Tag Archives: Europe

Chapter 1

Australia, Malaysia, (Jul, 2014)

I thought that I would try to document as best as I can my trip, I hope that you will enjoy my travels, we will see.  I encourage you to leave a comment or even advise on potential spots that I should divert too, I await your guidance if you have it.

Just so you know in the lead-up to my two month trip, I spent a bit of time not just researching the trip but also marketing my un-captured images, I put forward to various clients an option to purchase a 40″ Limited Edition image from the images captured on my trip, they get first pick of what image they want at a set price, Each image will have only 11 in the edition, two of which are not for sale (1 x Artist Proof & 1 x Charity/VIP print).  So they will get One of the Nine available images left in the set, I am happy to say that these pre-sales have paid for 50% of my trip and will be a great deal for the purchaser’s. So if anyone is interested in joining them please let me know by personal FB message if you can.  (anyway enough of the marketing, sorry!!)

So to start the ball rolling, I Left home with my darling wife at 6:00am to get to the Gold Coast Airport by 6:30am, all good little traffic, booked into AirAsia “Business Class” Yes, and continued through to the International departure lounge.  Met a bloke who used to fly for Singapore Airlines, lives on the coast and alternatively in Indonesia.  He was telling me that he knew the chief pilot and the other crewies on the flight that was shot down over Ukraine, he actually trained the chief pilot, talk about a small world.

Anyway got onboard and away we went, no dramas all good, AirAsia airlines are mega polite, great service and very comfy thanks very much.  The guy I was sitting next to in my flatbed seat (just thought I would rub that one in again) job was interior designs for a hotel/resort chain, so potential work maybe was the parting comment, you just never know do you.  Took a few images out the window near Darwin on the way over, arrived in Malaysia at the main terminal, it would have to be four times the size of Brisbane International, the last time I was here it was a back water and it was not that long ago.

Anyway got through immigration, no paperwork to complete, just walk unto the counter, give them your passport & boarding pass, quick scan of your two index fingers and all done, see you later, grab your bags and gone.  Australia could learn a lot from this !!!,  now I am waiting for my connection flight to Paris, on Air France, five hours to go, so time to chill as my sone would say.  So went to the mobile counter, got a new sim and 5gb data, you beauty, now on the internet, cost about AU$30 bit of an overkill, but it is better than facing the Telstra bill when I get home.  So now I have logged onto the web, went to my personal fackbook page and was inundated with comments on my pending trip, thanks to all that commented and liked, it is appreciated, I just hope that I can live unto your expectations.

Chapter 7

Iceland, (Aug, 2014)

Having survived the start of our workshop with Daniel Bergmann & Joshua Holko, we gradually headed further north up the east coast of Iceland.  We stopped at a small town called Vik, it was one of those typical scenes you would see in the movies, neat & tidy streets with small 2-3 stories shops & houses and a lovely church on flats below the mountains that stood out due to the contrasts of colours White church with a Red roof against green mountains and a blue sky, postcard stuff.

We arrived at our destination where we would spend the next three day, firstly we visited the geothermal areas, where the superheated underground water comes to the surface, no geysers but boiling mud and a strong smell of sulphur, although there were plenty of vents just near the carpark on the flat ground, our trusted guides advised us that the best views of them were way up there, pointing to the top of the mountain, so we had to again climb another peak with all of our gear on our backs, starting to feel like a donkey I am, possibly starting to smell like one too, as whilst it is cool at the bottom, when you get to the top it can be significantly colder and blowing a gale, so you have to dress for the worst.  Once at the top, we had a full 360degree view of the whole area, we would stay here until the sun went down, that would be at about 11:00pm, well it was worth the climb, got some spectacular images of the setting sun over the geothermal area, and surrounding landscape. Well worth the climb! despite the knees telling me otherwise 

From here we travelled further north to the first of the waterfalls that we would visit, Godifoss (“Foss” meaning Waterfall) the waterfalls here in Iceland are extremely large to those that we see in Australia, massive amounts of water pouring over the edges of canyon walls, making each one of these waterfalls a spectacle not too be missed.  Lots of driving and not much sleep, we saw every sunset and every sunrise, most days only one to two hours sleep between shoots, but it was all worth it in the end, stunning vistas all over this country, certainly worth the visit. 

Now back in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, so now I need to get my laundry done, as all of my cloths have been used, smell of dirt and sulphur mud etc, getting your washing done by the hotel is extremely expensive, like @AU$3.50 for a pair of socks, AU$11.00 for Jeans, so I headed down to the local Laundry Cafe, only had three machines, one out of order, three dryers, one out of order, another broke down, so one of the young girls manhandled it out of the enclosure it was in, pulled the top of it did whatever, put it back and away it went.  Four & a half hours later, cloths washed and sort of dry.

Our last day in Iceland means that I say goodbye to some new found friends, what a great bunch of people from all over the world, Norway, America, Canada, Italy, Iceland, Australia, & Germany, I hope that we will continue to stay in touch, as I would like that.  So it is now goodbye Iceland and hello northern Europe.

Chapter 8

Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Poland (Aug, 2014)

Well it has been a week since the last blogg, so I have now renamed them as chapters, I hope that this one is not too long, and interesting enough to read, please share with others & click on a like, just so I know you are reading it, comments are also appreciated.

Arrived in Hamburg Germany on time at 6:15am, thick fog, what we would call “Pea Soup”, but the Pilot had no problems landing in it, all good, exit time, walked through the airport as if it was just a domestic flight, great system they have here in Europe, easy & it works, no paperwork, just get your bags and go!   So once I had grabbed my bags, headed of to the other terminal, a couple on hundred metres  to pickup my car, all good, except they don’t have my car that I booked, so free upgrade to an Audi A3, great!!.

So I set up my Tom Tom GPS to drive to Hirtshals, in the Northern most part of Denmark, to get on the ferry to Kristianstand, Norway, pressed the button “Let’s Go”, and a voice started issuing orders, her name was Karen, so all of a sudden I have a new lady in my life telling what to do.

