The second themepack Scenic Europe 2 features 12 photographs taken in Hungary, Corsica, Switzerland, Scotland, England, and Germany. In the following I provide some background information on shooting locations and conditions.
With 1.7 million inhabitants Budapest is both the largest city of Hungary as well as its capital. It actually consists of the two cities Buda and Pest, which are separated by the Danube. The name Budapest for the agglomeration of both did not occur before the 19th century, even though both Buda and Pest are more than 2,000 years old. The photo shows both parts of the city, connected via the beautifully illuminated chain bridge. On the right bank of the Danube, one can spot the towers of the Hungarian parliament.
While on a research stay in Budapest in August 2011, I had plenty of opportunities to capture the beauty of Budapest at night. On this particular evening, I climbed up the Gellért hill to the town's old citadel. This elevated spot offers a perfect overview over the city. Since I had cought a food poisoning, walking up the hill and exercising the patience to take a series of long exposures turned out to be particularly challenging. For this particular shot I used a 50mm prime lens stopped down to f/16 and exposing for 13 seconds to show the motion of the boats on the river.
Apart from its spectacular landscapes, the Mediterranean island of Corsica has a long history of foreign occupancy. Having been ruled by the Greek, the Romans, the Vandals, the Goths, the Lombards and the Roman Catholic Popes, in the 14th century Corsica fell to the Republic of Genoa, which ruled the island for close to four centuries. Even today numerous churches, citadels, towers and bridges scattered across the island stand witness for the Genovese rule.
During a cycling trip in 2009, I had the chance to explore more than 850 km of Corsica's coastline by bike. Having arrived at the East Coast in Aléria the day before, we decided to cycle to the city of Corte in the center of the island. On the way there, the road passed the Tavignano river via this old Genovese bridge, which is classified as a National Monument. Since it was a very hot September day, we took the opportunity to refresh ourselves at the river bank, from which I took this picture.
Situated between the three original Swiss cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, Lake Lucerne is the fourth largest lake in Switzerland. The comparably mild climate, the majestic surrounding mountains and the crystal clear water make Lake Lucerne a popular destination both for Swiss and international tourists. Swimming in the cold and clear water of Lake Lucerne on a hot summer day is a memorable experience, especially when one of the four traditional paddle steamers that are still operational pass by.
Lake Lucerne is not far away from my home town Zurich and we enjoy exploring the area around the lake especially in summer. On this particular day we visited Weggis, a beautiful village located directly at the lake. It hosts numerous cafés, restaurants, meadows, and beaches at the water front, all of which offer spectacular views of the surrounding Alps. Walking across the lake promenade, I came across this nice vista. I captured it with a 10mm wide angle lens.
Scotland is world renowned for its barren, characterful and mystic landscape. The Hebridean Isle of Skye in the northwest of Scotland is no exception and The Storr is maybe one of its most iconic landscapes. This rugged area with cliffs and pinnacles marks the southeastern end of the Trotternish ridge, the longest landslip in Great Britain. The Old Man of Storr, a rock pinnacle almost 50 meters in height, is the most remarkable feature in the area. It is particularly well-known since 2012, when its alien appearance was used in the opening shot of Ridley Scott's movie Prometheus.
I will never forget the day when I took this shot. Starting in Flodigarry, our original plan was to take two days to hike along the barren plateau of the Trotternish ridge. Apart from camera gear, we carried full camping equipment, but a strong and cold westerly storm did not allow us to pitch a tent at the ridge. We thus had to hike the whole distance of more than 25 km across mountains, marshes and rubble on a single day, totaling in an ascend of more than 1700m in elevation. Exhausted and chilled through, we eventually reached the Storr shortly before sunset. I will never forget how relieved we were to leave the storm, which had nearly blown us off the ridge, behind. Our relief was topped by this beautiful and calm vista of the Old Man of Storr and the Sound of Raasay, which can be seen in the background.
