National Park of Šumava and german neighbouring National Park Bavarian forest were always one of my favourite locations both for photography and for wandering. If I want to get away from the civilization, this is my best bet. Moorlands and streams hidden in wild forests which now naturally recover after bark beetle calamity are all just ideal landscape which changes directly in front of the lens.
Alps from Lusen
Lusen is my favourite peak in the whole Šumava / Bavarian forest, maybe even in general. It offers unrestricted views of the whole mountain range and, in good conditions, even the 160 km distant peaks of the Alps. I remember the first time I saw them from here, barely visible in the grey haze, yet surprisingly recognisable and close. Likewise, I will remember this morning, when the Alps were visible more clearly than ever.
From Rachel to Lusen
Only autumn can produce vivid, rich shades of red in the landscape. I like this view from Rachelto the rocky peak of Lusen, even though it is practically right next to the main way leading to Rachel. I have been here many times, but never in sufficiently interesting light. This time the golden sun shone into the thick branches of the dead spruce and into beech forests in the valley below.
This evening on the top parts of the Bavarian Forest is unforgettable. A group of clouds approaches from the west and lasts well into the night. Perhaps a little surprisingly, it is only when the sun is long below the horizon that they turn to the wildest colours. My fascination with the shape and form of dead trees persists even after many years, so I look for a suitable group to complete the composition. The task is getting harder as new tenacious forest is already growing everywhere.
Morning view from Kleiner Rachel towards Bavaria and the distant peaks of the Berchtesgaden Alps with the prominent Watzmann peak. Perhaps never in my life have I seen the Alps so clearly from the Bavarian Forest as on this sunny weekend. And to top it all off, amazing clouds sit down in the valleys.
The forests around Rachelsee lake are changing rapidly. Where there was a barkbeetle affected forest years aago, a new forest is growing. The only section that remains the same is on the inaccessible side of the lake. A lone spruce and a large boulder catch my eye every time I come here. This time the view in this direction is even more interesting, the beeches are autumn coloured and the surface of the lake is decorated with streaks of rays shining through the trees.
Central European forests are full of life. If I were to count similar encounters, I probably wouldn't be able to, there have been just too many. But there are rarely the right conditions to capture them and rarely enough time. This time, neither was lacking. The centered composition with distinctive framing was the first thing that came to mind, and ultimately the best.
Mists below Lusen
It's long before sunrise, the horizon barely lightens as the fog in the valley begins to dissipate. It drifts through the trees, some moments there is more of it, some moments less. The flowering grasses glisten with dew in the cool morning. The pyramid of Lusen mountain looms over the valley.
The mist rises over the Luzenské Valley before sunrise. Only the slopes of Mokrůvka are still shrouded in a light haze. It is still pretty chilly out here, the valley has not earned the title of the coldest place in the mountains by chance. When light clouds approach from the west, I capture a prepared composition with the curving Luzenský stream and the reflection of the trees in its dark water.
Morning at Zhůří
The former settlement of Kepelské Zhůří - Haidl am Ahornberg on the Křemelná river. Only a restored chapel, old crosses by the roads, stone foundations of houses and isolated old trees remind that there was once a settlement here. I like in particular one tree standing aside, and when the first rays of sunlight touch its crown, it seems downright fabulous. But the place remains strangely eerie.
Lesy na Bučině
The forests above Kvilda in the vicinity of Bučina are still thick and dark. Here the old spruces resist the bark beetle, only here and there a clearing appears, through which the evening sun can shine on the trunks of the old giants and lush stands of blueberries.
The night of the Perseid maximum promises up to 80 falling meteors per hour. But on the way to Březník I already suspect something is wrong - I don't see any of these meteors falling. I try several half-hour sequences, meanwhile I see a total of 3 perseids falling, all out of frame. So I shoot at least the Milky Way, at the point where the Březnický brook meanders and a chill rises from the water.
From the overnight camp at Bučina I rush after midnight to the Vltava springs, where I remember an area with dead trees. I like the skeletal silhouettes of dead trees against the night sky, I don't even think about a different composition. I hope that at least today, the night after the maximum, I will be able to capture some perseids. I set up an one hour long sequence and watch the sky dance. Today it is good, today perseids are falling! I wonder if I should make a wish...