I arrived at Hirtshals, in plenty of time to catch the next ferry which left at 5:00pm, however it was fully booked, no spots available, I was a bit disappointed as I really needed to get to Norway early enough so that I could find a hotel, as I had not slept for over two days, and the next ferry was at 9:00pm,  plus the 2.5hrs trip would make it about 11:30pm by the time I got there, so “Buckley’s Chance” (for those that are not Australian this means bugger all, none or slim chance) of getting a room at that time I thought, so post inquiry was told to try the other line, there ferry was also fully booked also, so ended up on the 9:00pm ferry.

Once I arrived in Norway, I had to drive through immigration/customs, all was good until they saw my German registered car, and I was pulled aside and told to go to a separate area, the guy there asked me a heap of questions, nothing too much, just took valuable time that I could have spent finding a room, so now free of inquiry off I went, and with not much trouble found a room for the night, getting close to 1:00am by the time I hit the sack.

Next morning a slow start to my day, a sleep-in to 6:30am, a full breakfast, and a casual getaway, Karen re-programmed, were off!!  Headed up the western coastline of Norway aiming for the town Bergen some 450+ klm away.

Did not make it the whole way, stopping and shooting takes it’s toll, so ended up staying at this small motel/camping area for the night.  My next-door roommates were working for a Wind Turbine company, and they were there to service some/all of the 44 turbines just near where we were, it was very interesting talking to them, a typical case of don’t judge a book by it’s cover, two of the three looked like vagrants, dope smokers or hippies, but they knew their stuff, no sooner had we discussed what they did, and one went into his room and grabbed the latest brochure on the new 131/3000 turbine, pretty impressive to the uneducated I can tell you, the prop blades on these big fans are upto 65metres each, that makes a 131meter diameter, it generates 3gigawatts of power per hour, and the pole stands a whopping 120metres high, it even has a lift inside, I did not ask but they said no visitor allowed sadly, besides it was Sunday tomorrow, their day off.

The next morning, I left early for Bergen, further to the North, another ferry, another tunnel, another fiord, very scenic stuff, but very hard to park off the road as there is no side to them, just a cliff or a rock wall, as a matter of fact the roads were so narrow that select an area to stop to let other oncoming traffic past, I still don’t know how I missed a bus, our mirrors would have been completely taken off had they have been at the same level, here I am shitting myself, and the bus driver seem to be quite comfortable with it, I looked at my mirror, and it was all but touching the bus.

Arrived at Bergen, lovely place, picturesque to say the least, lovely harbour, boats & old buildings as well as the city itself, spent a bit of time photographing here and then travelled inland but also slightly further north to Voss, just around the 60 degrees latitude, to get there more tunnels, up to @8klms long, in one of the tunnels, I came across a roundabout, that’s right a really big roundabout, lit up in neon blue lights, had to get a photo of this. as it turned out there would be several of these to come, but first impressions were rememberable.

Called in to the head office of Phase One in Copenhagen, Denmark, took a little bit of the JD charm to get past the girl on the front desk, but it worked and a young bloke “Yeppe” came out from the inner offices and I told him that whilst I was unannounced, could he give me a bit of a tour, “No Problems”, so off we went into the inner workings of the No.1 Medium format company in the world, a personal tour, how good was that, I was introduced to various members of the staff, a few that I had met before in Australia, and got to see the assembly process of the Phase One backs, does not get better than that.  Oh and guess what, Yeppe decided to show me the support room, then grabbed a ruined Phase kit, said this one was water damaged, told me a bit of a story about it, and guess what, it was my previously owned and destroyed IQ260 & 645DF+ camera system that had been water damaged, (drowned in actual fact).

So I left Copenhagen to head south to Gester, this is where I will catch the ferry to Rostock, Germany.  I came to the small town of Koge, beautiful old buildings, cobblestone roads & village square with some retail & coffee shops all around, postcard stuff, but moving on further to the west driving across farming country, wheat fields, hay bales & lots of houses & farm sheds, their often red roofs & white walls promminate against the yellows greens & sky blue of the countryside.

Stayed last night at the Hotel Fjordkroen, the bed & breakfast was well priced at about 670DK, that is about AU$128, but believe it or not, this little B&B Hotel had a five star restaurant, and me arriving just before the last dinner bell, dressed to the nines wearing a pair of RM shorts, King Gee work shirt and a pair of Katmandu rubber sandles, (just thought that I should mention that I was wearing brand clothing too, just in case you though that I would look out of place), anyway had a few beers, a nice meal and it cost me as much as the room, all good however it did take the head waiter a time to find me a place away from the others, not sure why, probably thought that I needed a bit more solitude maybe.

Hit the tar early again (@5:30am) to get on my way to catch the ferry, have to be there by 9:00am, and thought that I would take a few side roads, nothing stunning same same, so only a few shots fired, arrived at the ferry, on time, so I leave Denmark for last time on this trip at least, heading for Germany.  Meeting up with a friend from my old surf club in Berlin tonight, Joshua Griffiths, so beers & bullshit tonight I expect, anyway cheers for now.

Late PS:  As I type this blog, I am in the cafe area of the boat travelling to Germany, the time is now @10am, the couple beside me have gone for early openers, a couple of draft beers to top off breakfast!!.

Chapter 9

Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia & Austria, (Aug, 2014)

It has been so long ago since my last blog update, arrived in Rostock, Germany, started heading for Berlin, but had plenty of time up my sleeve, so I thought that I would take a detour through Poland, so proceeded to drive north along the motorway, all going well at about 175kph, then all of a sudden just in front of me, a car with a trailer clipped another car, out of control all over the place, trailer one way vehicles the other, cars & trailer rolled, bit and pieces everywhere, all over in seconds, hopefully all OK. 

Arrived at the Schrina river, where the motorway stops near/on the border between Poland & Germany, waited an hour for the barge, lots of cars in front of me, but “patients grasshopper, wait your turn” was the order of the day, so after an hour or so, got on the barge and travels continued, note to self (“should of had a sleep while I was waiting”) but they just as likely to drive around you instead of waking you, so no sleep, which turned out to be a small mistake, as I dozed off while scooting down the motorway, only for a second or two mind you, but the result was that I grazed the side rail, only just, resulting in some unsavory marks on the passengers side of the car, just as well the lady at the car hire desk sold me the “All Cover, No Access Insurance” ended up a bargain.

