Austria 1 – Tyrolean Alps


I’ve just had a trip to the Austrian Alps – my first summer trip to Austria. Previously, I have only visited in winter for the skiing season. Being summer, photography was going to be much higher on the list. This is the first of two posts on the subject – the second will be about some photography issues I had. 

I took some kit with me – not a lot, just the camera and two lenses. This was the Fuji X-T5, the 16-55mm f/2.8 and the 23mm f/2 lenses. I also took a colour calibration chart with me. 

Although it was June and early summer, the weather, as per the UK, was much cooler and wetter than it ought to have been. This affected the trips I was able to make.

There were four main events: two planned walks, a trip to Mittenwald over the border in Germany, and a trip to Innsbruck. 

The first walk, which should have been at high level using the lift system became a lowland walk due to the weather. It rained for most of the walk and the lift system was closed. 

Decorative Buildings in Mittenwald

For the trip to Mittenwald, the weather was much kinder. This involved a train from Seefeld to Mittenwald, which took about 20 minutes. Mittenwald is the historic centre of German musical instrument making, particularly stringed instruments. It was contemporary with Cremona in Italy. The area is also noted for the painted exteriors of its buildings.

Being in Catholic Bavaria, Baroque and Rococo decorated churches abound. These can be incredibly ornate and ‘beware of low flying angels’ when you enter. The main church in Mittenwald is a prime example of this highly decorated style.

Church in Mittenwald

Mittenwald has a museum dedicated to instrument making and is in the heart of the town and its ornately painted buildings.

A significant river goes past the town and goes through the Leutaschklamm Gorge which has a spectacular waterfall. The water is milky in colour due to the fine rock powder in suspension in the water (presumably from the melting glacier). A walkway has been built into the cliff face to enable you to get a view of the waterfall.

Leutasch Gorge

The biggest walk of the week was to the Geistal valley. This involved getting a bus from the station in Seefeld. It was about a 30-minute journey. The entire walk is on a mix of pavements and hard-core paths that enable access to the farms dotting the valley.

The weather was very mixed. It started off quite pleasant, although there was nearly always low cloud around the mountain summits. The river varied from being alongside the footpath to being way down in the valley below as we ascended higher.

We were surrounded by meadows filled with alpine flowers and pine woodland. Some of the fields had cows in them with their distinctive cow bells tinkling away. I don’t know the reason for the cow bells, but I suspect it’s to do with there being brown bears in the area.

Gaistal Valley

As we approached the Gasthof for our mid-walk break, it started to rain quite heavily. We made it to the coffee stop and stayed there a while. It was though still raining when we were getting ready to continue – much harder by now. So, it was on with the waterproof over trousers – always a tricky manoeuvre.

The upper section of the walk was a loop, so it wasn’t an entirely identical return leg. It did stop raining after about half an hour or so. 

The weather did affect my photography though, as did the fact I was part of a group, which limits the time you can spend taking photos. It was always cloudy, which always presents a challenge when it comes to exposure as uniformly grey skies tend to be very bright. Because of that, I opted to bracket my exposures. It’s not something I usually do but from previous experience I felt it was worth trying. 

I set the camera’s ‘drive’ to ‘bracket’ which means it will take a series of shots in line with how you configure it in the camera’s menu system. I opted for three exposures at -2/3, 0, and +2/3 of a stop. I would later change this to -1, 0, and +1 stop. 

You do need to keep an eye on shutter speed. It’s not so bad if the ‘0’ is say 1/500s as all three shots will be over very quickly, but if it’s say, 1/30s, then the three shots will take longer and you need to keep your finger on the shutter and you need to stay still while it shoots them.

The final trip of the week was a day in Innsbruck, the regional capital and major city. Again, travel was by the local train service, which is very good. 

Having missed out on getting up to the tops in Seefeld, I decided I wanted to make up for it in Innsbruck and to travel up the funicular and cable car (the Nordkettenbahn) to the top.

Church in Innsbruck

The old town and the ‘golden roof’ were uninspiring, partly due to the upheaval caused by re-paving the whole area. The ‘golden roof’ is really just a portico or porch of a building. The river which runs along the Inn valley is wide and very fast flowing.

The trip up the Nordkettenbahn is in three stages. It starts in the city by getting the funicular, which is cable driven. The train had five units/carriages which are articulated to accommodate the angle of the slope. 

At the top of the funicular, you switch to the first and larger of the cable cars. This takes you about 80% of the way up. The final stage is a smaller cable car. At the top you are over 2,500m / 8,300’ up. You have a panoramic view of the Inn valley and overlook the city of Innsbruck. In the opposite direction are dramatic views of the mountains. 

The weather continued to be unhelpful, and it was cloudy with rather hazy views of the valley at best. Of course, later on after I was back down below it cleared, and the sun came out.

Heading back to the train station, we encountered a protest ‘march’ of tens of thousands of people on bicycles.

Innsbruck cycle protest

The train journey back was without incident. 

No trip to Austria would be complete without a great deal of Apfel Strudel and cake.

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