the original here.

    Infinite avenue of trees in the Schwetzingen Palace Garden (virtual reality) © Julian Köpke
  • Landscape,  reflection,  Travel

    Intimate Verzasca Valley

    Intimate landscape photography is a term I can’t translate literally, although intuitively I think I immediately understand what it’s about. Historically, Eliot Porter (1901-1990) is considered the founder of this style of photography. I came across this style through an article by Charlotte Gibb, whom I had the pleasure of meeting personally in Yosemite Valley in February 2020.

    The photographer’s gaze does not seek to capture the whole scenery of a landscape, but is concerned with a closer look at parts of the landscape. The sky is usually not part of the picture in this style and the light dynamics, which are often dramatic due to the sky, are greatly reduced. The tension in the picture is created by the arrangement and relationship of the objects. Reduction and simplicity become important components.

    Rocks below Ponte dei Salti at Lavertezzo, Verzasca Valley © Julian Köpke

    The church of Lavertezzo has become known from many photographs, especially its reflections in the Verzasca between the peculiar rocks. Unfortunately, the main building was completely scaffolded for renovation in November 2022 and not photogenic. I planned the following shot because of the beautiful, sometimes almost flowing rock formations that make the Verzasca appear as if it were lying in a fountain basin. The church tower is somewhat blurred by the movement of the water surface. While processing the shot, the colour selector showed me what a bath of colour had been created by mixing the colours of vertical rocks and horizontal water.

    Lavertezzo Verzasca Valley reflection of church tower © Julian Köpke

    Not very far from the last picture, I had been walking around on the rocks and found this shot. Climbing can be very arduous on the rocks of the Verzasca. The rocks are of course slippery when wet, but even the dry rock does not always give the grip you want or expect. Everywhere you can read the warnings about this problem: 10:21h selfie, 10:38h search action begins. Expressed in typically Swiss terseness. It pays to take your steps carefully.
    A large part of the spectrum is present in the photograph. The green of the Verzasca was not as emerald here as it usually is. The rocks in evening blue. A rock in stronger red. Golden shimmers a reflection down from the ridge. I only noticed the sea serpent when I was post-processing.

    Water snake at crocodile rock, Verzasca Valley © Julian Köpke

    At a certain point, there was no more water for a composition. The stones there speak to me through their colour and their shape and their relationships to each other.
    I could not express it in words. Even weeks later, I can’t express it in a sentence. It is beautiful in any case.

  • Heidelberg,  Landscape

    Winter in Heidelberg

    The Königstuhl in Heidelberg is a popular destination at any time of year and in almost any weather. It can be reached via many routes on foot or by bicycle, by car, by bus or by mountain cable car. 

    The first plans for a transport system were made in 1873 as a rack railway. Two years later, agreement was reached on a cable car, which was completed in 1889. It reached the castle and a viewing hotel higher up, but not the Königstuhl. It was not until 1907 that the Königstuhl mountain station was completed, which made it possible to travel all the way to the top with a change at the level of the lookout hotel. The difference in altitude to the valley station is 436m.

    The building of the mountain station is a mixture of half-timbered house and the same red red sandstone as town houses in the city or the castle, which originates from the area. A flat is included above the operating level.

    The noise of the valley does not penetrate up here. The snow provides further reassurance. The house stands here as if fallen out of time. Only the weather station on the roof and the flagpoles on the right indicate modern times.

    The position of my photograph was on an icy footpath with icy steps. I didn’t fall, but I was standing very unsteadily. The shot nevertheless radiates a lot of calm, the house in warm tones, the landscape wintry cold.

    Königstuhl cable car top station © Julian Köpke
    Mountain top station cable car Heidelberg Königstuhl © Julian Köpke
  • Landscape,  Travel

    High above sea level

    In autumn in South Tyrol, the changeable weather is a series of photographic opportunities. On mountains above 2200m there is already a loose layer of snow. A little below that, autumn shows itself after a hot summer.