Back into Germany, down the Autobahn to Berlin, so had to give the Audi A3 it’s head (that is an old bush saying to let your horse do his thing, go as fast as he can, normally when your on the way back home), so foot flat to the floor and wound the little black car out to it’s max, 216 kph was the top speed, and I was not the fastest either I will say, don’t know how fast some of them go, but I couldn’t catch them.  So arrived at the hotel I was booked into, in the centre of Berlin, my mate Josh was waiting there, help me get organised which was good, ended up having a few drinks over a meal and doing a short late night shoot, thanks Josh, enjoyed it.  Berlin was very nice, plenty to photograph, some amazing architecture, worth the visit that’s for sure.

Left Berlin and headed for Prague, Czech Republic, nice drive stayed in the centre of Prague, roamed around, whilst the city is full of beautiful buildings, it seemed that all of the major buildings where being renovated, scaffolding and barricades everywhere, not good for photography, so did not enjoy Prague as much as I would have liked too.  Next day I headed north-east from Prague, into Slovarkia, only the south-eastern tip of it before passing though to Austria on my way to Vienna, At this point when you cross the border between Slovakia & Austria all you see is a forest of Wind Turbines, hundreds of them, almost all the way to Vienna.

When I booked into my hotel in Vienna, I parked unknowingly in a disabled car park, it was Sunday evening, and I asked the people at reception about the parking spot and he said that it was “illegal” but should be OK unto 9:00am tomorrow morning (Monday) or I would be in trouble with the parking cops, OK, so it was right for now, I will be gone by nine I am thinking, so checked in and put my gear in the room.  As luck would have it, there just happened to be an old almost medieval pub right next door, how convenient is that!  So in true Australian style, i enter to to sample the local nectar, only to be greeted by this thin wiry man with long greyish hair, quite a pleasant bloke, could speak english with a strong ascent but easy enough to understand, so ordered a beer, and he proceeded to pour it, it took a while to get the grog to flow, as I think I was the first customer for the day, anyway once poured, he invited me to join him outside at one of the tables, so we sat and talked about Vienna, his music, the pub and photography, soon after we were joined by several of his daily friends & drinkers, one of which was a lady by the name of Briget Doll, a movie star in her own right apparently, anyway one beer led to another and before you know it, I was in behind the bar, pouring the beer, helping out, spinning a few yarns and bullshit as you do, little of which I can recall, just as well for video diaries I guess !!, embarrassing after the event, but movie star during the event.

Next morning work up late @9:am, wondered downstairs crook as, looked outside car still there, so when and had some breakfast, back to the room, packed up ready to go, went down to check out, no car, !@#$#@.  My car had apparently been towed, shit, what do I do, so the receptionist rang the cops, car tracked down to the impound yard 20-30k out of town, so two train trip, a taxi, and I was there, ¢251 euros to get it out of hock, so whilst avoidable I am now back in my car.  so loaded up my luggage, and headed off to Salzburg in the western part of Austria.  Instead of straight dow the motorway, I elected to drive through the Southern part of the country, through the Austrian Alps, very scenic and photographic.  It is not unusual to see tractors and all sorts of farming equipment on the road in Europe, even on the motorways, but driving into a town called Gosling, Austria, I am confronted with a line of old tractors driving down the road at full speed, as it turned out there were 60 of these farming tractors, in a convoy, I caught up with one of the guys involved at a fuel station that spoke a bit of english, they were a club of farmers in Hungary, and they do this annual trip on their tractors, some 800klms, long drive on a tractor i expect.

Chapter 10

Austria & Germany, (Aug, 2014)

Well after some 45years post seeing the movie, the Sound of Music, and being in one of the the place’s that I always wanted to see personally, I arrived at Salzburg, Austria.  Keen as mustard to see the key locations of the moviee, so spent visiting and fulfilling my “Sound of Music Pilgrimage”, loved this, big tick on the bucket list at last.  Visited the house of the Von Trapp’s, which is privately owned, it has changed not so much structurally, but with trees, gardens & missing ballastrading etc, but it is almost as it was, on the lake.  The abbey, up on the hill, below the big castle, still stands there, and I will go out on a limb, and say exactly as it was in the movie, could not get into the inner parts of it, but was able to get part way in, as well as some of the other locations in the movie, it was great, loved it.

From Salzburg, I drove north-west toward Munich, and along the way visited the famous building that was gifted to Hitler in the early 1930’s, before the war, which became an iconic building in numerous movies, known as the “Eagles Nest” and you can see why!  It sits on top of a very rugged mountain range, about 6,000+ feet above sea level.  To get there you drive to a carpark about a quarter of the way up, then change onto a bus which takes you to almost the top, from there you need to book your return bus down the mountain, if you go there suggest two hours as a guide, anyway, you then walk down this tunnel about 150mtrs, at the end, you enter a small dome room, where you wait for the lift to the top.  The lift inside at least is lined with mirrors & gleaming polished brass, so much so that it looked like gold, an old pedestal type seat in the corner for the lift driver, as well as sold old style controls and the driver/operator in full uniform, much like you would see in a five star hotel, really sets the mood for the journey, the lift takes you up to the building 124mtrs, where you exit into the actual building itself.  Beautifully built and the basic structure remains the same as it was from the 1930 I believe, however internally it has become a Restaurant & Museum.  You go outside, and can hike further up the mountain some, all but vertical drops on both sides, when I was there, a thick fog had engulfed the area, but after a while it started to clear allowing for some great images, had to pull out the 10stop to get rid of the crowds, so we will see what the result is later I expect.

Hope you have enjoyed reading this blog, and hopefully interesting enough to read onto the next addition coming soon, best regards.

Chapter 11

Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein & Germany,  (Aug, 2014)

After the amazing visit to the Eagles Nest, I then travelled to Munich, hoping to get there early enough to meet up with Tanya, the sister of a good family friend, however my only mode of communication was via Facebook and only when I have the internet, so whilst I praised McDonalds for their free internet connection previously, not so anymore, instead of just connecting you have to go through the third degree, have email access to get codes, so was not able to meet her and pass on the promised hug & kiss from her sister, bugger I was looking forward to that!

