Location Scout: Germany and Paris
Updated: May 3, 2020
So this is going to be more of an overview than an in-depth guide, as my trip to this area was very short for the area to be covered and much of my time was spent visiting long time friends, one of which who traveled with me on this journey. That being said, I will be returning to some of these areas and now know what to expect and how to plan.
Lets start with Germany. Our trip in country started in Munich and headed southeast-east before taking a turn to the north close to the French boarder and continuing up to Cologne. Visiting in late November into early December meant that there were Christmas markets everywhere, something you should absolutely try to attend as pictures cannot do them justice since its such an atmospheric experience.
The other aspect of this trip that was a bit hard was there was not a whole lot of information (at least in English) on natural landscape locations. So I have several areas to revisit to explore further for natural landscapes now that I have a bit of a feel for the lay of the land; yet I have come home with some wonderful images featuring man-made structures and presence.
South of Munich, in a beautiful picturesque valley, sits the UNESCO Heritage site of the Pilgrimage Church of Wies. Still used today as a place of worship, if you visit, please be mindful of the visitor times so that worshipers can practice in peace. This is an amazing location for anyone who is interested in art, history, religion, or UNESCO sites. The details on every surface throughout the building are exquisite.
After spending a few hours at the Church of Wies, we headed towards the town of Schwangau. This is an area I really want to revisit. The drive had beautiful mountain vistas.
The village itself was quaint and lovely with several lakes bordering it. It is also the village in which St. Coloman's Church resides and is the gateway to Neuschwanstein Castle, one of the most visited castles or palaces in all of Europe. St. Coloman's is in such a stunning location. Surrounded by mountains, the Bavarian church is set in the middle of a field just outside of town. With the way the winter clouds were coming through, I could have stayed there for hours, watching as the light changed and bands of snow rolled by.
As it was, I did get a bit of wildlife photography in at this location as well. Its the only wildlife I captured while on this brief visit to Europe. I was able to witness a raptor pair hunting the fields around the church. When one settled on this post with the village in the background, it was so quintessentially European to me, I had to take the shot.
Location tip: One thing I did not realize and had not been mentioned in any of the literature I saw before arriving was that you can actually see Neuschwanstein Castle from St. Coloman's! Arriving with amazing light, I was torn as to which to photograph as I had no idea I could see the Castle from the church yard; but you can. My favorite image of the castle (below) was actually taken from this spot too.
Location tip: When visiting Neuschwanstein Castle for photography purposes, note they do not allow photography inside the castle. For me, this means saving a bit of money as I will not take tours that dont allow photography. However, that's a personal preference, but did want readers to realize this before going. Also, the iconic overlook is from a location called Marienbrücke, the bridge over the Pollät Gorge. This trail does get shut down in winter after snowfall many times. I was super excited to get up to fresh powder covering the area the morning of my visit, only to have my photography vision crumble after making the 2.5km hike up to the castle to find the trail closed.
Once hiking back down the road from the castle, it was time to head out towards my friends' place up near Kaiserslautern. Taking a few days with them meant a few days without much photography, but so worth the downtime to just relax and enjoy the good company.
Back on the road, heading north towards Cologne, we lucked into some amazing light in the morning as we arrived in Cochem. Overlooking the Moselle River sits Cochem Castle. With low temperatures and high humidity, the fog was just starting to lift out of the valley when we arrived. An amazing perk to having a friend with me on a trip like this is she is willing to drive, allowing me to watch the light and weather and direct us to the best spots in the moment. We ended up on the same side of the river as the castle but, taking advantage of one of the many bends, I was able to come up with something unique outside the usual composition of this location.
From Cochem, it is a relatively short drive to my favorite castle of the trip, Burg Eltz. Again the light and the fog just worked so beautifully with us this morning. A bit of a hike through the woods from the parking and we were treated to this amazing vista as the fog lifted from around the structure.
Continuing down to the entrance over the bridge, we were denied entrance by the age old portcullis. Closed during the winter, visitors can only view the exterior during the off season. For us, that was not a problem as we enjoyed only having to share this place with a handful of other early morning photographers.
Such a dreamy castle. For me, not only does it have the traditional turrets and bridge, but its surrounded by a beautiful forest. All I could picture when hiking through was how this must have felt when visitors would arrive on horseback and take in the same views I was witnessing that morning.
The sun started breaking through the fog, dispelling the moody scene that had hooked us upon arrival. We decided to take the bus route back to the parking lot to try to get some alternate views. This was a long slow trudge up an asphalt road and not nearly as pleasurable a hike as the one in that morning. However, you do get a pretty remarkable overhead look of the property from the top outlook.
Location tip: If you want to cover both routes, take the bus lane down to the castle and the hiking trail back out. Your legs will love you for it.
From here, we spent some time at various Christmas Markets and such before heading to Paris for a couple days.
Now, obviously Paris is not a city to be seen, photographed, and explored in just a weekend. I barely had enough time to dip my toes in the Parisian rain! That being said, I did shoot a few frames, even as they may be cliche.
Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile
Winter at the Eiffel Tower
So that wraps up my brief European holiday with location scouting. The next several posts will be discussing in detail winter wildlife shooting in eastern Hokkaido, Japan. Enjoy!