Switzerland has no lack of beautiful regions and the Bernese Oberland area is by no way an exception. The area is full of rich green meadows, impressive mountainscapes and beautiful clear lakes, and home to spectacular sights like the famous mountains of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. Just a few kilometers north lies Meiringen, a cozy small town beautifully located in Haslital, a valley that borders Lake Brienz. In winter, the mountains around Meiringen are famous for winter sports, in summer they are a paradise for hikers.
A colleague of mine was kind enough to invite us to visit his hometown over a weekend in March 2013. We use the sunny day for a snowshoe hike across Hasliberg, a mountain that provides spectacular views over the valley and the surrounding Alps. We reached the top of the mountain in the afternoon and decided to take the easy way down by renting a sledge. While sleding we came across this snow covered shack, located just beside the sledge trail that can be seen on the right. The roof deeply covered in snow, the shack had seen weeks of heavy snow falls. I stopped my sledge and quickly got my camera from the backpack to shoot this image against the low sun.
With more than 1.5 million inhabitants, Munich is both the largest city and the capital of the German state Bavaria. Founded in the 12th century during the times of Barbarossa near a monastery, the name Munich literally refers to "with the monks". Today, Munich is a major population and business centre. Hosting the Olympic Games in 1972, Munich has used this event for a number of urban development projects. One of them is the Olympiapark, a park close to one square kilometer in size. It hosts an aquatic center, a stadium, the Olympic Tower as well as extended park areas that invite for a stroll.
Shortly after moving to Zurich, I visited Munich in autumn 2012. We had just finished our tour of the Olympiapark in late afternoon and were on our way back to our hotel. When I passed a small hill slope close to the former Olympic cycling arena, I saw this long shadow cast by the low sun shining through one of the colorful trees. I chose a low shooting angle to give the image a maximum of depth. I further positioned the sun just behind the tree trunk, obtaining a star-shaped highlight in the center of the image.
Cap Corse, the northernmost peninsula of Corsica, is a miniature version of the island itself: In the west, you will find a rocky and mountaineous coast with high cliffs and picturesque mountain villages, while the east shore features calm and sandy beaches. Cap Corse extends about 40 kilometers into the sea. Noted for its particular beauty, it is also referred to as the "Sacred Promontory". Despite its narrow shape with a width of less than 10 km, it features mountains that rise more than 1300m above the sea, a challenge for cyclists and hikers alike. While the area is not visited by many tourists, it is well-known for its wine as well as for the scenic windmill "Moulin Mattei", which is located at the northwestern most point of the peninsula.
On a cycling tour around Corsica, we spent one night on a campsite near Saint-Florent in the south-western part of Cap Corse. We were lucky to find a spot that allowed us to pitch our tent directly by the shore. Shortly after we had set up our camp, the sun started to sink into the sea. Other campers had collected stones from the rocky beach, piling up a small rock cairn. The last sunrays passing through the top stones of the cairn reminded me of glowing eyes and I decided to capture this moment in this photograph.
The Sihlsee close to Einsiedeln, is Switzerland's largest artifical lake. It has a length of 8.5 km and a width of 2.5 km. Located at an elevation of close to 900 m, it is often covered by ice until late spring. In summer and autumn, the lake, its surrounding villages, and the beautiful backdrop of the Glarner Alps make the Sihl valley a popular destination for hikers.
I shot this image on the same day as Scene 2 in the themepack Scenic Europe 1. Starting from the Einsiedeln Monastery, we had taken a short hike up to Friherrenberg, a small mountain that offers scenic views of the Sihlsee and the Glarner Alps. I decided to take along-angle shot with a wide-angle lens to give the image a sense of depth. Using the rule of thirds, I placed the wooden shed close to the bottom-left section. The diagonal line formed by the grass adds dynamic balance to the image.
A unique feature of the Mediterranean island of Corsica is the diversity of its landscapes. The western coast is dominated by high cliffs, narrow inlets, and rocky beaches, frequently lashed by the waves rolling in with the predominantly westerly winds. In contrast, the north and east coast feature broad beaches with fine white sand, picturesque coves, marshes, and coastal lowlands. Large parts of the island's interior have an Alpine character, with more than 120 summits higher than 2000 meters, clear mountain lakes, and wild rivers passing through gorges more than 1000 meters deep. Circling the island is thus an adventure full of surprises, where new landscapes literally wait behind every turn of the road.