So the following morning I managed to have a bit of a walk around the city of Munich, packed up and headed south to Füssen, a medium-sized town near the German/Austrian border on the edge of the Alps.  This place is the home of a very famous landmark known as the “Schloss Neuschwanstien” Castle,  I understand that it was this castle that inspired the design of famous American Disneyland castle, anyway as a kid, my mother bought me a jigsaw of this castle, it was in a big round tin, 500 pieces, the jigsaw itself when completed was about 24” in diameter (as it was a circular jigsaw), and was an inspirational image that has stayed with me all my life, it was something that I just wanted to see in person.  As I was getting closer to the town I was thinking of the various angles that I could shoot this castle from etc, and also had concerns as to whether there would be any scaffolding around it, as some of the images I had seen on the net, showed it was being refurbished, so could not wait to see it, Well wait no more, perched on top of a mountain there it was, I couldn’t believe it, after so many years I finally get to see it in real life, and it was all that I had anticipated, such a beautiful building set in amongst the alpine forests and even larger & much higher background of Alps, stunning to say the least.

So after the best part of two days shooting in and around Füssen, I again moved on, this time I headed West along the German/Switzerland border, to Fredrickshafen, you will know when you have arrive there, as in the air at about 1000 feet there floats a huge airship that circles the city, which is the home to the Zeppelin Museum that contains the history of the big airships that began in the early 1900’s, the most famous one of all was the Hindenburg, which sadly crashed and burned when it reached the USA  on a scheduled trip in the 1930’s, anyway in the museum they have a life size part replica of that very same airship inside the museum, it is massive, the Hindenburg was some 300meters long, almost twice the size of the Titanic, to put some scale to it.  So if you get the chance to visit then do so, I recommended it.

From Fredrickshafen I decided to take yet another ferry/barge across the Bodensee Lake about 17klms, to Romanshorn in Switzerland, so lined up to get a ticket in the que, when I got to the counter, and explained in english to a german with very little english understanding that I wanted a ticket, went to pay for it, and guess what they only took cash, and I was about ¢5 euros short, well with about 15mins to go before the barge left, I had to find an ATM quickly, get the car into the line and get a ticket, well despite what seemed impossible at the time I managed to do just that with only a couple of minutes to spare, the boat was crowded but all good got to Switzerland as planned.

Now on the other side of the lake, I set the GPS to go to Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, a very small country between Switzerland & Austria, well as it happens my wife & I and several other friends spent an evening with the Prince & Princess of Liechtenstein, not that they would remember I am sure, but who knows, they were both very nice people, easy to talk too, I enjoyed a chat with both of them for quite some time at the function we were at, rubbing shoulders with some royalty never hurt anyone I suppose, at least not those of us in the peasant ranks anyhow.  Anyway located the Royal Castle, took a heap of photos of it and moved on.

From Vaduz, I set my sights on driving over the Swiss Alps to Saint Moritz, a picturesque city in the alps, so to get there I had to drive up over the pass, a very whindy road zigzagging back and forth to climb up over the alps, about 7,500 foot above sea level, so the clear skies turn slowly into fog or cloud, and the temperature dropped by over 20+ degrees to about six degrees, and colder with the wind, the low fog/cloud made for some great photos, and the crisp very cold air meant you could literally hear an orchestra of cow bells, I kid you not, there were so many of them it sounded like music, time was getting away on me however, it was just short of 9:30pm and I had not been able to organise my accommodation as yet, so had to go door to door in Saint Moritz to find a place to stay for the night as i had no internet to find something online.  After inquiring at many hotels I did eventually find one, getting pretty late by now, so hurriedly got my gear to the room, so I could get the last meal for the night in their restaurant, great work I get dinner tonight, I thought!!

Next morning I rose early pre-dawn to try and get some images with reflections as there and a number of lakes around here, with beautiful alps some with snow & ice still on them at the end of summer, but by the time I found a spot, an untimely slight wind had sprung up and ruined the reflection opportunities, that is the luck of the draw for the landscape photographer, however as luck would have it a local fisherman came down to where I was and loaded his fishing gear into his tinnie/boat and slowly rowed out into the lake which at this time has a low fog moving over it which he disappeared into.

So got back to the hotel, packed up and headed out back over the Alps, the same way I had come the previous day, back up the pass over the top and down into the valley, the weather was clear at first, but by the time I got to the top in came the fog & cloud again, setting the scene for some great photos of the highlands, driving along I came across a small wooden bridge in a paddock, over a stream, so pulled up and walked back to it, thick fog was drifting past so it was in and out of view, perfect, jumped the fence walked up the hill, and looked at the deck of the bridge, it had mud etc on it and hoof prints, so it was being used by cattle, to cross the stream, anyway I am busily photographing the bridge in the fog, down at the water level, thinking to myself “wouldn’t it be great to have some cattle go across the bridge”, well no sooner said or thought than done I could hear cow bells believe it or not coming closer, then out of the fog came a cow & calf, wow, this is going to happen, so I slowly turned to reframe to get them in the shot trying not to scare them off, but alas they saw me and stopped, I waited dead still for what seemed to be forever, as I could see them thinking about what danger did I represent to them, but after several attempts to cross, they spooked and headed off up the hill disappearing into the fog, the troll had scared them off, bugger!

At the top of the pass just before you commence the decent down into the valley, I came across a very small village with a Hotel, and a couple of other buildings, etc and a church, the church was built out of stone and a stone tiled roof, on the side of the mountain, in front of the church was a small patch of lavender flowers, a photographers dream, this set the scene for hopefully a really beautiful image, so I shot it from as many angles as I could before moving on.

As it turned out, when I stopped for an early lunch in a small town I got talking to some locals, they told me that there were several other passes that were worth seeing so I took some notes and travelled one of the suggested routes, it was magnificent to say the least, loved it, worth the time taken to get some guidance.

