DJI Mavic 2 Pro | F5.6 | 1/240 | ISO 100
Writing isn’t my strength, so I do hope I can do this place the justice it deserves. For me, Bavaria has been a life changing, life affirming trip. One that has inspired me much more than I could have ever imagined.
Over the last year or so my photography has started to change. As I have become more and more interested in natural environments and being in the outside world, I have naturally graduated towards landscape photography. I have also developed a huge passion for hiking and mountaineering and was eager to go exploring. With a few pictures of the glorious castles and authentic Christmas markets, it was relatively easy to convince Tiffany that Bavaria for Christmas would be the perfect destination.
Sony RX1R II | F2.8 | 1/125 | ISO 1000
Sony RX1R II | F3.2 | 1/160 | ISO 8000
The deal was if I got to go to the mountains, Tiffany got to go to the Christmas markets in Munich. How could I refuse? We headed to Munich for 6 days over Christmas, visited at least 10 Christmas markets and wondered about the city. The city of Munich is pretty diverse and you wont go wanting for anything, however, what Munich really did for me was confirm that I didn’t want to be in a city. I just wanted to get to the Alps.
Fuji GFX 50s | 63mm | F11 | 7s | ISO 100
Nuremberg is more my style. Smaller, quieter, more traditional in its architecture and has a huge amount of history. It’s such a convenient day trip from Munich too, or at least it is when you travel at 200mph on a German ICE train. In the UK that kind of logistical feat would lead to a national holiday, but in Germany it just the standard they desire. There are some great long exposure opportunities here as well are some extraordinarily quaint streets that look almost too well kept, just like the one above.
Fuji GFX 50s | 32-64mm @ 32mm | F8 | 0.3s | ISO 100
On boxing day we picked up our 4×4 and traveled down to Berchtesgaden. About an hour into the journey the traffic started to thin, you could see the snowy tips. This is where the trip started for me. Our Austria-Loving sat-nav tried to take us across the border at every opportunity so instead, we drove the winding roads through the extremely pretty Bavarian villages with the beautiful wooden clad alpine houses. You can see why there are many German fairytales, it’s an obviously beautiful place. The image below is from the ‘Panoramic Road’, one of the highest drivable routes in Bavaria. The views are unreal, just be prepared for the steep, sharp hairpin turns.
Sony RX1R II | F8 | 1/160 | ISO 100
Other than Berchtesgaden being very close to many of the beautiful locations that I wanted to visit, I knew little about the town itself. After hurling our bags in the beautiful pine clad guest house we headed up to the Maria Gern church, one of the icons of the area. We were lucky on the first location, we had a beautiful clear yet colourful sky just before sunset and an incredible view of Mount Watzmann. Maria Gern has to be one of the most photographed locations around the Berchtesgaden area, but little did we know that these glorious chapels would be all across Bavaria.
Fuji GFX 50s | 63mm | F8 | 1/5 | ISO 100
Berchtesgaden town itself is charming and Christmas time made it that little extra special. Rooftops strewn with Christmas lights. Cobbled streets and quaint little wooden market stalls plot their way through the town. I had a smug look on my face, but not because I had chosen such a lovely town to base ourselves in, but because Tiffany had no idea that it was a surprise to me too.
Fuji GFX 50s | 32-64mm @ 38mm | F10 | 6s | ISO 100
I did a significant amount of research about the locations that I wanted to visit in southern Bavaria, though nothing is quite as good as local knowledge. I learnt pretty fast that the accessibility of some of the alluring locations is very weather and season dependent. Hikes in the summer being completely off limits in the winter for example, or boats (on lake Königssee) that only go to half the destinations. We quickly had to adapt some of our plans, but everything we stumbled across instead was stunning regardless.
Fuji GFX 50s | 32-64mm @ 45mm | F6.4 | 1/45 | ISO 100
Hintersee, the beautiful lake in the Ramsau area of Berchtesgaden was undoubtedly one of the stand out locations. We were lucky with the weather conditions, the lake was half frozen over and the sky was blue. We noticed the colour of the water immediately… Maybe not quite as blue as some of the images you’ll find on the web, but still very blue and green in colour. Something that was common all over Bavaria. Something to do with the minerals, apparently. This was the first place I used the Mavic 2 drone, the view from above is quite spectacular. One that just can’t be replicated with any other camera.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro | F5.6 | 1/80 | ISO 100
Fuji GFX 50s | 110mm | F4 | 1/500 | ISO 100
Fuji GFX 50s | 23mm | F8 | 1/70 | ISO 100
In the immediate background to Lake Hintersee lies Mt Watzmann. With its iconic shape, is like a watchful eye over the whole Berchtesgaden area. You can see its double spiked peaks from almost everywhere. It’s one of the images that really stays in my mind from the trip and I plan to conquer it one day. And, it provided me with one of my favourite images in recent years, below.
Fuji GFX 50s | 110mm | F5.6 | 1/20 | ISO 3200
Fussen, another stunning town very close to the castles; Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau played the host location for our final stop. Every town and village we drove through on the way, seemed equally picturesque but the stretch from Schwangau to Fussen was especially surreal to say the least. Neuschwanstein Castle is absolutely sensational, so much so that it even inspired Walt Disney. It’s an absolute must see, even from a distance.
