Panorama of Cesky Krumlov in the Evening

After several days in Prague, I made the four-hour drive to the medieval town of Cesky Krumlov, tucked in a sharp bend in the Vltava River. Everything that I found lovely and atmospheric in Prague was replicated on a smaller scale here, even the stunning castle overlooking the river. It was as if the oldest and loveliest parts of Prague were recreated in miniature for the amusement of a child.



Cesky Krumlov pictures: Krumlov castle



Krumlov Castle and Panorama of Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Panorama from 5 vertical shots, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 28 mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 8 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.


More than many cities in Europe, the medieval character of Cesky Krumlov remains largely unchanged. Stepping into this city is a bit like moving backwards in time, crossing an invisible membrane between the present and the past.

As medieval towns often did, Cesky Krumlov developed around a castle. Built in the 13th century, the castle gradually expanded into a compound, housing royalty and aristocrats. The life of Cesky Krumlov radiated outward from the Gothic structure at its heart. To this day, the castle compound includes bear pits, whose inhabitants have been a part of life at the castle since the Rozmberks added bears to their coat of arms.

It’s difficult to imagine now, but the years of Communist rule in what was then Czechoslovakia were not kind to Cesky Krumlov. The city was not maintained and its once vibrant colors greyed with neglect. Since the fall of Communism, however, the city has been rediscovered. In 1992 it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and since that time, it has been revitalized and is one of the country’s most popular destinations.

Like many before me, I fell completely under Cesky Krumlov’s spell. I climbed to the highest point I could find in the city, and set up my camera to capture a panorama of the lovely town perched on a bend in the river.

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Aerial View of Vltava River, Prague

Like many of the world’s great cities, Prague was built on the water. From its earliest history, the city was shaped by the Vltava, a beautiful and sometimes violent river. Less well-known than the Thames in London and the Seine in Paris, the Vltava is no less lovely and no less storied.

Vltava River and Prague Bridges photos
April 2017, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 116 mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 30 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.




There’s a reason that many photographs of Prague feature the river; it’s a singularly beautiful river, and the ancient spires and walls of Prague, when reflected in its waters, make a breathtaking sight. The river divides the city in two and offers the most splendid views of the city, views lovely enough that Smetana, one of the country’s most acclaimed composers, wrote a symphony in praise of the river.

I thought I was charmed by the city when walking its cobblestone streets and its ancient alleys, but the most romantic views of the city, I found, were high above it, overlooking the grand river. The pastel-colored buildings and church spires that line the river’s banks are even lovelier when seen from above, their reflections glittering in the water.

For most of its history, the Vltava has been languorous and reassuringly low. But its beauty can conceal a devastating power. At several points in its history, the Vltava has flooded its banks, inundating parts of the city and weakening its iconic bridges. The most destructive of those floods occurred in 2002, damaging large parts of the city as well as the beloved Charles Bridge.

But on an evening in early spring, it was difficult to imagine that element of the Vltava’s character. It was not menacing; I could sense nothing of its sometimes violent past. Instead, it was graceful and placid, its waters bathed in the lavender light of early evening, reflecting the lights of the city I’d come to love in a short time. I framed the shot, hoping to capture even a bit of the beauty of that ancient city.

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Prague Castle and Charles Bridge, Prague

Each day that I spent in Prague revealed more of the city’s fairy tale landscape and its centuries-long history. My first view of the city was from the Charles Bridge and I was convinced it was the loveliest, most evocative view of Prague, but every subsequent day revealed new and equally enchanting vistas.

Prague Castle, Charles Bridge and Saint Vitus Cathedral in the Evening, Prague, Czech Republic
April 2017, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 60 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 25 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.




Prague is a city divided by the Vltava River, and the sinewy river is the central artery of the city, around which it has developed for the past millennium. Whether from the Charles Bridge or another of the city’s bridges, I quickly learned that the best way to see Prague was from the water, from the river that is its heart.

From the right bank of the Vltava, I found that I could set up my tripod and capture sweeping views of many of the city’s most beautiful sites. From the right bank, I could capture Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral, soaring above the city. It’s believed to be the oldest castle in Europe, built in the ninth century. For many visitors, the spires of St. Vitus represent Prague Castle, but the castle in fact occupies a vast compound of government and religious buildings at the city’s zenith. The castle and its surrounding buildings are the most recognizable structures on the city’s skyline.