Arrived in Zurich, Switzerland, overnighted there at one of the hotels, I was working on my laptop, on images & Facebook whilst having breakfast and enjoying some free internet access, and I was approached by an Indian couple, the gentleman was a very keen photographer and wanted to talk about photography, he was a medical doctor in the UK, and was on holidays with his family, he ended up showing me some of his images from his trip, great resource this, I managed to get some spots from him, to visit, so some more notes taken on other POI that I should visit.

The first was where the Rhine river drops about twenty meters making this enormous powerful waterfall, you have to see it if you ever get near there, certainly a magnificent sight, the full width and flow of this huge river just dropping over a cliff, and in the middle of this 100meter wide waterfall, stands a defiant single rock, that the waters cascade around and the river boats edge cautiously but casually up to, to drop off and pick up tourists that can climb the stairs to the top of the rock.

From here I drove further north to the Black Forest, via Hohenzollern Castle, which sits atop of a single pyramid shaped mountain, built around the year 900AD, and has had several additions added in the 14th & 18th centuries, so a short visit and back of the road, arrived at Baden Baden, pouring down with rain, had lunch there and photographed the people going about there business crossing the town square, umbrellas up, and wind blowing them about and inside out. Drove through the back roads still raining so decided to head south to the Swiss Alps again, to the small town of Brig, which is at the end of a long valley in the swiss alps, so you are not zigzagging, just driving along the valley floor, on the northern side of the valley are terraced vineyards, thousands of acres of them, all manicured by their individual owners, you can drive up through them, but the roads are barely wide enough for one car let alone passing traffic, but somehow we all managed to get past one another.

Got to my accommodation in Brig, nice building, walked in and was met by some nuns, Am I in the right place?? I thought, it was some sort of convent, or church boarding house, had all the facilities, even grog & internet, the system was that it was open house, an honour system, you just helped yourself to the beer, ice creams, food whatever, and you put the expected amount of money in the tin, it was great, enjoyed it and Yes, I did pay by the way.

As Brig is at the end of the valley, you either have to turn back and retrace where you have just come from or continue up over the Alps into northern Italy, So decided to go up partly over the pass for about twenty alms to see what was there and to check out a possible dawn shooting spot for the morning, as it is too late to find one in the dark the next morning, so I drove around for a while looking for that spot, next morning up before dawn and drove up the pass yet again, to photograph what I found the night before, then back to the Convent, to pack up and get ready to leave for the next part of my trip.

Chapter 12

Switzerland, Italy, France, Luxemberg, Belgium, Netherlands & France (Aug, 2014)

I am starting this chapter where I left off from Chapter 11, I left Brig, Switzerland after having some breakfast at the Convent where I was staying at and commenced driving up over the Simplon Pass, the road winds it’s way up through the alps and back down the other side into Northern Italy, towards Milan, as it was our 27th wedding anniversary in a couple of days I thought that it might be a bit of a winner if I sidetracked and visited the fashion city to buy some lovely gift for the bride, but reality kicked in and a quick calculation meant that it was going to cost me another day, which I could ill afford as I needed to make Frankfurt by the latest on the 5th, so that I could then make Mont Saint Michel by the 8th of September as that was when the high tides were, so nice thought but just not practical, but hey it is the thought that counts isn’t it ??

So I continued on driving along the northern border of Italy, down along a valley floor, with tiered vineyards on the northern face of the valley wall and basically nothing on the other side, very scenic, the roads however are about 1.5 car widths wide, so careful when passing, it felt like I was driving a cartoon car when you got close to passing an oncoming car it was as if your car just got thinner & higher to get past, I have got to say my mirrors were having a heart attack, the only reason they were still there was that they were at a different height to the other cars I am sure, the buses didn’t seem to give a shit, they just kept going at the same speed, I would shudder when they went past !!.

Anyway continued to drive on into France, and reached the border of Italy/France at Albergo, which is on the eastern side of the famous Mont Blanc, (you know like the pen), well whilst very scenic, I took the opportunity to photograph the eastern side of the alps at this point, then it was time to move on, so set the GPS for Chamonix, pronounced “Chamoneaaaa”, so to get there I had to travel through the Mont Blanc Tunnel, 11klms in all, you have to line up at the toll booth, about ¢45 Euros (@$70 Aussie) that took the best part of an hour, and then when you get to the toll, three booths, paid the money and the boom gate does not go up, why ???, well they let the traffic go one booth at a time 30seconds apart, you have to drive between 60-70klms per hour.  So anyway boom gate up and out of the traps I went like a bloody greyhound, keen to get going after wasting over an hour at the tolls.

Half an hour later I arrived at Chamonix, as you come out of the tunnel, you have to turn either right towards Chamonix, or left towards Geneva, so turned right to Chamonix, well what a lovely place this is, however unbeknown to me, the mountain Hikers or bushwalkers annual show was on, ten thousand walkers, camping staying in the hotels, they were everywhere, so no accommodation for miles, bugger, managed to convince one of the hotels to let me use their internet access to get online to book some accommodation near by, ended up about 30klms away, but it was very nice, way up in the mountains.  By the way the western side of Mont Blanc is spectacular the whole area is just beautiful would love to see it in the winter when there is some snow about.

So the next day I yet again loaded up the car and headed for Geneva, via a small village of Yvoire on a lake (Lac Lëman) between France & Switzerland, the border goes down the middle of it, this village has an old stone castle on the edge of the lake, and the surrounding walls were made up of thin but tall stone shops & houses, about three stories high, which I assume were built a thousand years ago, the streets were made out of cobblestone about 5 meters wide if that, and all of the buildings were built out of stone, with blossoming flowers in every window, very unique place, down at the waters edge is a very nice pub, where I had lunch before moving on.

So now on the road to Geneva, a major city at the southern end of the lake back in Switzerland, spent a bit of time there photographing the city and the fountain on the foreshore of the lake, nothing spectacular for the landscape photographer here so continued on heading for Luxembourg some 500+ klms away, so back into France and up the highway, it was getting dark by this stage and I had not been able to get any internet so that I could book any accommodation, so I decided to continue driving through the night to catch up a day, so drove north to Nancy and then further on to Metz, getting very tired, apparently had another nanna nap and managed to graze the side of the passengers front wheel against the cement curb in a tunnel somewhere, did a bit of damage to it, but was able to continue on after no problems, so arrived in Metz, and decided that I was that close to Luxembourg that this will do for the night, so slept in the car for what was left of the night, about an hour was all, but at least that was something.