Fuji GFX 50s | 110mm | F5.6 | 1/750 | ISO 100
Near to both castles we discovered the most beautiful church we’d ever seen, St Coloman. Situated by itself on a perfectly flat plane of land, seeming stretching for miles, with only snow capped mountains and the two castles in the distance. Another of my favourite images from the trip.
Fuji GFX 50s | 110mm | F11 | 1/90 | ISO 100
The walk up to Neuschwanstein is short and somewhat steep, but easy enough. The problem lies with the view, at least photographically. You end up very close therefore you are shooting from below and are creatively limited. I asked one gentleman that seemed to know where he was going and he pointed us to an opening around 1km or so away up a very steep secret path. The view was pretty special.
Fuji GFX 50s | 63mm | F8 | 1/4 | ISO 100
The entire area of Schwangau is really worth exploring. The castles, the Alpsee lake and the church, and all of the walks and hikes around will keep you busy for days. A tip however, If you plan on going ‘off piste’ and finding your own path to see the castles, take some crampons if you’re going in the winter. It’s pretty steep, icy and not very safe. But it’s worth it.
Fuji GFX 50s | 110mm | F5.6 | 0.6s | ISO 100
I was getting very itchy feet as to this point, we’d not climbed any mountains, apart from a shorter 700m climb from the bottom to the middle of the Jenner mountain back in Berchtesgaden. I was getting desperate. Breitenberg Mountain, in neighboring Pfronten was to become very nearly my first ascent in the alps But, it wasn’t quite to be. On a day that saw around 60cm of snow, and some shocking wind we unknowingly set off up the Breitenberg, despite being questioned several times by the staff at the cable car and looked at in a ‘we two are weird’ sort of way. It started off fine, hiking through relatively steady inclines and ankle deep snow, but after an hour the snowfall got heavier and heavier. We reached the top cable car station and Tiffany was fully sick of climbing and didn’t want to go any further, you can see why below… That is me in the middle to the right.
Huawei P20 Pro
I was determined not to be beaten so I carried on. The tree cover disappeared so the high winds and thick snowfall really penetrated and froze me to the core. I couldn’t see any path or marked routes to follow. I carried on until the top chair lift in knee deep snow which took me at least 45 minutes to cover 600m in distance. But the snow depth from here on was ridiculous and I’d no way of telling which way to go, oh and the last chairlift down was nearing too. It taught me a whole lot about climbing. But most of all it gave me the bug. Even though at times it was a bit scary, I wanted to do it all again, with the right clothes and equipment next time and not on my own.
Fuji GFX 50s | 110mm | F11 | 1/140 | ISO 100
Before Bavaria, I had watched heaps of movies, documentaries and youtube videos on mountaineering, skiing and climbing. Something about them really stuck with me and even though I had almost no experience with any of it (apart from some hikes) I knew it was something that I wanted to explore. Bavaria was a pivotal moment for me. I know for sure that I want to spend as much time in the mountains as I can. Nowhere else can I get the sense of freedom and insignificance. I like discovering the world without the spoils of tourism and crowds of people, I also love the diverse huge scale landscapes, and there’s nowhere better to realise all of this that high up above, lost in the peaks.
Sony RX1R II | F7 | 1/1000 | ISO 100
Sony RX1R II | F8 | 1/250 | ISO 100
Since arriving back home in early January, I have been back to the Alps twice to learn to Ski and will, without doubt, be going back for more mountain madness before the year is out. In April next year, I plan to do a Ski Tour. In short, a Ski tour is a long hike-climb-ski trip, generally from one mountain hut to another. This would be the ultimate challenge but I am way off being ready, just yet.
Fuji GFX 50s | 110mm | F4 | 1/25 | ISO 100
Fuji GFX 50s | 110mm | F4 | 1/300 | ISO 100
Bavaria was not a lightweight trip in terms of photography kit. I took a relatively newly acquired Fuji GFX 50s and a few lenses, along with my Mavic 2 Pro drone and RX1R II. The kit was almost perfect. The drone is sublime and the more I get to know it and understand how to use it, the better it is. For videographers, it is a dream come true with so many clever flight modes built in.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro | F7.1 | 1/240 | ISO 100
DJI Mavic 2 Pro | F5.6 | 1/640 | ISO 100
The Fuji files are second to none. I have never seen such uniformly clean images. Certainly no ‘character’ however, just perfectly sharp images that allow you to freely edit in whatever way you chose. Ergonomically, despite its size, it is one of the best cameras that I have used. Every button and dial seems well placed and the weather sealing is excellent. In the future, I am sure I will add a couple of new (smaller) lenses and a second body. Likely the ‘R’ variant or something similar.
Fuji GFX 50s | 110mm | F4.5 | 1/320 | ISO 100
Fuji GFX 50s | 110mm | F11 | 1/15 | ISO 100
To the one person who got this far, thanks for looking. Now go book a flight to the Alps.