As I explored Prague, I found myself thinking about history and the passage of time. For more than a thousand years, a city has occupied the banks of the Vltava, a longer span of time than many countries have existed. In its long history, Prague has withstood invasions and oppressive regimes, and it remains one of the loveliest in Europe. Walking the streets of Prague is a lesson in the expanse of time, a reminder of the brief span of time we occupy.

Lost in my thoughts of time and history and completely enthralled by this beautiful city, I continued walking its ancient streets.

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Charles Bridge, Prague, Early Morning

How did I find myself with my camera near Charles Bridge in Prague? The trip to Prague came at a turning point in my life. It was the first trip I made after giving up a stable, dependable job for a career in fine art photography. It was a change that I’d dreamed of for years and though I was confident in my abilities, it was nonetheless a time of uncertainty. I arrived in Prague not merely as a first-time visitor, but as someone who was taking a great leap from one life to another.

Charles Bridge from Lesser Town Side
April 2017, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 70 mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 30 seconds, ISO 250, tripod.




Because I made the trip to Prague at a time of both uncertainty and exhilaration in my life, my feelings about the city were stronger than they might otherwise be. The city quickly came to occupy a special place in my heart. As a travel photographer, I tend to form intense attachments to places, but Prague was different. I felt that I had leapt from the certainty of one life and landed in a place that felt strangely comforting and welcoming.

I took to walking the city’s streets at odd hours, appreciative of the relative silence. One of the most popular destinations in Europe, Prague is nearly always full of tourists, so I planned my excursions at dawn and late at night. Other than a few stragglers who’d made a full night of it, I had Prague’s streets largely to myself in the early morning hours. Beautiful at any hour, Prague is especially lovely in the blue light of early dawn.

In those first few days in Prague, I returned again and again to the Charles Bridge. So much of the city’s history and character seemed to be encapsulated in that one remarkable structure that I photographed it repeatedly, from multiple angles. It was impossible not be charmed by the bridge and its history.

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Charles Bridge in the Morning, Prague

There are places in the world in which the past is every bit as alive as the present. You walk among the streets of certain cities and feel the spirits of the place, the collective memory that hasn’t yet receded into the distant past. Prague is one of those places.

Charles Bridge in the Morning, Prague, Czech Republic
April 2017, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 70 mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 1.3 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.

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For much of the twentieth century, Prague (as well as the rest of the Czech Republic) was off-limits to travelers from the West, sealed off behind the Iron Curtain. When the country’s Communist regime was peacefully overthrown in the 1990s, Westerners rediscovered the country, particularly Prague. They found a city as lovely as any in Europe, the Bohemian equal to Paris or London. And like me, they found a city steeped in its history, a city in which the past hums and vibrates just beneath the thin veneer of the present.

It’s a city that lends itself to this kind of imagining. For more than a millennium, Prague has occupied its spot on the lovely Vltava River. It’s a city of winding cobblestone alleys and soaring spires, a city that — for all its beauty — has born witness to some of the worst of humanity’s impulses.

So it’s easy to become consumed by Prague’s long, complicated history when walking its streets. And there is perhaps no other place in the city that encapsulates that history like the Charles Bridge, a striking work of architecture completed in 1390. The bridge itself is lovely, but it’s the monuments that adorn the bridge that get the most attention. The first was the crucifix at the eastern end, which was added in 1657. But the most famous of the bridge’s stone adornments is the statue of St. John of Nepomuk, who was thrown into the river on orders of King Wenceslas IV because he refused to divulge the queen’s confession. The statue was added by Jesuits in 1683, and over the years, other Catholic orders added their own saints, turning the bridge into a kind of museum of martyrdom.

Nowadays, the Charles Bridge is one of the city’s most popular attractions, and because it was pedestrianized after World War II, at any time of the day, tourists, street vendors, and pickpockets crowd its walls. If you want to see the bridge free of the crowds, you have to come at dawn.

And that’s what I did on a bitterly cold morning in April of 2017. I headed to the bridge just as the sun came up, when I knew it was likely to be empty. In the early hours of morning, with the tourists and hawkers still asleep, the bridge is a different place. It’s a place out of time, and as I walked the bridge, looking for the perfect shot, I could hear Prague’s saints and martyrs whispering from a not very distant place. In this ancient city where the past is always close at hand, they seem to want to tell their stories. You only have to stop and listen.