When I woke the next morning I had a bit of a look around Metz, interesting city, not much stood out to me so I continued to drive to Luxembourg, checked into my hotel, and spent the rest of the day looking around the city.

It had been raining, so wet roads and much cooler in Belgium, as I travelled along the road I came across a paddock full of tractors, a big tent, cars parked on both sides of the road, and one big boggy patch, thought wonder what is going on here ??, so pulled up, parked the car and walked over.  once I got closer I could see that it was a Tractor Pull competition, for those of you that don’t know what this is, they have a trailer (big one like the ones on the back of semi’s/trucks, which is really like a sled), as there are no front wheels on it, the rear of the sled is loaded up with cement blocks, so the idea is that the tractor has to pull the sled to the other end/finish line, about 110 meters in this case, as the sled is being pulled forward, the cement blocks also move forward on the sled, thus bogging the front of the sled into the ground more and more until the tractor cannot pull it any further, the tractor that pulls it the furtherest becomes the winner. By the time that I arrived the competition was over, and the celebrity drinks were flowing and trophy presentation well underway.

Moving on I drove further through Belgium towards Brussells, at this point I am driving through very flat farming country, with crops of corn, feed crops like lucern or the like & just bare ploughed paddocks, as I said quite flat, the narrow road was regularly lined with avenues of trees with the occasional one or two missing, and out of nowhere you see this huge mound like a some giant ants nest, perfectly shaped cone, green as a leek, and at the top you could see a statue, wow what is this I thought.  As I got closer, there were signs directing tourists on how to get there, it was the famous mark of the “Battle of Waterloo” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Waterloo ) where the Dutch & Prussian armies conquered the French army led by Napoleon in June 1815,  post the battle of waterloo the king decided to have a memorial built to honour where his son the Prince of Orange was fatherly wounded and also to commemorate all of those that had fallen in the conflict.  The mound stands about 43 meters high (@150 feet) and placed at the top of the mound is a lion made from the bronze of melted down canons from the battle, estimated to be around some forty tons of it.  You can climb the stairs to the top, easy enough, and from there you have a 360 degree view of the whole country side, below just near the base of the mound there is a museum that houses artefacts from the battle as well as a 360 degree gallery inside the domed ceiling showing the aftermath of the battle in all directions.  There is also a tavern there, quite a lively place, they had old time rock & roll music playing, all of the oldies were up and dancing, as well as internet so was able to book a hotel in Brussells, so I am going to get a sleep tonight and a shower, great.

From here I continued on to Brussels, arrived there just after lunch, checked into the hotel, had a shower and a change and out to discover what so good about Brussels, as I was staying right in the centre of the old or original part of the city, the streets were very tight, only the width of a car in some cases, they seemed to go in all directions, confusing to those that had just arrived, making sure I remembered which way back to the hotel, down two, right one, down another, you get the idea …  anyway following the crowd, I came into the main city square, WOW, this is some town square, the buildings were huge, all decorated and gilded with gold, which just gleamed, an impressive sight to the poor man I can tell you.  The square was about 100 x 100 meters square, with a huge Cathedral at one end, the square was paved with cobblestones, and people everywhere, so I just continued to stroll about seeing all of the old shops & streets all built in the dark ages I reckon, but clean & very scenic. I ended up having some dinner at one of the cafe’s in the square which I am glad I did stick around because during the evening the square came to life with a light & music show.

Next morning I was out and about before dawn, as I wanted to photograph the town square before anyone arrived, which I did, it was great, hopefully got some nice images there, after I had finished photographing the square and surrounds, it was back to the hotel, grab some breakfast, booked some accommodation for tonight while I had some internet and continue my trip further north towards the city of Amsterdam.

Chapter 13

Belgium, Netherlands, Germany & France (Sep, 2014)

Back on the road again, driving further North up through the countryside of Belgium into the Netherlands, I am driving through broad fields of Maize and harvested fields of Wheat & Alfalfa or lucerne as we call it in Australia, bales & bales of hay as far as the eye can see, what seemed to be thousands & thousands of them.  Further North-East I eventually came to the coast, and as you you drive along the coast you realised that you are below sea level, depending on the tide that can be some five meters plus, Bit hard to believe but when you cross the fiords or bridges, some of them go for miles, you have to go up to get on the bridge and then down at the other end, the levy banks are holding the sea back this is for sure.

Eventually I arrived at Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, as I had already booked my accommodation all I had to do was find it, I was staying in the central old part of the city, mainly so I could walk around and see the sites without having to muck around with the car all of the time, got to my hotel, and as luck would have it, there is a car park straight across the road from where I am staying, as I was only staying a day, the meter allowed me to pay for a day in advance despite the cost of $50 euros a day.  Anyway booked into the hotel, and as always I was given the furtherest room from reception there was, no lifts in the building which apparently is the norm, so I had to man handle all of my luggage two flights of stairs up, the stair should have been called a ladder, as the stairs themselves were about 12cm deep and went up, at I kid you not 60˚+ degrees, I am told that a lot of the houses/hotels are like this in Amsterdam.

So I spent the afternoon walking around the inner city, took a boat ride around the canals, learnt a bit of history, saw the smallest or thinest house ever, it was no more than a normal door & a half wide, that is the whole width of the house, and three stories high don’t know how they got up there but it was true.

The following day I backtracked to go and photograph the mills on the river outside of Amsterdam, there are a row of seven of them right on the banks, a big tourist spot, and worth seeing if your are in the vicinity, once I had had a look around taken some images and a video diary, I  then travelled to the Cambo factory, which is again just out side Amsterdam, Cambo is the manufacturer of my main view camera, the guys there were so helpful, unannounced they welcomed me in, we discussed my Cambo experiences, and they even went to the trouble of giving it a service while I was there, while I was being shown around the inner workings of this amazing place, some great new stuff coming out which will be on display at Photokina in September 2014.

