The Classic Slovenian View
The Church of St Thomas (Sveti Tomaž)
St Thomas Church (Sveti Tomaž nad Praprotnim) in the hills of Northern Slovenia is an iconic view, and although one of many well photographed locations, it’s also one of the least well known places to visit in Slovenia. It’s only photographers and locals who seem to know about it. This particular viewpoint is a popular spot from which to photograph it, and the exact location was given to me by Slovene photographer Luka Esenko, co-founder of Photohound. In this article I’m going to give you some tips on how, when and from where to photograph it.
This stunning view is indicative of the many wonderful scenes you can find all across Slovenia. Everywhere you go you’ll see churches backed by towering alpine mountains like this. In this case though, the Saint Thomas Church sits on a small hill backed by the beautiful Kamnik Alps and is a truly unique scene indeed. The mountains behind it are Mount Grintovec
Once I had the location, I visited it many times in the mornings. It’s a morning shot, as the sun rises and illuminates the church from the right. In the early morning in winter, as the sun is further south, the first place it hits is the church itself. I wouldn’t have believed it possible had I not seen it for myself.
Unlike many great photographic viewpoints, this view is easy to get to and is a roadside shot. Quite useful for when you get there early: no need to leave much earlier in order to hike out. It’s a 45-minute drive from the capital, Ljubljana via Skofja Loka.
The viewpoint is a place called Rantovše hill. To get there go through Skofja Loka and head on towards Železniki then take the turn off for Spodnja Luša. Keep driving and you will eventually see a sign on the left for Rantovše. Head on up this twisty road until you see the viewpoint, a grassy layby on your left.
Saint Thomas Church is a morning shot, and best in winter but also good other times of the year. It’s best in winter because the sun is further south and rises directly to the right of the church. This is when it illuminates the church and hill from the side.
In late spring and summer, as the sun moves more north, then the sun rises behind Grintovec Mountain.
Winter sunrise photos
The church is not lit at night
Unlike Jamnik Church, Saint Thomas Church is not lit at night so there isn’t the possibility of that classic shot at dusk or dawn. However, it can still look good at dawn in the right conditions.
Sunrise behind St Thomas in summer
Sunrise in the summer represents a whole different story. At this time of year the sun rises further to the north and up over the mountain peaks. But even in the summer with the right kind of weather it can be an amazing scene. I planned a shoot after a day and night of rain, where the forecast conditions looked right. I was not disappointed.
The summer sunrise can be quite spectacular at St Thomas Church
At the solstice
Around the time of the summer solstice when the sun has moved as far north as it it does, this is the time when the sun rises closest to the church, and also behind the mountains. There is a small window of opportunity to catch it, if the weather plays ball.
St Thomas church also looks great later in the morning
Okay so it looks great at sunrise, but a classic view like this also looks great throughout the day. If you can’t get there for sunrise, then it can still look great throughout the morning if the light is right.
Dont forget to look around you
It's not all about the church
While St Thomas Church and the Kamnik Alps as a backdrop is without doubt the focal point of the view, the Kamnik Alps, and especially Mount Storzic, alone can make a great photo., This viewpoint also boasts great views across to the Karavanke Mountains and its highest peak, Mount Stol to the west. So make sure to point your camera is that direction on occasion.
Map of the church location
Map of the viewpoint location
(the important one)
This is the map you will need in order to get to the photo viewpoint.
To get there go through Skofja Loka and head on towards Železniki then take the turn off for Spodnja Luša. Keep driving and you will eventually see a sign on the left for Rantovše. Head on up this twisty road until you see the viewpoint, a grassy layby on your left.
Park on the right on the roadside. Try to avoid parking on the grass. Some of the area down the hill belongs to the local farmer, so please try to avoid walking on the grass too much, and keep to the roadside. This is a small peaceful place so please avoid coming in large groups and respect the local community by keeping the noise down.