Under the Hadí Hill
Under the Hadí Hill near Kepelské Zhůří I prepare a composition already shortly after dusk. There is an old tree here that will create an interesting composition with the main branch pointing directly towards Polaris and the imaginary centre of the rotating stars. At 11 o'clock after the first alarm, I set the camera on the prepared tripod and turn on the sequence of 360 x 30 seconds. At 2am after the second alarm the scene is captured. Foreground averaged from multiple frames.
All trees must fall
I was really happy I decided to go to Steinfleckberg once I discovered this location. Away from marked trails this place feels like wilderness. Had plenty of time trying new compositions with this nice fallen tree and got prepared for this shot once the sun set.
From Steinfleckberg to Lusen
So many times I was on Lusen and looked towards nearby Steinfleckberg. However I have never been there. This time I decided to try something new and went to Steinfleckberg. While I was sure the summit of Lusen is crowded with people watching the sunset, I was completely alone here.
Rays over Bavaria
Second day on the Lusen (and was it second time that day as well) I caught these interesting rays, lighting up meadows and villages far away in Bavaria and below Brotjacklriegel with its TV tower.
Stone sea on Lusen
After a whole day spent trapped in fog I did not expect much from the susnet at Lusen mountain and got surprised once again. While it lasted just for a few moments, stone sea on Lusen got painted by yellow light.
Grenzsteig (border trail) leads not only through wild forest but also through bogs. Shapes can get really strange there and encourage fantasies while emerging from the fog.
On the grenzsteig
Oh, how I love the fog! Especially when there are so many interesting shapes and forms around as there are on the border trail. I chose centered composition for this image to emphasize the decaying tree.
Evening in the bogs
The mist was light that evening, slowly creeping over the forests. While I wanted to capture the location with wide angle lens, the mist made details more interesting. Evening sun getting through added that orange pinkish colour cast and made forest mysterious.
From the world of forest solitude
Usually referred as the most beautiful valley in the mountains, Březník is quite a stunning place closed by the dominant cone of Lusen mountain. I spent the evening looking for the best composition. Finally, those trees in the foreground and remains of former reservoir made me settle for this place off all the main trails. I watched the slopes turn orange and pinkish but the best conditions occured once small separate clouds appeared and sunlight hit just the tip of Lusen.
Darkest hour of night
According to the forecast, the evening cloud should have dissolved by night and the Milky Way should be in ideal position around 1 a.m. When I leave my sleeping bag and the temperature is just slightly above zero, there are only small clouds remaining above Germany and Milky Way is exactly where it was supposed to be. Separate exposure for stars and bulb for landscape.
Sometimes it is only a small detail that makes you stop like this marsh-marigold that was placed in the middle of the brook waiting to be captured. As it was still quite early in the morning, light was interesting enough and I got this shot by surprise.
Chaluská peat-bog is one of the most visited and photographed locations in Šumava which should by itself keep me far away from it. However there must be something special about this place as it remained my strongest childhood memory from this region. I remember it being beautifully dreary with black swampy waters swallowing grey dullness of reflecting clouds. Luckily it stays the same in this regard so I like coming back. In terms of composition it is only about keeping the birch reflection far from small grassy island. Apart from that taking the shot is only about waiting for better light.
Condition were not ideal that evening on Lusen. For more than one hour the clouds were moving from the west directly to the mountains diffusing the golden hour light too much. 5 minutes to the sunset the clouds definitively arrived and took me somewhere else - into the fog with no light at all. Possibility of capturing the whole landscape in the best light was gone with fog so I could only hope for it to get thinner allowing some light through. And it happened!
The crooked one
The forests around Lusen are green again after several years. The force of nature is visible the best in autumn when grass turns yellow and ferns turn red so that the trees are the only green element in the landscape. The crooked bush on the Lusen itself is one of the few things present there apart from stones.
The last cold tones
Moorlands cool down quickly during nights and remain the last islands of cold in otherwise warm mornings. I was on Zwieselterfilz just on time to capture the contrast between the cool and the warm tones of that morning.