Time to leave the Netherlands and head further north back into Germany, drove on to Hamburg, stayed there for the night, before continuing on to Frankfurt, at Frankfurt I said goodbye to my A3 Audi it was worse for ware as I had travelled some @10,600klms in this trusty little car, had it impounded, two separate small crashes/scraps, many near misses, autobahn floggings >215kph and some road rage moments by the driver, all in all it handled the pounding well, so it was here we separated and it went off to the cleaners/repairers and I headed to the big Central Railway Station. So with ticket in hand I boarded the Bullet train for Paris, @300kph it goes, so covered the distance in just a few hours, It is funny how things work out, the seat that I was allocated, the guy just across the aisle from me was from the Central coast of NSW, he worked for Yalumba Wines, and was travelling on his yearly around Europe trip to see what is going on in the vineyards & winery’s here, so it was great to have a conversation at last with someone that could speak fluent english.

Anyway arrived in Paris, was hoping to catch up with some friends that were also travelling across Europe, we have conversed via Facebook and we were going to catch up but they were on a tour and their itinerary did not allow for us to spent a few hours together, bit of bad luck but we will catch up at home I am sure.  So after I checked into the place where I was staying not far from the Louvre, I decided to go and photograph the Eiffel tower again, got there before dark, decided to get involved with a street con artist, playing the three cups & pea game, fully aware that I was being setup, but I could not resist, I am smarter than this idiot, so wagered $100 euros on the outcome and did it cold, had just enough for a taxi left, so back to photography I thought, so set up the camera and waited for the sunset and subsequent light show that they put on, very hour from dark to about 11pm.  Then back to the hotel leave the gear there in the room and out to find something to eat.  Nice little pub across the road plenty of grog, late dinner it was now after 11:30pm and cigarette smokers by the dozen, everywhere, sickening in actual fact.

Next morning I went down to the Louvre before dawn, wanted to get some more shots of the area, no one around, great!, shot to my hearts content, as well as just around the streets as well, then took the gear back to the room, getting some breakfast on the way, left all of the heavy gear there, grabbed the Fuji and back to the street, ended up in the Louvre, often as a photographer, you do not get to enjoy what it is you are shooting in this case it was the internal part of the Louvre, no que to speak of, so straight in.  Saw all of the greats, Picasso, Monet, Renoir etc, including the Mona Lisa, a quite small painting considering it’s reputation, anyway lots to see, I spent over half a day in there and only saw a small amount of it, the grandeur and opulence of the building and it’s contents is amazing. 

Back to the hotel, got all of my gear and headed out to photograph the Moulin Rouge building and surrounds, so did that for a few hours and called it a day and went back to the hotel, backup charge up etc, goodnight.  Tomorrow I am off to see the Mont Saint Michel, on the Normandy coast of France

Chapter 14

France, Paris, Mont Saint-Michel (Sep, 2014)

Currently still in Paris, have to go and pickup my new hire car for the next six days, got to the hire place, took me a while to find it, eventually got there, signed up, threw all of my gear in and then setup the GPS to go to Mont Saint Michel, some 600klm away, I decided to travel south through the countryside of central France through Le Manns, then onto Mont Saint Michel, so now with the GPS set of I went, onto the freeway and straight into a massive traffic jam, stuck there of almost two hours, getting crankier & crankier, eventually free of the traffic jam which put me behind schedule, but go the autobahns.

Arrived at Le Manns, a city on-route to Mont Saint-Michel, it is where they have the motor races, thought that I would get a shirt that had something to do with the local races there for my daughters boyfriend, but after looking up and down half a dozen streets, could not find anything, so decided to call it quits and move on.  I continued to drive further south I had hoped to get to the southern part of France where the vineyards are, went via Angers, Cholet, but as I had lost time in Paris, was not able to make it, so had to turn away and head west, stayed at the lovely old town of Roche-sur-Yon,  it was very late but their doors were still open, ran by an elderly couple, he did everything, cooked and fixed things, and the lady did the front office, worked well, enjoyed the stay.

Next day loaded up my gear and headed for Mont Saint Michel, I have mentioned it previously, but will repeat, the tides at Mont Saint-Michel vary some 13+ meters, but unlike normal tides they have a period where the tide level does not change at all, and a period where there is a super tide of over 13 meters, when this happens the Mont is isolated by sea water, and thus becomes an island. It is at this time that that everyone wants to be there, and as planned months in advance that moment which last over two days just happens to be over the next two days !!!

Arrived at Mont Saint Michel, whilst you can stay at the Mont, there are many old ancient hotels there, but are normally well booked out in advance or are just way too expensive, so I elected to stay at the local pub, always a great choice if you are a photographer, as they tend to know the local stories, points of interest etc, perfect.  So booked in and got all my gear ready to go, even though I was staying here for the next three days, I was keen to get out and about to check out the different vantage spots etc.   Drove down to the sea’s edge, and there it was just appearing out of nowhere, this amazing place, located about 3klms of the mainland, connected via a thin piece of land and an elevated man made walkway, it is shaped like an upside down cone, with a historic abbey at the top, and it’s steeple making it look more like a pyramid, very medieval and beautiful at the same time, you just want to go out there and photograph it.

Over the following two days I shot the Mont from various angles from sunrise to sunset and into the night, spent a bit of time relaxing, having a beer at the pub and catching up on some post-processing, emails, Facebook etc, I needed the break.  So the first day I spent my time wandering around checking out the best spots, shooting the Mont from wherever I though would be a good angle, studied the lay of the land so that I could take advantage of the best angles when I needed them the most, and the best way to get there as I am always in the dark when walking to where I want to shoot the sunrise from.

Part of the experience is being out on the mud flats, these flats extend as far as the eye can see from the Mont, some 20klms I am told, and on occasions are known to have areas like quicksand, thats right the legend of the area says that you just might disappear out there without a local experienced guide to show you the way around, I however decided to go it alone and traverse the flats myself using my own cunning and special sense of survival, in other words just follow in the footsteps of those that had walked before you, then I got game and just wend wherever I wanted, what quicksand??  At anytime on the lowed there were many hundreds of people walking on the mudflats all most being guided, they walked for kilometres out from the Mont.

