On Slovenia’s one and only island, nature and architecture blended together, creating an obscure and colorless scenery that captured my interest. The sixteenth century church on the edge of the glacier lake formed the outlandish beauty of a fairytale.
This image was taken in January 2013 at 10:00 a.m. on Lake Bled in Slovenia. The picturesque glacier lake is located among the forested foothills of the Julian Alps. The lake is in the northwestern part of Slovenia, and is a real jewel of the Alpine region.
Apart from the eleventh century castle on a steep cliff overlooking the lake, Lake Bled is known for its romantic, tear-shaped island with its sixteenth century Church of the Assumption, which has been renovated many times since then. I was amazed to learn that this tiny island is Slovenia's one and only island!
"In his blog, Magnum Photographer Steve McCurry described how he nearly drowned after his small airplane crashed into the lake while on assignment for National Geographic in Slovenia."
I got the idea to visit Bled after reading about the photographic experiences of photographer Steve McCurry, whose exhibition was held in Zagreb, Croatia, the previous month. In his blog, McCurry described how he nearly drowned after his small airplane crashed into the lake while on assignment for National Geographic in Slovenia. Luckily, a fisherman picked up him and the pilot.My friend and I agreed to make a day trip to Slovenia from our place in Karlovac, Croatia, on January 6, which is a national holiday. We planned to visit two Slovenian lakes, Bled and Bohinj, as well as the Vogel Mountain Ski Resort. We reached our first destination after a three-hour drive. The weather was cold, the sky was overcast with thick morning clouds, and above the lake there was a shroud of light haze. Not exactly ideal weather for photography, but we considered our journey an exploring trip. I brought along my Nikon D700 with two lenses, AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/1.4 G ED and AF Nikkor 300mm f/1.4. Originally, I intended to use the wide-angle zoom lens for lake landscapes and the prime telephoto lens for action shots of skiers and snowboarders in the ski resort, which was the last stop on our trip.
"However, the ancient castle on the cliff high above the lake and the most beautiful lake island immediately grabbed my attention."
After treating ourselves to some delicious slices of Bled custard cream cake, we took a stroll around the lake. The morning was cold and wet, the landscape surrounding the lake looked drab and colorless as no snow had fallen yet, and the only attractive color was the alpine blue-green water of the lake. However, the ancient castle on the cliff high above the lake and the most beautiful lake island immediately grabbed my attention. With the intent of capturing as much detail in the architecture and the island as possible, I started photographing the island with my 300mm telephoto lens. The harmonious blending of the architecture and the landscape made me abort my original wide-angle lens plan and focus on what was before me.
"So I took six overlapping vertical frames in sequence from left to right, handheld."
In the beginning I was shooting horizontal frames, but after a quick check on the camera's LCD, I wished to have more space around the church and the island, to convey the overwhelming feeling of harmony with the surrounding nature. So I took six overlapping vertical frames in sequence from left to right, handheld. With this image, I wanted to create a dreamlike winter landscape, evoking a fairytale mood.
I used Photoshop to process the image and Nik Color Efex Pro 4 plugin to add some special enhancements.
1) I stitched four vertical frames together in Photoshop by using File > Automate > Photomerge.
2) I cropped the resulting large image and rotated it to make it level. The frame and the composition were now exactly as I wanted them to be.
3) I was unsatisfied with the lack of contrast as the light mist over the lake subdued it. I therefore enhanced the Contrast by raising its value using Nik Color Efex Pro 4 Detail Extractor filter, which made the texture of the forest in the background look much livelier.
4) However, with the increased contrast I had lost the hazy atmosphere over the lake! Therefore, I applied another Nik Color Efex Pro 4 filter, called Graduated Fog, and adjusted the Vertical Shift of the filter’s effect just up to the belfry.
1) Do not be afraid to shoot iconic places that have already been photographed thousands of times. There are always new angles and viewpoints just waiting for you to discover them.
2) Use your telephoto lens to take multiple exposures and stitch them together in a panorama. The richness and freshness of details in such images are very rewarding.
3) Finally, do not take photos on an empty stomach. Treat yourself to local flavors first!
After graduating in English and German Language and Literature at the Faculty of Arts in Zagreb, I spent several years as an in-house translator for a Croatian construction company abroad. Thereafter, I worked for four years as an English and German language teacher in Karlovac. Since 2004 I have been running my own translation company that specializes in technical translations.
Although I have been snapping photos since high school, it was only after Mr. Zdravko Lipovšćak, a Karlovac based old-school photographer, saw some of them a couple of years ago and procured professional equipment for me, that photography became my hobby. The hobby soon turned into a passion. My 9-year-old son summed it up aptly by saying that I caught a "photo fever."