If you love taking landscape photographs, the Dolomites are probably one of the most spectacular locations you could visit – here’s five reasons why…
I’ve been photographing the Dolomites for many years now and still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. There are so many different areas, each with its own unique views of stunning mountain ranges that make it popular for landscape photography. I’ve visited in all seasons, but sometimes seasons can be blurred into one another in mountain environments. I went in spring last year and had over 10 feet of snow on the mountain passes. This year when I was leading my Dolomites workshop in early October, we had 12 inches of fresh snowfall, which was a bonus as it helped to define the dark pine forests and mountainous details. We had the best of both worlds by mixing the winter conditions with the autumn colours. I’m continually discovering new locations in the Dolomites, but if you’ve never been yet then I would say these are my 5 favourite must see locations for landscape photography. And even it you have been to these locations before, the weather conditions are always different so it’s always worth going back time and time again. OK, here they are in no particular order.
2. Lago di Antorno-This small alpine lake is my favourite lake for photography as there are so many possibilities at sunrise and sunset. The peaks of Tre Cime di Lavaredo reflect in the calm waters at one end of the lake and in the other direction the Cadini’s and Marmarole make great subjects. This image was made during my workshop earlier this month when we had a foot of fresh snow that transformed the mountains and pine trees surrounding the lake. Getting to the lake was difficult though as the road was too icy for the steep climb so we had to do a short hike instead. It was well worth it as we were presented with the first light on Tre Cime di Lavaredo. We spent the morning capturing the winter wonderland before the snow melted off the trees. At one point, I was under a tree when it decided to discard all of its snow on me. We made the most of the virgin snow before the crowds arrived. But the crowds here are nothing compared to my next location.
3. Lago di Braies-This lake has become of victim of its own success mainly thanks to social media. When I first came here back in 2006, there was a small free car park near the hotel. Now there is a very large, expensive car park that is regulated by a booking system in peak season, as there are just too many people that want that Instagram shot. October is much quieter with no need to book, but I still recommend getting there early before the coaches arrive. Also, if you want those perfect reflections, you’ll want to arrive before the boat rental opens at 10am. You can see why this lake is so popular as the mountain scenery is stunning. If you have the time there is a path that goes around the lake. In the summer when the sun is more overhead, the colour of the water is a beautiful turquoise
4. Val di Funes-This valley of the two churches backed by the rugged Odle Mountains is what attracted me to the Dolomites in the first place. It’s an iconic image of the area and is a must see for all photographers. The popularity has increased so much that it’s now forbidden to drive up to this viewpoint overlooking Santa Magdalena. You now have to park in the village and walk up the road to the viewpoint. The best time for light is late afternoon when the sun shines through the valley creating a gorgeous sidelight. I did a focus stack at f/8 to capture the framing leaves to the background as pin sharp as possible.
The little church of St. Johann at the end of the valley has also become so popular that a viewing platform has been built along side the field. This is an image that I made back in 2000 with my 4×5 large format camera and it great to see that little has changed with this scene, other than the autumn birch tree in front of the church is now gone. Perhaps it was obscuring the church too much. 🙂 If you have the time, hike up to the Geisleralm Odle where you will be at the base of the mountains. You can relax with a beer and apple strudel while looking at one of the most stunning mountain ranges in the Dolomites.
5. Pale di San Martino-I’m a sucker for reflections, as you can see 3 out of the 5 locations here are reflections. Pale di San Martino is located at the top of Passo Rolle and is one of the most dramatic locations in the Dolomites, when you can see it. At an elevation of 2600 metres, it is often in the clouds. I’ve been many times where you would never know a mountain was there and other times when the small lake was completely frozen even in October.
On one occasion I took a workshop group there when the lake was partially frozen, but the clouds were so thick we couldn’t see the mountains. I had them set up using the edge of the ice as a leading line and told them to imagine the mountains bathed in golden light reflecting in the water. They looked at me as though I was crazy, but shortly just before sunset the clouds began to part revealing the golden mountains. All you could hear were shutters firing until the light was gone. I love it when that happens, though not as often as I would like. The main thing I hope they learned from that day was to be prepared for any eventuality.
So there you have it, my 5 favourite photo locations in the Dolomites. There are so many more to name and I’m sure boundless more to discover. If you would like to join me sometime in the future, I regularly lead workshops there so check out my workshop schedule.
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