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The Gate Of Knowledge, Bay of Biscay

Asturias is a region that continually rewards travelers. The contrast of the area’s rich green coastline as it reaches the deep blue of the Atlantic is breathtaking and the Picos de Europa — a little-known mountain range — is profoundly beautiful. Every day seemed to reveal another hidden treasure to me and I hated the thought of leaving.

The Gate Of Knowledge, Playa La Vallina in the Evening, Asturias, Spain
March 2018, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 21 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 141 seconds, ISO 64, ND 10-stop filter, tripod.

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One of these treasures was Playa La Vallina, one of the area’s least occupied beaches. It’s a pebble beach and reaching it requires a bit of a trek. There are no amenities at Playa La Vallina and tourists are scarce, which made it an even more attractive subject for photographs.

The walk from the car park to the beach was something of a hike. I walked a long way through a eucalyptus grove and that distinct aroma permeated the air. Along the way, there were several waterfalls — more hidden treasures — and since I was in no hurry, I stopped and swam in one. Before I even made it to the beach, it was one of the best days I had in Spain.

By the time I got to the beach, it was well into the afternoon and the sun was low over the horizon. The isolation of Playa La Vallina and the characteristic rock formations of Spain’s coast made it a great place to shoot. I found what I think was the most remarkable rock formation along that stretch of coastline — a jagged, triangular slab of rock that reminded me of the Delta character from the Greek alphabet which is widely used in math and physics. I began to think of it as the Gate of Knowledge.

After a leisurely, eucalyptus-infused afternoon, I set up my camera as the sun began to set. A fine mist was emerging from the water’s surface and pink tendrils of sunlight hung gently over the sea. It was the end of a memorable day and I think the photograph captures what I felt at that moment — complete peace and contentment.

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No Man’s Land, Bay of Biscay

My travels along Spain’s northern coast continued with Asturias. Here, the lush green hills of the area sloped down to the sea, where time and the Atlantic carved the coastline into rocky coves and curious formations. It’s a remarkably picturesque part of Spain, where the Picos de Europa Mountains form a backdrop for the coast.

No Man's Land, Playa de La Gueirua in the Morning, Asturias, Spain
March 2018, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 26 mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 122 seconds, ISO 64, ND 10-stop filter, tripod.

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As I traveled along Spain’s coastline, I was drawn repeatedly to the rock formations at the sea’s edge. I was continually amazed by what nature was capable of and the power that the Atlantic could exert on the landscape.

Here, I was particularly entranced by the Playa de La Gueirua, one of the more remote beaches in the area, but also one of the most photographed. It took some effort to reach the spot, but it was worth the time and trouble — the rock formations here are particularly striking and it came to be one of my favorite locations along the northern coast.

The rock formations here are remarkable. Beautiful but somewhat menacing, the jagged spires seem to guard some unwelcoming kingdom beneath the sea. I wanted to capture just the right mood here — both the beauty of the place, but also the suggestion of danger and the sense of something ominous beneath the waves.

I tried several different compositions to capture what I felt at Playa de La Gueirua, but ultimately, I decided the best way to capture the coastline here was to photograph it in early morning. Early morning was a particularly magical time along the coast — I didn’t have to share the space with tourists and with the last of the night’s mist still in the air, it felt mystical, as if I had stepped into a distant world.

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The Gate of Math, Bay of Biscay

I found myself becoming more and more charmed by the northern coast of Spain with each day that passed. It was an unexpected kind of place — not the sunny, languorous Spain of the Mediterranean coast, but a jagged, slightly forbidding place that felt very different than the Spain I’d imagined for years. It felt remote, as if I were standing on the edge of the world.

The Gate of Math, Urro del Manzano Rocks in the Morning, Liencres, Cantabria, Spain
March 2018, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 32 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 21 seconds, ISO 31, ND 5-stop filter, tripod.

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It’s a place where the Atlantic and the Bay of Biscay have, over millennia, carved the coastline into sharp, unlikely formations. It’s less well-known than Spain’s Mediterranean coast and the tourists here are mostly locals taking short holidays. The comparative lack of tourists just added to my sense of being alone at the rough edge of civilization.