I short the image above during a warm and calm September evening on the northwestern coast of Corsica. Closing a hard and hot day of cycling from Calvi to Farinole, we had just pitched our tents directly at the beach. Shortly after the sun had sunken into the sea, a beautiful contrast between the red sky and the blue water emerged. I set up my tripod, screwed on my neutral density filter and took a long exposure that would render the surface of the water smooth, which strengthens the calm and peaceful mood of the image. I particularly like how, due to the fog-like appearance of the water surface, the rocks in the foreground almost appear like mountain peaks in a sea of low clouds.
The river Mersey, which empties into Liverpool bay in nothwestern England is full of surprises. While it used to be heavily polluted from industry in the Liverpool area, thanks to environmental protection it now ranks among the cleanest rivers in the United Kingdom. Music lovers may further know it from the so-called Merseybeat, a style of pop music developed in the 1960s by Liverpool bands like The Beatles. Finally, similar to the Ganges Mersey river is considered a sacred river by Hindus in the UK, making it a place of worship and religious festivals.
I shot this image during a trip to Liverpool. After a few days in the city, I had looked for opportunities to shoot seascapes in the area. According to my map, the beaches around the estuary of Mersey river near New Brighton looked promising. A short train ride later and my suspicion was confirmed. After some strolling, I discovered a picturesque lighthouse close to Fort Perch Rock. It had just been surrounded by water as the high tide was rolling in. At the same time the sky darkened under a brewing storm. I set up my tripod and chose a composition that positioned the lighthouse in the top left part of the image, while the rocks provide the foreground. I selected an exposure time that shows the motion of waves and sea churned up by the wind. Due to generally pale colors of the scene under a cloudy sky and the strong contrast between the sea and the dark rocks, I decided to process this image in black and white.
Since 2011, the city of Zurich has been a home base not only for my scientific works, but also for numerous photographic excursions to the surrounding Alps. Like many others, I have a tendency to pay less attention to the photographic opportunities of my home city than to those of distant places. In the case of Zurich, this is a real pity as the city is a great place for photography. A medieval town unaffected by the wars that have destroyed much of the rest of Europe, two rivers, and lake Zurich all set against the backdrop of the Alps are well-worth getting out your camera.
On an evening in 2012, I walked across the bridge that connects the main station to Central plaza close to the historic city centre. It was around 7:30 pm and the Blue Hour was in full swing. The dark blue sky and water of the river Limmat created a beautiful contrast to the illuminated old houses and church towers near the river bank. I set up by tripod on the bridge, waiting for a time when no bridge-shaking tram was crossing behind and shot this image using a 25 second exposure time.
The wild mountain valley of Glen Sligachan on the Isle of Skye is one of the most characterful and scenic places I have visited so far. It extends for about 12 kilometers between the Red and the Black Cuillins, two geologically distinct mountain ridges that are collectively referred to as The Cuillins. The Cuillins are a truly mystical place - they were the site of historic battles and feuds, are home to the legendary, shape-lifting water kelpie and feature archeological sites like stone circles, Neolithic settlements, and forts dating back to the Iron Age. Today, the Cuillins and Glen Sligachan are world-renowned among mountaineers, hikers and photographers, as they offer some of the most scenic views of the Scottish Highlands.
I shot this image in April 2013 during a trekking tour across the Isle of Skye. We had just started our day's hike near the Sligachan Hotel, crossing the old footbridge across Sligachan river right in front of the hotel. Numerous landscape photographers were climbing the rocks on the river banks to find the best shooting position. I climbed down to the river bed as well, finding a spot that allowed me to frame a small cascade while using the snow-covered peak of Sgùrr nan Gillean mountain as a backdrop. A neutral density filter on a light tele lens helped me to use a long exposure time that blurred the moving water and clouds alike.