A few years ago, when I first saw a picture of the Dolomites, I knew that I’ll come to hike this wonderful place one day. It finally comes true on this year’s Easter holidays.
So why the Dolomites in Easter? First, that’s low season in the mountains, just after winter ski crowds left and before summer hiking fellows come. So fewer people around your camera, more accommodation choices with lower prices, win-win. Second, the weather gets warmer that hiking trails are completely dried up, however, still tons of snow hang on edge of the mountains, perfect for a “warm hike + cold mountain” shooting. Third, sunrise and sunset are not as early and late as in summer, good for a serious sleeper like me. In the end, if that’s the only spare time you have, why not give it a try?
Location & Travel
After a couple of searches on Airbnb, I booked an apartment for my little family, just 1.5 km away from Lake Karersee. The best part is the Hotel has a great view on both Rosengarten and Latemar, I could literally shoot one of the two directly through my room’s window.
To get there, the best way is obviously by car. If you also do not live in the surrounding like me, better get up and throw yourself on the road early. Although not yet high season in the mountains, still nothing can stop the northern crowds to cross alps to buy some sunshine in Italy. Adding the Easter holidays, it can be quite busy on the A22. We left Munich at 5 am. and arrived at 11…
Hike to the lake & exploring
After a long lunch break, gears out, hiking shoes on, my lovely 10 months old daughter Elfi on my back, my wife Ping and her mother by my side, it’s time for a little walk. It supposes to be a family trip, after all. I remind myself ;)
Direction Lake Karersee. It’s 20 mins walk following the trail no. 10, which is mostly flat with a short downhill path, it should be no problem for any kind of family. One thing worth to mention is the road marks are so clearly numbered and well maintained, you never need to worry about getting lost in the wild. That’s one of the biggest advantages to hiking in the Dolomites.
We arrived the lake at 3 pm. It is 1540m above the sea level and surrounded by high pine forest. You can actually get a sight once really close to it. Maybe due to its fame of world heritage site, the whole lake is also protected by a wooden fence, so no picnic at lakeside possible. Several viewpoints are built along the lakeside trail where you can scout the lake from different angles. So far the best spot is located at the northern side, where you have a view of the whole lake with Latemar mountain as background, as presented below by our little ‘Guide’ Elfi.
My heart sank a bit when I see the amount of water was left. Maybe I shall be more realistic since at this time of year the lake only has half of its size compare to the rainy summer. However with a low level of water, one can observe easily the stone lady statue.
After some time scouting around, it was almost time for dinner & bed for our little Elfi, so we started to head back to our hotel. It was 5:30 pm., so another 2.5 hours to go before sunset. The sky was clear with a few low cloud which I know will soon be turned red as the sun move down to the horizon. My instinct told me that I can’t miss all this, so I decided to stay till the sunset.
I just can’t stand there and wait. A quick look at the map and Mittersee seems the only option around for me to spend some time. Follow the trail no. 12, it’s only a few minutes walk.
Mittersee is a smaller lake than Karersee, or at least it supposes to be a ‘lake’. It is filled with water within a few days in July and is then dried out in mid-August. Obviously, I didn’t know this before and almost missed the lake on my way. It was just a marsh with no visible water. The laid-down wooden raft with a clear water mark on it proved there was water before.
Even though I might be there at the wrong time of year, after little looking around, I was still able to find one interesting composition.
Rosengarten from the lake
By the time I went back to Karersee, the sun was much lower and clouds became dense. Standing at the south most point of the lake heading north, trees were only partially lighted, the Rosengarten mountain (2981m) sat in the background, everything was so contrasty. What a view!
Latemar from the lake
What I like the most being here is you can get so many beautiful views from one single place. Just a few meters from the previous spot toward the west side of the lake, it’s the best spot to shoot another amazing mountain Latemar (2842m) as background. I just can’t believe it, absolutely magic.
This shot took me another hour waiting. Waiting for clouds to be dyed with the sunlight; waiting for the mountain and trees to get a kiss of the setting sun; waiting for the wind to stop so the lake surface could calm down. It’s all about waiting! Until everything just met perfectly, for the blink of an eye.
10 minutes after that, trees felt in the darkness and the light level dropped very fast. I grabbed my tripod and jumped over the fence (yeah I know…). Like a fool I was running to the water and thinking if only I could have the last chance to take one more picture, just one more.
I was so lucky.
I packed for return on the dark forest path with a grateful smile. I know I can’t be lucky every time. That’s why it makes me chase for more. It also makes me understand more about what a picture means to landscape photographers.
Rosengarten at sunset
Next day the weather has changed completely, very windy and rainy. We decided to head down to Bolzano where the weather seems to be fine. After a long day promenade, we were back to the hotel at dinner time, exactly before sunset. Coincidence or in the plan? I can’t say.
It was still raining gently outside, I looked at Rosengarten from my window thinking about a composition. Grey sky, lightness trees, the only option seems to be taking a zoom-in picture and capture the details of rocks. All set, I just need to press the shutter button when the sunlight finally penetrated the sky.
Shortly after sunset, the sky started to clear up. I went for dinner and hoped there will be a big and clear sunrise tomorrow.
The next day, for the second part of my trip, I went for a hike to the Langkofel Group, another marvelous beauty in this magic land.