2021 - local trips only - until now....

The first half of 2021 in pictures and some stories as well....

Travelling to far away destinations was still no option and even within Europe travelling was either impossible, difficult or just not recommended. During winter I tried to go out for photography at least once or twice per month. For commerical puposes the winter is a difficult season as winter means snow and frost in the picture market. As we all know winter is more often dull and wet than frosty with snow and sun.....

But there where some really great days during the winter months, which I could use for photography (and some exercise). During spring I started to pick up my macro lens for the first time since, I think, 5 or 6 years. I must admit that I started to have fun with flowers in our garden.....

In early summer the first overnight trips were possible according to the German/Bavarian regulations and we visited the Bavarian Forest, a location always worth while a visit.

Basically that was the first half of 2021. Lets keep the fingers crossed for the second part of 2021! And I changed quite a bit of my equipment, kind of slim down exercise. Shedding weight and increasing performance, not a bad but expensive deal!

The Bavarian Alps between Bad Tölz and Mittenwald

Since my early childhood I know this part of the alps, climbed many peaks and hiked many valleys. During summer I try to avoid this area, to many people as it is close to Munich.  During the 1980ies I used to do at least one overnight trip during winter, which was very exciting and we always had a "canadian" feeling.

Snow and frost is much less frequent, but the number of people has increased at least tenfold. Especially during the pandemic the easier peaks are now crowded even during winter and I had to avoid weekends. The more people the better the tracks, which attracts even more people. But good tracks had been welcome as it makes a big difference and I only had to track in the fresh snow only once....

During the longer hikes I just carried my small MFT and often used stitching to increase the resolution and widen the field of view, perfect for hikes. No tripod no nothing just a small body with a versatile zoom. Down in the valleys and along the roads I picked up my Medium Format body.

The Kochelsee/Walchensee/Isartal area was most of the time my destination. As soon as the weatherforecast looked fine and there was good snow cover I hopped in my car and spent the day in the mountains. As everything was closed and there was a curfew, longer trips had not been possible. During the short days sunset/sunrise was still possible to shoot despite the curfew, a bit later in the year I was forced to return to early to get red skies.

I hiked Mount Jochberg and Mount Herzogstand several times, visited Bad Tölz and the valley of river Isar more than once. All trips were great and produced some really good shots. Only Mount Wallberg was dissapointing. I never was there before and I doubt that I will return.....It was a good excercise though!

The most memorable hike however was Mount Schönberg (means pretty mountain). I never climbed it before and it is a long hike especially in winter conditions. I got up very early and found an email in my postbox that the heating in our house in Gauting stopped working and we had minus 17 C this night. I changed plans, organized an electric heater called the service and stayed in Gauting until everything was fixed.

I started my drive to the mountains about noon. The plan was now to stay up there until and well beyond sunset and hike down during darkness. Quite a challenge as to follow unknown faint tracks in the snow during night with a headlamp is not as easy as you might think.......

But the sunset was the best I ever experienced in the Bavarian Alps! The fog lifted a bit in the valleys and produced marvelous sunrays and even the farway peaks of the Hohe Tauern and Zillertaler Alpen where visible on the horizon. It could not have been better. I probably would have missed it, but thanks to the heating I had to change my plans.

After sunset I rushed down and arrived 2,5 hours later at my car. It was an extraordinary day and some pictures are looking very photoshopped, but it was as pretty as that!

We had a long winter and a quite wet and cold spring. During these weeks I stayed closer to Munich for photography - in the garden of my childhood home in Gauting. But this is the next chapter. First some mor examples of our mountains during winter....

The Garden

I have zero experience in flowers and macro. I guess, if I search my database for flower shots made with a macro lens, it would be fewer than 50. That is close to nothing..... When I swichted from Canon to Pentax Medium Format I bought an old macro lens dating back to the 80ties for nearly no money. I used it from time to time, but more as a short tele lens.

When spring arrived my sister, who takes care of the garden, talked me into taking pictures of her (spring) flowers. I dusted of the lens and hopped into this genre. I soon started to like it and tried to be in the garden about once every two weeks.