    Autumn starts at Alpe di Siusi © Julian Köpke

    The changeability unfolds a grandiose spectacle of clouds and peaks on the Dolomites around the Alpe di Siusi. All you need is a good seat in the café by the cable car to comfortably watch the light change and react to it.

    If it really does rain during the day, a visit to the archaeological museum in Bolzano is a good alternative to board games in the holiday flat. Digital registration is worthwhile, but less significant in autumn.

    The poor man who died 5300 years ago from a painful arrowhead in his left shoulder, probably in shock due to the rupture of the arteria subclavia, is a treasure trove or stroke of luck for science, which has made many research opinions have to be reconsidered.

    The artistic reconstruction of the body by Adrie and Alfons Kennis from the Netherlands does not reflect the finding situation of the glacier mummy. It appears fragile and vulnerable, almost old and tired. One should not be deceived by the physical impression of the fictitious reconstruction. His last ascent from the valley over extremely rough terrain up to the Tiesenjoch at 3210m within about 6 hours was a physical challenge and probably a masterstroke.

    Photography was allowed in the Museum of Bolzano if it was not organic material. This artistic representation made of silicone does not correspond to the finding situation. Ötzi's personal misfortune was a stroke of luck for science. © Julian Köpke
  • Iceland,  Landscape,  Long time exposure,  Travel

    Snæfellsness peninsula

    In the meantime, 0.8TB of photo data has accumulated. It will be a challenge to process all these photos. Fortunately, I am concentrating on a few compositions, each of which will be studied in more detail. The themes of geometry, lines and planes stand alongside the theme of colour contrast, which is easy to focus on in Iceland.

    The basalt rocks of Arnarstapi are ideal for this. With moderately homogeneous cloud cover, they lend themselves to long-term studies. The Phase One camera is able to do without the grey filter through frame averaging, which otherwise often leads to slight shifts in the composition.

    Arnarstapi basalt cliff. 2s, Automated Frame Average. LTE © Julian Köpke

    I’m still not sure whether the basalt rocks of Lóndrangar look better in colour or in black and white. We had drizzle and fog again and again, but also very brief sunny moments. Icelandic weather has returned to normal.

    Lóndrangar basalt cliff. 10s, Frame Average; LTE © Julian Köpke
  • Iceland,  Landscape,  Travel

    From Latrabjarg to Arnarstapi

    A low probability does not mean that something will not happen. For a brief moment, auroras could be observed at night at Hotel Latrabjarg. However, by the time the camera was set up, the phenomenon had already subsided. The night remained cloudless and starry, and the next morning the windows of our car were a little frozen.

    This very sunny day with cool air was the start of the return journey, which we shortened by taking a ferry in the evening from Brjánslækur to Stykkishólmur.

    The bird cliff at the headland of Latrabjarg was completely empty. Only a few seagulls were circling without landing anywhere. The puffins had already left for the Atlantic a week ago.

    Empty bird cliffs at Latrabjarg © Julian Köpke

    From this position you can see the rocks of the Westfjords of Iceland lined up one after the other.

    Westfjord cliffs seen from Latrabjarg

    Our lazy day ended in Brjánslækur. This is where the Vikings first wintered in the 9th or 10th century. A historical plaque refers to boathouses and storehouses that had been built. It must have been a Herculean task to dig depressions in this stony ground. A few tree trunks anchored in the ground are left this. In the background line up the mountains of Snæfellsnes peninsula.

    Landscape at Brjánslækur with a white house and historic poles © Julian Köpke

    Today there is a boathouse here again, with two old boats in it that nobody seems to want to use any more.

    Boat shed at Brjánslækur © Julian Köpke

    On a gentle hill, at the foot of a perhaps nameless mountain, stood another small church with a red roof. These buildings seem almost like a toy landscape when the mountains make them small.