Night in the wilderness
When the skies are clear and the Moon is below the horizon it is still possible to experience really dark nights even in the middle of Europe. On those nights the Milky Way is not just noticeable but all its details clearly visible by the naked eye. Accompanied by the sounds of the forest (squirels, deer, owls) it is pure magic.
When the new day started I was already on the way. Nothing can ever really compare with the mood of walk through morning dew when first sunrays hit the mists.
Morning on Jährlingsschachten
The sun was rising over the ridge of Poledník (Mittagsberg) whose top lookout tower and former radar station is visible in the left part of the picture. I really appreciated the warmth of the first sunrays after freezing night on Jährlingsschachten meadow.
Autumn colors in Hell brook´s gorge. Brook makes its way through clenched canyon full of maples and beeches. In the rockiest part 5 metres high Höllbachfall falls and creates wonderful scenery.
In the past times woods in Hell brook´s gorge were feared as entrance to hell. Thanks to that these offer photographic paradise of pure wilderness even today. Add some autumnal fog and the atmosphere is just ideal.
It was getting dark and my way was fading in dense fog when suddenly I was able to see the ridge on my left side with tree ghost rising from the silence. I tried to capture the unforgetable atmosphere of upcoming night quickly setting up my tripod and camera before all the fog was gone.
New moon night prepared some wonderfull show. Milions of stars and Milky way in the arc high over your head and over dead trees. This type of photography repeatedly shows limitations of my camera. Altough stars are clearly visible by the naked eye, ISO must be bumped up to reproduce the same in photograph which results in high noise. Captured by the the Kirchlinger Stand meadow.
You can say my album is "dead tree a hundred times" but I was always fascinated by its strange cold beauty. There are always new ways of seeing these woods - creepy, disgusting but full of unknown shapes and beautiful in its skeletal form at the same time. Same applies for the photography - always new conditions in which you find these forests.
Freezing in the cold morning paid off once the Sun started to paint the skies. On the edge of this meadow I found fallen trees, slowly disappearing in the grass and used them as a foreground for my shot.
Old reservoir formerly used for timber floating is now slowly overgrowing and surrounding bark beetle-damaged forest naturally restoring. It was noontime when I took this photograph but clouds and colors seemed interesting enough to me to take it. View towards border with Czech Republic.
Pathway between Almschachten and Verlorener schachten in morning light. Glittering hoarfrost on the grass and trees combined with clear sunrays prepared this shot.
Waking up early and before sunrise is always hard. Sometimes you have to sacrifice the comfort of warm sleeping bag and get to the freezing air outside of your tent to get this type of photographs. Conditions were especially good that day, with remains of snow and frozen grass in the foreground and with purple horizon. Shot on highland meadow of Almschachten.
I arrived to Hochschachten pasture after the sunset and didn´t even hope to get some shots there. The light was still quite good though so I took this image looking towards Grosser Arber with its summit hiding in cloud.
My favourite tree on Hochschachten pasture located in its lower part. Sun was already set and clouds were rather dull. Still snow maps caught my eye and I took 4 vertical shots for this stitched image.
Kleine Ohe brook
View from Lusen towards southeast. Stones on top of the mountain caught last sunrays of that day while lower hills and forest were hiding in foggy blanket.
Spirits of the dead wood
Mysterious forest as seen from the Lusen mountain. Got really lucky back then with superb conditions of fog spreading just above the ground so that those skeletal trees could appear like rising from nowhere. Since then fog with dead trees make for one of my most favourite subjects in photography. In 2018 most of these trees are not standing anymore.
For a long time was this shot just in my mind. Coincidence I cropped it from original image 3 months after creating this album... The darkest place is under the candlestick.
Brocken spectre displays magnification only of nearby objects. Among climbers is said that when you see it first time, you are welcome in the mountains. Second time you are in danger and risk of death in the mountains. Third time you see it you are seasoned mountaineer. Bad luck, this was my first one...
Old woods in Teufelsloch (Devil´s pass)
People were affraid of this place with steep rocky formations. Devils allegedly threw hot cones on travelers here...