Lake Bled Viewpoint - The Bench
There are so many that it’s hard to know which viewpoint to photograph Lake Bled from. But the fact is that they are all great, you just have to choose one at a time. In this series of articles I’m going to show you them, starting with the bench.
A church on an island surrounded by a shimmering body of water, glowing in the surrounding mist as the sun breaks through and floods it with warm light. Sounds like something out of a fairytale, right? Well, if you happen to be up at sunrise and out beside Lake Bled in spring or autumn, then that is what you are likely to see.
You’ll often hear Lake Bled depicted as a fairy tale location. Although it may sound a little cliché, the ingredients are all there; an alpine lake with a beautiful church on an island, a castle on a 130-metre high cliff all backed by the towering Karavanke Alps. Add to that morning mist drifting across the lake surface and you have the perfect recipe for such a depiction.
The legend of the lake tells of how the fairy goddess Živa, along with her troupe of fairies, flooded the valley to protect their dwelling on the hill where the island now sits. The island is presently home to the Baroque Church of the Assumption of Mary, and access to it is by traditional wooden gondolas known as a “Pletna” on which you are rowed out by an expert oarsman known as the “Pletnar”.
The bench viewpoint is located on the south-western side of Lake Bled. This is the best side of the lake to capture the mountains right behind the church and castle.
From here you get a great perspective, with the island church on the left, the castle just to the right and also the little church of Saint Martin. All this is backed by the best section of the Karavanke Alps, the mountain chain forming the border between Slovenia and Austria. The highest peak, Mount Stol, sits right behind the castle from this perspective.
There isn’t much choice here when it comes to parking. The closest car park is next to Zaka Campsite. However, this is 3 euros per hour (24/7). A better option is to drive up the hill to the train station and park at the car park there. It’s 5 euros for the whole day. If the machine is not working, which it sometimes isn’t, then it’s free. Don’t be tempted to park by the road anywhere, like some do. The traffic wardens patrol this route every day, even early on Sundays.
Best time of day
You can photograph Lake Bled from this viewpoint at any time of day, and it makes both a great sunrise and sunset location. From here the sun rises to the right and sets to the left, meaning you’ll always get nice side lighting. Through autumn, winter and spring there is a good chance of early morning mist, so you can catch some beautiful atmospheric shots; truly reflecting the fairy tale look of this lake.
Of course there’s a good chance there’ll be snow on the mountain peaks from late autumn through to early spring. In the right conditions you’ll also get the alpenglow, as the peaks catch the light as the sun sets or rises.
Early morning brings the best chance for still waters and a perfect reflection, which occasionally gets ruined briefly by passing ducks and swans! Watch also for the pletna boats starting to bring the first waves of visitors to the island, as it catches the morning sun on its canopy and wooden exterior glows.
The church is lit at dusk and dawn, so it makes a great blue hour shot.
What to bring and tips for shooting
For the best shots, bring a tripod and cable release so you can get the long exposures needed for the early morning and late evening shots. Wide angle and normal lenses are best, but you can also use a telephoto lens to get up close shots of the island and castle.
Use a polariser to bring out the detail in the sky and control reflections in the water. It will work perfectly here with the side lighting.
Use an ND filter to get longer exposures when the light is still too bright to get them. This is great for smoothing out the water if it’s not still, and also to capture some motion in the clouds.
If you are shooting long exposures and want to capture the pletnas going to the island, remember to reset your shutter to a faster shutter speed to freeze them. I learned this the hard way!