"I fear that future generations will judge us harshly for our failure to place proper value on wildness, diversity, open space, spirit, solitude and other treasures of the natural world still available to us today. May they at least know that some of us tried." - Guy Tal
Last weekend, after a period of very unstable weather with lots of thunderstorms and heavy rain here in Germany, on Friday, the forecast for the next two days looked stable and promising enough for me to go on my mountain summit bivouac in Saxon Switzerland National Park. I planned this trip around a possible sunrise shooting at a peak called Heringstein, where I wasn't before. I wanted to explore the area and scout possible new locations for upcoming trips into the region. Between early June and mid-July the suns position at sunrise would be exactly between two peaks you see from Heringstein which would result in a nicely composed and interesting image - assuming the correct weather. As usual I've planned this trip with various apps, maps and tools like Photographers Ephemeris (screenshot below) to know the suns position or GPSies (among others) to plan the hiking.
I started at midday in Leipzig with blue bird skies and a nice forecast for my destination and drove towards Dresden. When I was almost there I saw dark skies and lightnings at the horizon and my hopes for the trip were almost gone but after a brief moment with doubts I kept driving - directly into the thunderstorm with heavy rain and lightnings and thunder all around. Once arrived at my destination I waited for an hour or so and walked around in Hřensko and Schmilka... and then the rain stopped and the clouds started to clear. At about 4:30pm I started my hike up the mountains. It was a very exhausting hike with my heavy backpack with all the photo equipment and food, enough to drink, additional clothes and whatnot needed in order to spend a night in the mountains and because directly after the rain the humidity was ridiculously high and I sweated a lot. In those moments you sometimes ask yourself: what the f**k am I doing here. Why do I not enjoy my weekend back home with a nice bike tour, some tasty meals and a good digital adventure like the new Witcher III DLC Blood and Wine? I don't know, sometimes some strange power seems to pull me out of my comfort zone for whatever reason. However, after two hours of driving and an good hour for the ascent or so the strenuous part was done and I was on top of the plateau and started to explore the area and tried to find my desired viewpoint for sunrise. After a while of bushwacking and try and error I eventually found the location with its breathtaking and very beautiful view you see in the photo below.
When I first saw this scenery I immediately remembered the hanging mountains in the fantastic movie Avatar, hence the title. In my humble opinion it is one of the best views in Saxon Switzerland and among my personal top three locations in the National Park. I enjoyed this view for quite a while and took some test shots and looked for possible image compositions. After about one or two hours I started to hike to another viewpoint which I already know well but I simply wanted to see and enjoy it again. Half an hour later I arrived there and enjoyed the eye opening view, solitude and some good music. I also eat dinner there and then shooted sunset, photo below.
After creating the image above I thought why not hike back to my other location before the sunset is over and see if I can catch the last light of the day there before it gets dark. (A good photo today is better than a perfect photo tomorrow. Quote from a movie called "The Edge") So I packed and started to hike back to my main destination. Just when I arrived there I saw some pink clouds in the sky, hurried and instantly started to get my camera, tripod and remote release ready and started shooting. The image below is the result of this endeavor taken at about 21:45pm. And then the light faded away and quietness and darkness came in this moonless night and I started to set up my camp for the night. It was completely calm without any distractions from other people, devices, noise from birds or whatever. A striking contrast to my other life in the city.
During the next two and a half hours the fog you see in the image above became more and more. At 00:30am I could barely see the valley below anymore but I enjoyed a fantastic night sky with lots of visible stars and no clouds but it simply was too dark without the moon to create a descent photo with this sea of fog and the stars above. And then, in the middle of the night, clouds started to roll in and I saw lightnings in the distance. I observed the sky for a while and eventually decided to cancel my trip at this point and to postpone the sunrise shooting to another day. You don't want to be on a mountain summit in the middle of a thunderstorm, I reasoned. And so I started to descent back through the pitch black forest and back to the car. Of course, it was a bit annoying at this point not being able to shoot sunrise after all the effort. The weather forecast for this two days was completely useless. Looking back with a bit emotional distance and seeing the final photographs I am nevertheless pretty happy with the trip, after all. Hopefully I can manage to retry my next attempt to shoot sunrise at this location during this season, provided that the weather and social obligations allow this.
Feel free to add any comments or questions below.