One of the more interesting rock formations along this stretch of the Cantabria coast is the Gate of Math, which I named so because of its resemblance to the symbol for Pi. Easily one of the most picturesque spots along a singularly beautiful coastline, I was determined to find the best angle to capture the formation.

After trying several different views of the rock, I settled on the most straightforward, with the Gate of Math centered in the photograph. A storm was coming in, and I focused the formation with the clouds in the background, with just the faintest suggestion of danger on the horizon. I used a long exposure and an ND 5-stop filter to smooth the water and waves in the foreground to minimize distractions.

I think the end result is striking — your eyes are drawn to the curious rock formation, which seems to hover just above the water, and the clouds on the horizon give a hint of something ominous.

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Dragonstone, Bay of Biscay

You might have seen this place before. This rocky outcropping on the northern coast of Spain has made appearances in Game of Thrones as Dragonstone, the ancestral seat of the House of Targaryen. The filmmakers, of course, used computer graphics to add the Targaryen castle at the island’s peak, as well as the occasional dragon flying overhead.

Dragonstone, Gaztelugatxe and San Juan Church in the Morning, Basque Country, Spain
March 2018, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 242 seconds, ISO 64, ND 10-stop filter, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>




But even with that modern technology and computer animation can do, I was unprepared for Gaztelugatxe, crowned at its highest point by San Juan Church. The island wasn’t my primary interest on this particular jaunt; I went with the intention of photographing the rock formations for which this stretch of coastline is famous.

But it’s impossible to be near this part of Spain’s coast and not be entranced by Gaztelugatxe. That’s the effect that the island has on people — it simply isn’t possible to look away. It isn’t difficult to see why the filmmakers behind Game of Thrones chose this location; perched on a jagged sliver of rock on the edge of Europe, it feels far removed from the modern world. It seems to exist in another place and time.

I photographed the rock formations but soon realized that the island itself would make the best photographs. To get this shot, I climbed 50 meters up an adjacent cliff. It was a vertiginous climb up a barely-usable path and it involved a certain degree of danger, but it was worth it. It was early morning and the last of the mist was burning away. The tourists and hikers had not yet arrived. From my vantage point, Gaztelugatze seemed to hover just above the water, ethereal and beautiful, tethered to the mainland by a ribbon of rocks and a manmade bridge.

I got the shots, packed my camera, and prepared to climb back down the cliff and back into reality.

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The Gate of the Winds, Bay of Biscay

The Bay of Biscay, located along western France and northern Spain, is regarded as one of the world’s most treacherous bodies of water. It has long been notorious among sailors for its fierce storms and rough waters. But in my travels I’ve learned that incredible beauty is sometimes created from a combination of time and the elements, and this is especially true along the northern coast of Spain.

The Gate of the Winds, Praia das Catedrais in the Evening, Galicia, Spain
March 2018, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 221 seconds, ISO 31, ND 5-stop filter, tripod.

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Spain’s rugged northern coast has been pounded for centuries by the sea. And the result is a breathtaking — and often hidden — masterwork of nature known as Prais das Catedrais, or Cathedrals Beach. As if taking a cue from Medieval Europe, nature has carved this rocky coastline into a series of arches and flying buttresses not unlike those that grace Gothic cathedrals. And just like those cathedrals, the jagged formations along Prais das Catedrais inspire a sense of wonder.

At high tide, the water from the bay comes in with such force at such a volume that these rocky carvings are completely inundated. It’s possible to stand along this jagged edge of Spain and have no idea of the formations below the surface. But when the water recedes, it reveals contours seemingly carved by a craftsman beneath the water’s surface.

When I traveled to northern Spain, I hoped to be able to photograph these formations from the beach, since that’s the angle that allows you to best appreciate arches like the ones at Prais das Catedrais. But it wasn’t possible — the beach was under water for most of my trip. Instead, I climbed to the top of a cliff 20-30 meters above the water for my photographs. Even at that height, the Bay of Biscay was fearsome, and more than once both I and my camera were lashed by waves. Remembering that beauty is often created from time and the elements, I decided to let nature have its way with the beach and I exercised patience in getting my photographs. The result is a photograph that captures the rugged beauty of the Galician coastline, and the majestic arch that I call the Gate of the Winds.

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