I can’t recall how long ago it was that I came across my first photo of Lake Bled in Slovenia. It was almost certainly on 500px as several photographers began posting shots of this remarkable lake right about the time that I began posting on that site. I knew immediately that I had to go there some day. The chapel in and of itself would have been enough of a draw, but the combination of the water surrounding it with the reflection of the Julian Alps in the background….it moved right to the top of my bucket list. This lake must have always been gorgeous…even thousands of years ago, but it was the addition of the Church of the Assumption in the 17th century that put this particular island in this particular lake in a league of its own.
So it was no surprise that my Airbnb was only a 10 minute drive from Lake Bled when I arrived in Slovenia two months ago. It was my first time using airbnb and I was not disappointed. My host was a lovely Slovenian lady named Simon and her apartment was perfect for what I needed. If you are looking for a great affordable apartment about 10 minutes away from Lake Bled (Kitchen, bathroom, American style shower, sleeps 3) please consider checking out Simona’s apartment on airbnb at https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/13214094?s=51
In spite of the fact that I was so close to the lake, I only made it over on three occasions to shoot as I was trying to fit in five countries over 8 days of shooting. On the very first morning, I headed over, but it was quite hazy and there were no clouds to speak of. But depending on the morning, mist will often hang over the lake creating some crepuscular rays through the trees. I spent at least an hour shooting before heading to a nearby McDonalds to strategize my next location and to check on my missing luggage via the free wifi.
After my first day of shooting I kept waiting for a decent sky, so it wasn’t until midweek that I made another trip to the Lake, this time hoping for some sunset clouds over the Julian Alps. The clouds never materialized but I made the hike up into the hills surrounding the lake just to explore. After huffing and puffing my way to the top (and dropping my 24-70 as my benro travel tripod caved in while I was shooting) I made my way to the top. If you decide to head to the top, keep in mind that there are a couple of different viewpoints and neither is marked very well. It didn’t help that the trail was completely buried in leaves at the top. The folks who were hiking with me gave up in frustration but I continued until I found the first major overlook.
As the light was quickly disappearing I settled in and began to shoot. I never reached the higher viewpoint as I ran out of light but I hope to make it up there on my next trip.
On the following morning, both Skyfire (yes…this app works in Europe as well as in the US) and SunsetWX were both calling for a decent sunrise, so I was up at 4:45 AM and down to the lakeside while it was still dark. This turned out to be the ONLY morning that I had some decent clouds to work with and I immediately set up the tripod and got to work. As I began to shoot I was immediately drawn to the moon and a couple of early morning stars still hanging in the East and I sought for a way to work them into my composition.
As the sky grew brighter, I continued to shoot around the Western Side of the lake.
After shooting from the Western Side of the Lake for 20 minutes or so, I told myself that I needed to keep moving to avoid taking the same composition over and over. I headed up and around the corner and suddenly found an entire line of tripods in a row as a workshop was obviously under way. I wound my way carefully down the gauntlet of tripods and set up at the end of the row. After shooting for a short time, an affable photographer in a red parka walked up and asked where I was from. I told him I was from the states and at this point I was assuming that he was as well due to his lack of accent. He told me his name was Shawn Bagshaw and suddenly I was all smiles as I have been using his tutorials on Luminosity Masks for several months now and I have been an avid follower of Photo Cascadia for quite some time. I tried very hard not to be a leach at this point but I will freely admit to overhearing as much advice as I could before moving on. Sean was teaching this workshop along with his buddy David Cobb from Photo Cascadia and Luka Esenko who was their Slovenian Guide and co leader for the week. If you visit the Photo Cascadia page, you will find a shot that Sean took which looks suspiciously like mine since the man was standing about 3 feet away from me while he took it.
Suddenly realizing that the good light was fleeting, I grabbed the tripod and made my way back to the West side of the lake. I was expecting to head directly to Lake Bohinj, but as I came back, I noticed one of the elusive Lake Bled swans cruising around the corner of the lake. I must have looked like a total idiot as I kept dancing around waiting for that bird to finish looking for his breakfast and swim out into the lake, but my patience finally paid off as I was able to get at least a couple of frames before he went back to his breakfast.
Sadly, the clouds never returned to Slovenia while I was there and I spent my last two days driving like a madman down to Croatia to shoot some waterfalls (in an upcoming article) and then driving North to catch the light in Bavaria before heading home, but Lake Bled will continue to be at the top of my list for my next visit.
If you are planning to visit Lake Bled, there are several hotels that are within walking distance of the lake, but if you arrive with a car, you might consider staying in one of the nearby villages via airbnb for quite a bit less than you can expect to pay at lakeside resorts. My fully furnished apartment complete with kitchen and bath (with an American shower…woot!) was $31 a night. There are several deals like this in Slovenia so be sure to shop around.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them in the comments section below.