Whilst I ventured out easily on the mudflats, you need to be aware that the tide comes in fast, on this occasion the high tide was a 13+m tide, so it rises very quickly, not sure how fast exactly, but if you were out a kilometre or more and the water was at your feet, by the time you got back to safety, I think that you would have to swim the last hundred, so be warned.  After the mudflats, I went into the township on the Mont, absolutely beautiful old buildings, the abbey itself is just amazing, being always maintained and continually restored, I understood that there are thirteen resident monks living there and a continual stream of others making their individual pilgrimage there.  It is a step into the past that is for sure, you just feel that you have gone back one thousand years, hope that it remains the same for the generations to come.

So on the last morning of the high tide I again load up my gear and head out into the dark at about 5:00am, get into the car and drive out to the carpark, which is closed, but I had discovered a way in the previous day, so in I went, got the closest carpark, thew all my gear on my back and like a donkey of I headed out to the Mont to get there for a dawn shoot, thick fog surrounded everything, so much so that if you had not been there before you would not have known which way to go that is for sure.  So off I walked out into the fog, quite cold, with the only guidance being a string of lights on the side of the walkway for the first 1klm, then it was every man for himself.  It is about 3-4klms out to the Mont, so it takes a little time, but like always the load that you start with seem to get heavier & heavier as you go along, whilst I have carried my gear over many kms perhaps thousands of them over time, I just never get used to it, perhaps the gear is getting heavier, or is it I am just getting older & weaker, probably the latter.

Anyway it was good news to finally get out there, still in total darkness, the air was so think that you could hear the early morning tradies talking when they got to the Mont, and others that you could see under a light pole in the distance, thick fog and sunrise are great elements for a landscape photographer, they just add extra mood to your image, I suspect that in the years ahead that the post processors of the day will be able to add the fog & sunrise lighting to the image, they will not however have to get out of bed early, or have to bear the cold, just do it all in the comfort of their home or office, but the difference is that we the dumb shall have the story to tell of the what we did to get the image, this in my opinion is the difference between a great image and a piece of art, the story is an integral part of how the viewer obtains an emotional attachment to your image, therefore it is an important part of my photography.

Well I had all of the elements in a line, the tide was right, I was there at the right time, I had fog, sunrise light was about to happen, right position all good, there were a few others around but not crowding me at all, the cops had stopped the traffic as the water was due to go over the road shortly, all good, I had been shooting for about half an hour, watching the fog bring the Mont in and out of view, across the water 50+ meters from me were another photographer and a couple of guys with a octocopter, their new fangled machine lifted off and up through the fog it went to photograph the Mont from above, I was so jealous of their potential shots, I had visions of the peaks of the Mont appearing out of the fog, with beautiful sidelit sunrise light on it, an image that I could not get where I am that is for sure.

But alas somethings just happen, these guys were from the France Channel Two news team, they were there to photograph the high tide around the Mont, and they had interviewed several people during the morning so far, then out of the blue or fog in my case, they arrive at my tripod, and ask to interview me.  So I spent the next ten minutes talking to these guys, they told me where they were from, and that it would be on the news tonight, yea yea I thought, heard all of that before, but true to their word here it was the full interview on the TV, and the web, not sure that it made good viewing but it was done either way, I was jiggled later by a friend that it would only be me, who would tell the TV crew to go on hold so that I could take a shot, which was true by the way.

So my time at the Mont had come to an end, it was a great experience, loved the Mont and the local area, if you get the chance go and do it, spend a day or so there, it will be worth your time.

Chapter 15

France, Malayasia, Australia (Sep, 2014)

So after three days photographing Mont Saint Michel, I packed up my gear for the final trip back to Paris via the Normady Coast, I was looking forward to getting back to Paris, I booked into a nice hotel just near the airport, this was great as I could easily get to the airport in two days when I was due to fly home.

That evening I again photographed the central parts of Paris, it is such a beautiful city, whilst I was still on the same trip, the seasons had noticeably changed over the time I was there, also the crowds had lightened off significantly which was great.  I managed to get some great images of the Eiffel Tower in the following early morning sunrise, overlooking a perfectly still Seine River giving great reflections of the tower etc.

Before leaving I had to drop the car back to the rental people, dints and all, I thought that this was going to be an issue, but all good, walk away insurance is great!.  Then it was back to the hotel, grab my gear and head off to the Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, not that many people about so check-in was simple, went for an upgrade and after a bit of translation issues, bargaining etc, managed to get an upgrade for the trip home, you beauty I though, great trip home, enjoyed a bit of 5star at last.

Arrived at the airport in Malaysia, grabbed the train into town, spent a night at a selected hotel, the “Traders Hotel” in Kuala Lumpur just near the Petronas Towers with the full intention of spending some time photographing the towers from an elevated view, but the only place that I could shoot it from there was at the bar on one of the top floors, wrong move, ended up talking to some other tourists, doing beers and sharing stories and the photo shoot never happened, bugger, but I did enjoy the evening.

Later the following day I was back to the airport on my flight back to Australia, after two months away, I was glad to get back home, it was a wonderful trip, I got to see and enjoy some sights that I never thought that I would ever see, absolutely amazing, the different culture’s & architecture, real eye opening stuff and I highly recommend that you the reader take the opportunity to further explore the big wide world we live in, your personal vision & self can only benefit from the experience.

TRIP STATS

  • 57 days of travel
  • 18 Countries (Order of Travel): Australia, Malaysia, France, Iceland, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Germany, Czeh Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, France, Malaysia, Australia.
  • >35 Country Border crossings
  • 658 Gigabytes of data
  • Over 14,500 Images
  • >107 Uploaded Video Diaries
  • 10,661 kilometers in Europe by hire car (excludes Iceland)
  • Unknown Number of Traffic Infringements, Speeding & Parking Fines.
  • 1 Towed Car
  • 2 Dings
  • 9 Currencies.

I hope that you have enjoyed the read and that it may have inspired you to visit some of the place that I have travelled too, all the best

Jaime Dormer (Photographer)