It was quite tough to meet this goal, as we had a wet, cold and windy spring. Cold was no problem, wet could be avoided, but windy was the biggest obstacle. I did not use to many tricks like putting up windshields or pinning the flowers. Anyway it was and is fun and I think I will try to come back with the camera from time to time.

I realized very soon, that I am not in the department of clinical sharp flower documentary pictures. I tried to work on the characteristics of the flowers, sometimes clean, sometimes poetic, sometimes in their realtionship to other plants of the same species. Grape hyazinths or Alyssum just do not grow as a single flower.....

I liked to stroll through the garden to check for nice compositions in the world of the flowers. By now the garden is so lush that access to flowers is getting difficult. The wet spring had its advantages, but mybe I try again this week!

One lesson I learned again: first imagine a picture than try to find it and from this point on let your creativity and imagination guide you through a photo session with a flower. It is my method in landscapes and it worked really great in the macro world as well.

Bavarian Forest

During all seasons I am a regular visitor to the Bavarian Forest and its National Park, by the way the first of its kind in Germany. It had its 50th birthday recently.... The wildlife enclosure area is a great place to practice (and train) wildlife photography. As it is no Zoo, it is never garantueed, that you see Lynx or Wolves, thats part of the fun. As there are many species in the enclosures however, it is very likely that you will have great photo opportunities.

This year lynx, wolf, wild boar where hard to spot. I guess that they where still not used to people, as the enclosures where closed during the peak of the pandemic, in fact they opened the area to visitors just a couple of days before we arrived. But the owls where superb!

Besides the enclosures the NP offers many hikes through nearly untouched forests and areas, where commercial forestry had been abandoned 50 years ago and no human intervention was allowed since then. It was the testing ground for my new MF equipment. Somehow I started to work on the old man made wood drifting channels. It was no plan, but just developed during the stay.

Drifting the Wood

The Bavarian Forest was a poor area in the older times. Long and hard winters, poor soils not very good prospects for farming! The only natural ressources had been the forests, huge areas with forests, nothing but forests! But how to bring the wood to the market? In these times there where no roads, no lorries, no engines. The market was there, that was not the challenge. Growing cities like Passau, Regensburg, Munich needed timber and firewood and local glass production was established, as engery in the form of charcoal was quite cheap. By the way this tradition still lives on on a much smaller scale however. As soon as the first railroads where available the Bavarian forest was connected to the network, quite often with narrow gauge lines (sometimes the hiking paths are following the former railway tracks).

But as soon as the terrain got to steep, railways just could not been used any longer. The locals found an easy solution. Lets use flash floods to drift the wood. To create flash floods they needed reservoirs, to fill the reservoirs with water, more water than the drainage area supplied was needed. Channels were build along the countour lines to enlarge the drainage area of a reservoir by redirecting creeks from other valleys.

Now they had the water to fill the reservoirs. Nearly every valley had at least one reservoir, sometimes even more. The reservoirs are looking nowadays more like mountain lakes and are well visited by hikers, some are silted up by now, some are still taken care of, at least the dams are looking well maintained!

Ok, now we had enough water to fill reservoirs and enough reservoirs for plenty of water for our flash floods.But the creeks of the Bavarian Forest are full of boulders, bends and fallen trees! More channels were needed. This time not for water supply but as a clean straigtforward channel for the flash floods to "wash down" the trunks.

All these activities changed the mountains during the 19th and 20th century. Most of these structures are now in the core area of the National Park and are not maintained any longer. Trees and bolders are blocking the channels and the return of the beaver is another reason, why the valleys are returning to a much wilder, natural state of its streams, creeks and ponds. Wood is not any longer the main source of income of the higher parts of the Bavarian Forest. The National Park sparked tourism but a major change in this area came from world politics.

My forefathers called an area a bit further north of the Bavarian Forest their home. As a kid we visited the relatives quite often and we nearly always visited a small village nearby. It was (and is) called Stadlern, even after so many years I still remember the name. From a little mountain we looked right across the Iron Curtain. I always climb Mount Lusen when I am in the Bavarian Forest and I do not see any hints of the fence and all the border fortifications. Sometimes you see a strip bare of trees, thats all. Now we have a cross border National Park, and Prague is as easy to reach as Munich.

