On October 12, 2017, I set off on a trip that I had been planning for over two years. Back in 2015, some of my photography buddies and I had just come back from an amazing Fall trip to the Canadian rockies and the obvious question was…where do we go next? We had already hit Yosemite, Glacier National Park and the Pacific Northwest, and after our trip to Canada, I thought it might be time for a larger trip that would take at least two years to plan for. We immediately thought of Iceland and Norway. But the more I thought about those two options, the more I began to think that it seemed that virtually every landscape photographer I knew had either shot in one of these locations or was planning to go.
As I began to plan, I began to realize that if I was going to make a larger investment in this Autumn trip, it should be to a location that I have always wanted to head to…not because it was popular with other photographers, but because I personally wanted to shoot there. Even though retirement is officially 4 years away, I had long been dreaming about the day that I would take my camera to the alps and spend weeks shooting everything from the French alps in the Southwest all the way across to the Julians in the East. Around the same time, I came across a series of photos that were taken from an incredible national park in Croatia that had been taken in October. I suddenly realized that my next big trip would be to Europe to shoot the alps in Autumn. I might not be retired yet and I certainly couldn’t take weeks off of work, but I could scrounge together 9 days for a quick trip to Europe in October.
I pitched this trip to just about everyone I knew, but I quickly learned that this particular trip was a much harder sell for the guys in my immediate circle. October wasn’t exactly and easy time to get away from work, and those who were married anticipated a tough sell to their wives. If these guys were going to Europe for an entire week, why exactly would the wives want to stay home? For a number of reasons, NONE of my buddies were able to commit to going about a year out and I suddenly had a tough decision to make: Do I bail on the trip and try something closer to home, or could I pull this off on my own?
As I began to research a bit more, I was shocked to find round trip air from LAX to Munich for $675 in October. I was further surprised to find a completely furnished apartment for $30 a night via Airbnb in a town that was just 10 minutes away from Lake Bled, one of the top locations that I wanted to shoot in Slovenia. The trip began to look very affordable, even if I were to try this on my own. All that was left was the car rental, gas, and food, and I figured if I was careful, I could pull a 9 day trip together for under $1500. As my plans began to finalize, I settled on five countries: Germany (Bavarian Alps), Austria, Slovenia, Italy and Croatia, with Slovenia as my home base. I then spent months scouting for locations and dropping pins all over google earth.
I also read up on what to expect when I was over there as I was hoping to keep my costs down. My friend Tom Bricker, who is constantly traveling the world, warned me about how much it would cost if I failed to pick up a vignette sticker while driving in Austria and Slovenia. He also warned me that cameras are everywhere and that several European countries around the alps charge obscene ticket prices for speeding or for getting in the wrong line when going through a toll. He also tipped me off on the best value of the the entire trip which turned out to be a SIM card from France with 10 gigs of data, 1000 texts and 120 minutes for only $50. (Verizon was going to charge me $40 for 100 megabytes.) As time grew closer, I snagged a decent deal on a rental from Eurocar and I was all set.
Over the next few weeks I hope to post articles describing my adventures in each of these countries separately, but this first installment was simply to encourage those of you who might balk at talking a trip like this one on your own, if need be. Even though I had initially thought this trip would be with 2-3 other photographers, there were definitely some up-sides to being on my own. The itinerary was 100% set by me and I stayed out as late as I wanted every day I was there. On one occasion, I slept in my car in the Dolomites as I had come out to scout from Slovenia and just decided to keep on driving to catch the Milky Way and a sunrise the next day. The down-side, if there was one, was covering the costs on my own, but since the cost of the trip was less than half of what I had anticipated, there really wasn’t much of a down side on this one. While I miss hanging out with my buddies, the week FLEW by and I was heading back to the airport in Munich far too soon. I would DEFINITELY consider doing a trip like this on my own again in the future, but it’s always fun to shoot with a small group.
So….many more photos to come with details on shooting during autumn months in each of the above countries. As always, please let me know if you have questions or feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!