    Waiting at Brjánslækur for the ferry boat to Stykkisholmur Brjánslækur. © Julian Köpke

    The ferry ride was sweetened by a multi-coloured sunset. We drove between the small islands via Flatey to Stykkisholmur. The clouds, however, were to prevent the Northern Lights from appearing when we arrived in Boudoir.

    On the ferry to Stykkishólmur © Julian Köpke
  • Iceland,  Landscape,  Travel

    Westfjords

    A long drive of about 400 km covered this day, which continued with clouds and streaks of rain after a short dry spell. Brief moments of light were replaced by dark, low-hanging clouds. In Kollafjarðarnes, on the 68, we came across a small church, which must have belonged to a farm, along with a small cemetery. A cold sky with a warm, yellowish lawn contrasted with the red of the church roof.

    Kollafjarðarnes Kirkja © Julian Köpke

    Some roads were unpleasant to drive because, despite roadside boundaries, the sloping landscape could not be assessed. And sometimes there was thick fog on top of that. On a sloping gravel road, the fog dissipated and revealed a fjord in glorious turquoise.

    Ice Blue Westfjord in Iceland (Arnarfjord) © Julian Köpke

    In the late afternoon in full autumn light with clouds and haze we reach Dynjandi. Wikipedia reports: „Dynjandi or Fjallfoss is a waterfall of the river Dynjandisá in northwest Iceland. It is 100 m high and broadly fanned out. In summer, 2 to 8 m³/s plunge down here, and in winter about half that. The waterfall is 30 m wide at the top and 60 m wide at the bottom.“

    We approach quickly to get ahead of the impending darkening of the sun by the clouds. Due to the fanning out of the waterfall, we find an area with many small and medium-sized waterfalls, which extends over several floors and shines in magnificent colours.

    Waterfalls Dynjandi in autumn light © Julian Köpke
    We are like ants in this environment © Julian Köpke

    The combination of long time exposure (LTE) and normal exposure (STE) on a waterfall creates a special dynamic that makes it appear more alive. In this image, one shot was stacked at 1/750s and one at 1/15s. The post-processing in colour and black and white each has its own charm.

    Detail of Dynjandi waterfall. Combination of LTE and STE. © Julian Köpke
    Detail of Dynjandi waterfall. Combination of LTE and STE. © Julian Köpke

    After Dynjandi, we reached our accommodation, Holt’s Inn, via good roads. A lady from the southern Palatinate, who had not made herself at home in Cologne, worked in reception. It was so comfortable to talk to a native speaker. Outside it was slowly getting darker, clouds and haze settled over the nameless mountains.

    Evening at Holts Inn near Flateyri, Westfjords © Julian Köpke
  • Iceland,  Landscape,  Travel

    Hvítserkur

    After a day of almost complete cloud cover, the day in Akureyri started with a clear night and an intense morning red. The fog in the valley below our hotel looked like a flood that kept rising and finally hid the morning red. This progression seemed to be a good sign.

    Akureyri sunrise © Julian Köpke
    Akureyri sunrise in the mist © Julian Köpke

    Our first stop was in Siglufjörður, a small harbour town whose heyday was in the 1930s. The beautiful houses had been renovated with great effort. I had to stop in front of this white house. Melodic piano notes came from the neighbouring house.

    The white house in Siglufjörður © Julian Köpke

    From Blönduos to Hvítserkur we drove as fast as possible. The tide was supposed to be at its lowest when we arrived. After a sunny day along the northern coasts, the clouds closed in again. The stone monument gives room for imagination.

    To me it looked like a grazing giant animal, similar to a water buffalo. The size and mass would be comparable to a dinosaur. Few rays of sunlight fell on the creature from time to time and made it shine.

    Hvítserkur with reflection at low tide © Julian Köpke

    The two interruptions of the figure become window and door on closer inspection. A kind of Mother of God niche. At some point the interruption will be too big to carry the whole load.

    Hvítserkur detail © Julian Köpke