"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 week I spontaneously decided to give a long anticipated photo another chance to be finally realized. There is only a time window of a about a month per year to create this photo where the sun is at the right desired position during sunrise, clear horizons provided. Only between the end of May and mid-June the suns position at sunrise would be there directly behind the rugged peak of the Heringstein summit which results in a nicely composed and interesting image, at least in my humble opinion.
As usual I've planned this trip with various apps, maps and tools like Photographers Ephemeris (screenshot below) to know where the suns position is when or GPSies (among others) to plan the hiking. But so far, previously either the weather was suboptimal or I had no time or motivation to be up there at 4:30 in the morning. My last attempt was about two years ago where I had to cancel my mountain bivouac in the middle of the night due to a upcoming thunderstorm. On last friday the weather forecast for the next two days looked stable and promising enough for me to motivate myself for another try.
Honestly, I had not that much expectation for the perfect circumstances and weather conditions and hope to be able to create the exact image which I had previsualized in my mind but I was really looking forward to the nature experience during the weekend and to be out of the loud and stuffy city and hike through the mountains and enjoy the forests, views and the fresh air instead. Nevertheless the whole trip was planned around this possible sunrise shooting at the peak called Heringstein where I was many times before. I also wanted to just explore the area and some other and new places I don't know so far and to scout possible new locations for upcoming photo trips into the region. (By the way, the images below are shot with my mobile phone, Samsung Galaxy S8 in pro mode)
I started the tour in the early afternoon in Leipzig and drove towards Dresden and the Saxon Switzerland National Park. Luckily I had no traffic jams and was there in time, like I planned it. After arriving at the parking lot I immediately started the hike. It was a very sweaty and exhausting hike with my heavy backpack with all the photo equipment in my ICU (Nikon D810, 14-24mm, 24-120mm, Tripod, Filters, Batteries, Remote Release etc.) and of course the food, enough to drink, additional clothes, camping gear and whatnot needed in order to spend a night in the mountains. But shortly after I started the hike through the forest I also started to calm down and shake off all the stress of everyday life. Nice.
Once the beginning very steep sections were overcome I even more enjoyed nature, the forest and its natural sounds without any disturbing noices of civilization. When I arrived at the top of the plateau the first thing was to check out the place where I wanted to bivouac during the night. It's a bit hidden and off the trial. As I hoped nobody was there and everything looked as in my memory, so I continued my hike to another place (roughly a 40 minutes walk away) where I wanted to shoot sunset.
On my way I enjoyed some really nice eye-opening vistas and I came along some places where the forest smelled like some kind of sauna infusion. This was really awesome and I enjoyed this natural forest scent and the scenery along the way very much.
Relaxing and soaking in the scenery
When I arrived at my sunset location there were a couple of other people. Of course they were sitting right in my desired image composition and frame. So I waited for about an hour or so there until the beginning golden hour and sunset and finally opted for another composition, which was also ok, but not what I really wanted. You can't have it all, I guess. At least this time the weather was as expected.
Shooting sunset at Carolafelsen
After sunset, during the beginning blue hour, I made my way back to my bivouac place for the night. I was worried that maybe other people would be there too by then, but fortunately I again was alone there. Below you see a photo of my small campsite directly at the sunrise location. When everything was set up and prepared I chatted a bit with my girlfriend on the phone and then tried to sleep a little.
My little bivouac camp for the night
The night was unbelievably quiet and peaceful. There were absolutely no sounds, no birds, no wind, nothing. From time to time I heard a few other campers in the distance, that was all. A very special experience being there all night alone and in the dark on the mountain, just laying on ground without any protection around you like a tent, a car, a flat or a house like most of us are used to. I did not really sleep though. Two times a bat flew over me very closely and I had two visits of creepy-crawlies on me. The end of the "night" was at about 4 o´clock in the morning when I unexpectedly heard some voices coming out of the dark forest exactly towards me. First, I was a bit scared and frightened but then I saw that the three tall guys were photographers too. We had a nice chat and then started to prepare our camera gear for sunrise.
Shooting sunrise at Heringstein
When the sun hit the horizon at about 5 o'clock in the morning I was prepared and at the right position where I had planned to be. Luckily there were no clouds at the horizon an no mist coming up from the valley. (I once climped a peak called Kl. Winterberg for sunrise only to see thick mist there and not the desired vista and the rugged mountains I hoped for and returned without a single photo from that trip.) So, this time I was happy with the conditions and started to shoot several image compositions and exposure brakets as well as some frames with a closed aperture (F-Stop for the sunstar) in order to blend it later all nicely in a final single photo like the ones you see below.
Looking back this time everything worked out fantastically. From the preparations of the trip to the execution and the weather conditions at sunset, during the night and of course the sunrise which made me walk down the mountain and back to the car with a smile on my face. After some fruitless attempts I was finally able to create the photo I had in my mind for quite awhile now. Yes!
Her are the final processed photos:
Feel free to add any comments or questions below.