The fall of the Iron Curtain changed the postion of the Bavarian Forest in the European geography. It was a backwater dead end area. In german such areas were called Zonenrandgebiet and these areas received much funding to stabilize the economy and to keep the population in the area. But back to tourism and the local economy of the Bavarian Forest. Tourism got kick started by the fall of the Iron Curtain and the National Park developed into a major attraction of the area. Visitors can now combine hiking or wildlife watching with a visit of Prague, Pilzen or Passau and Regensburg.  I guess that tourism is now what forestry and the glass industry was 100 years ago.....

The changes of the environment to allow forestry are amazing and even more, if you consider the tools they once had to dig the trenches and build the channels. Most was probably done by hand with shovels and picks. If you are in the area try to visit the Waldgeschichtliche Museum in St. Oswald (museum of forest history). They have fascinating footage of "holzmachen" during winter and summer in the old times. It had been hard times with backbreaking work for very little money!

The "drift" of the wood in the channels would have ended as soon as the mountain relief gave way to the flat areas of the wide valleys full of bogs and meandring rivers. Meanders are very bad for drifting wood! Again shovels and picks had to play a major part in the harvest of wood. Channels had to be build through raised bogs and meanders had to be cut short. Again lots of changes to the natural environment. On top of that, narrow gauge railways where planned and buildt to pick up the wood and transport it to "normal" railways and the local glass industry. Some hiking and biking paths have their origin in these old railway lines.

Times are changing and nature takes over again. The "do not touch philosophy" of the National Park makes sure, that over times the traces of forestry will vanish! A large majority of the local population support the idea of such a National Park and if you look at the prospering villages it is easy to understand why. Structural change as an environmental success story in a once remote and poor area!

Wildlife

There is plenty of wildlife in the National Park, Lynx and Wolf are roaming the area again, birds and reptiles are back and the number of insect species has increased dramatically.

The likelyhood of encountering the mammals and birds is very small however. Hikers have to stay on the hiking paths and animals are never fed at feeding stations (as it is done in many of our forests to avoid damage by deers to the trees)! Very early in the history of the National Park a visitors center and huge area with enclosures for local animals was established. It was meant to educate visitors, what kind of wildlife you should encounter in a "healthy" forest area like the National Park. But the enclosures developed into the major attraction of the whole area. It also draws many photographers to rare species like Lynx.

This year the behaviour of the larger animals was different. Lynx, bear, wolf and wild boar where hard or not at all to spot. With moose and owls however I had a very good time.

Neusiedler See and Hungary

Travelling abroad was quite impossible or not advisable. I did not want to take any risks and most countries had severe restrictions reagarding quarantine and/or accomodation. As soon as it was possible, we hit the road to drive to our relatives in Hungary, as we have a cottage there no accomodation was needed. Before that week travelling to Hungary was virtually impossible....

As usual we made a stop over in Podersdorf and we were treated with a great sunset.....

In Hungary I did not see any foreign tourists, at least during our first week. It was a sad sight to see the empty streets of  hotspots like Szentendre or Hollokö. I guess this will change now a bit. When we arrived crossing the border was possible, but offering accomodation to foreigners was banned. Of course there was one exception, if you could show a ticket to a soccer match of the european championships. Lex soccer/football was ruling again!

About 10 years ago we lived in Budapest for 2 years and made quite a few daytrips in Hungary. But since then we always stayed just in Budapest/Szentendre to have some vacation and rest from travelling. As there was no need to rest from travelling this year we visited Hollokö and Visegrad/Esztergom. It was great to see these places again....

Szentendre

Szentendre old town is a major draw for all tourists in the Budapest area. It is a very pretty location on the banks of the Danube and is known for its art scene and the old k u k charme. This year it was also my testing ground for old lenses on a new body. And I rediscovered some of the locations in a town we know so well.

