This year we have visited and explored the Italian Dolomites during the autumn season in October. In the beginning of the year we originally planed to go to the famous Aletsch Glacier and the Matterhorn region around the village Zermatt in Switzerland but after a little online research in Google Maps, Earth and The Photographer's Ephemeris for possible photo opportunities, locations, sights and things to do there (beside hiking and photographing) and how to actually get there we both decided to look for an alternative and postpone the trip to an early summer season when the wild flowers (especially the alpine roses) are blooming in the mountains and we have more time to combine this trip with a visit to the Allgäu- and Hautes Alpes for example. We'll see.
But still, I definetly wanted to go to the Alps this fall so I did a little research for alternative destinations and we eventually decided to go the Dolomites in Italy. When the famous climber and mountaineer Reinhold Messner says that they are the most beautiful mountains in the world, you should give them at least a try, I thought. As icing on the cake the transition from summer to autumn already started and the foliage of the larch trees was already at its peak. They were one of the main reasons why I wanted to go there during the autumn season. In my imagination I saw wide vistas with beautiful valleys full of golden larch trees and snow-capped mountains in the background. To be honest I had quite high expectations of this pearl of the Alps mixed with much anticipation.
I made the usual preparations and planning as in prior photo motivated trips like our roadtrip through Norway or my journey through Scotland. On a cloudy saturday morning we hit the road and started the 9 hour drive south to Italy with some visions of nice, warm and colorful autumn views and scenic autumn drives in my head.
And we were not disappointed - at least the first two days. When we arrived in the evening of our first day, there was a moderate cloud cover and no rain. The second day (our first full day) was also had a nice mixture of clouds and sunny weather and we drove around all day exploring the whole region and some of the many beautiful alpine lakes of the area around Cortina d'Ampezzo you see in the photos here.
It really is an impressive landscape with breathtaking views but of course also a bit strenuous and exhausting to drive and hike all the day. In the evening I wanted to drive up a pass road but realized that I had not enough fuel left so I headed for several gas stations but obviously gas stations are closed on Sundays in this region. There are autofuel stations but there you can't pay with normal credit cards, only with some special fuel cards or whatnot. So I missed this opporunity and stayed in the valley looking for some useful photo foreground - a fruitless attempt.
The next day we started at Passo Giau to our six hour loop hike around Lago Federa and around the Croda da Lago group. A really nice hike and the weather was pretty too, a perfect autumn day! Deeply blue skies, some white clouds, almost no wind and moderate temperatures. After about two hours or so of a pretty exhausting ascent we arrived at the lake at 2041m and enjoyed the magical peacefulness at this calm alpine lake. And as I anticipated (and hoped for) the larch trees seasonal transition was at its peak in mid October, with their foliage illuminated in golden colors in the direct autumn sun. In the background of the photo above you see the summit of Punta Sorapis (3205m), which was already snow-covered.
To make the most of the good weather we then scouted for a nice spot for sunset. I decided to look around at the top of Passo Giau. I found a nice viewpoint with rugged peaks, green bushes and golden autumn foliage illuminated by the soft sunset light and featured by fast incoming storm clouds with heavy rain. I hurried to set up tripod, camera, filters, remote release etc. and composed the image above. Only a few minutes later I was completely covered by the clouds and dense fog all around me with almost zero visibility, see the last photo further below. After a while of standing in the middle of rain clouds and all light was gone I decided to return to the car. When there are no clouds the views on Passo Giau are really spectacular. Actually I planned to create some nightscape photos with reflections of rugged, snow covered mountains in calm alpine lakes and the stars (or even the milkyway) above but you can only do this with clear night skies. Hopefully I get a chance to do this next summer. On our way down to the valley from ~2250m we passed through the rain clouds and fog and then saw an beautifully illuminated Cortina from the pass above during the blue hour after sunset, see photo below.
So, and that was it! The next day Kirsti got seriously sick with the flu and was virtually bed-bound and on top of that the weather forecast for the rest of the week was only rain rain rain and more rain all day long with almost 100% cloud cover. After some evaluation of our situation we eventually decided to cancel this trip and go back home to recover and maybe do some day trips to the Central German Uplands like Harz, Saxon- or Bohemian Switzerland and to enjoy and photograph autumn foliage there. But of course it was a bit frustrating too. This area has so much potential great photo locations! All the planing, anticipation and effort for only two days (of nine planned) of good photo opportunities. Sometimes it is hard to stay motivated with landscape photography, all the time and money spent and the limited number of vacation days each year in mind and then you just have bad luck with the weather. I know it could have been much worse and I also know the famous quote "bad weather equals good photos" - but not with completely grey skies and constant rain. However, besides the whole whining here I am actually pretty satisfied with the results of those two days and I am also already looking foward to the next trips.
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