Danube Bend, Visegrad, Esztergom

If you follow the Danube from Szentendre upstream you will drive through an area a bit similar to the more famous Wachau in Austria. At one end of the valley Visegrad with its castle is located, at the other, you will find Ezstergom with its famous and huge Basilica. It is a nice drive through one of the cultural heartlands of Hungary. These two towns are normally full of tourists arriving by a cruise ship or by car.....

The basilica in Esztergom, as mighty and famous as it might be, is not my favourite. To big and strange proportions and right now (and for the next 2 years) the huge cupola is being renovated. The location on a kind of rock above the Danube and the old town is very nice and a good spot to spend a sunset. Esztergom is a great place and we had very good food as well. It was a great half day!

Hollokö

Hollokö, a UNESCO wolrd heritage site, is a small village with a lot of traditional buildings. It is not a museum village, as the houses are still inhabited. It is a pretty place about 100km north of Budapest in the mountains close to the northern border of Hungary.

As all the other places Hollokö was in a kind big sleep. Most restaurants were still closed and the parking place was empty. As this place is depending on tourism I only can hope, that by now more and more visitors from abroad will wake up Hollokö from its big sleep.

Taking pictures in Hollokö is demanding, as everything is quite "uniform", but to small to work with repeating patterns and forms. I tried my best in the heat of the day which was full of dust and heat from the Sahara.... I guess it was about 36 C in the shade (late morning not noon) and hardly any wind. The air conditioning in the car was a welcome change when we drove back late noon).

What is next?

We are back in Munich now. During August I will stay closer to Munich, but there ar plans for Iceland and Greenland for September. We will wait with bookings until  any possible restrictions are clearer to forecast. It would be great to head to the Arctic again.

And Jürgen Stock and I will be with a booth at a fair near to Munich end of July. I guess it is the first and possibly only fair dedicatet to photography and travel this year. We have quite a big booth right next to the entrance of the Stadel. If you are living nearby, visit us in Fürstenfeld in Fürstenfeldbruck.

The final word in german, next workshops

Vor einer Woche waren wir gezwungen die letzte verbliebene Reise in 2021 erneut abzusagen. Die große Falkland/Südgeorgien/Antarktis Tour wird 2021 nicht stattfinden, Falkland erlaubt ohne 14 Tage Quarantäne keine Besucher und die Corona Situation in Chile/Brasilien/Argentinien ist hochproblematisch. Diese Tour wird für das Jahr 2023 (!) geplant. Wir wollen keine erneute Absage riskieren.

Für nächstes Jahr bleiben wir in der Arktis mit Island, Spitzbergen und Grönland sowohl im Sommer als auch im Winter. Für den Herbst haben wir eine neue Tour, die Island mit Grönland kombiniert! Das ist in der Art eine einmalige Gelegenheit beide, doch sehr unterschiedliche Naturräume und Lebenswelten zu erleben und zu fotografieren!

Für 2023 planen wir zum ersten Mal eine Reise zu den Aleuten in Alaska. Der Verlauf steht schon und kann bei uns gerne telefonisch erfragt werden. Es ist eine logistisch sehr anspruchsvolle Reise in eine Region die kaum besucht wird und wird eine Kombination von Landschafts-, Reise- und Tierfotografie werden. Verkehrsmittel sind Linienflugzeug, Buschflieger, Fähre, Schiff und KFZ.

Dadurch dass momentan (fast) keine Messen stattfinden, sind wir auf mail und telefonische Kontakte angewiesen! Also einfach einmal durchrufen.....

Unsere Fotoreisen und Foto-Workshops

Ein Klick auf die Reise bringt Sie zu einer Beschreibung der Reise. Dabei steht weniger der Reiseverlauf sondern was wie und wo fotografiert wird im Vordergrund. Der eigentliche Reiseverlauf und die Konditionen werden über links zu Auf Kurs! Inselreisen erreicht. Man kann sich natürlich auch gleich den ganzen Katalog holen (bitte Corona-bedingte Änderungen bei J. Stock nachfragen)!

Thats it for the moment! Stay tuned and healthy!

Munich July 2021