Luka Vunduk: On Second Chances and His 10-Year Photo

landscape award winning photo Luka vunduk

I’ve always been a bit of a loner and, although I like people, I often withdraw into solitude. I look for peace and balance in music and yoga, but even more so in nature.

I fell in love with nature during many walking and cycling trips, so it’s not unusual that she is my favourite and most frequent star in my photography work.

Luka vunduk

Perhaps this is because nature, unlike some people, not only unconditionally gives us second chances, but gives us an unlimited number of them.

As a landscape photographer, I took my chances with nature over and over again. My modus operandi, developed over years of learning and trying to understand my camera and the stories it creates, is that I like to return to the ‘scene of the crime’.

I like to put the same subject at the centre of my photo.

While the subject always remains the same, everything around it changes – seasons, times of the day, photography equipment, camera settings, and, last but not least, my mood the moment I press the shutter.

luka vunduck

Endless moments, and endlessly different stories appear on the screen; some are more in the style of silent tragedies, while others are bursting with colourful optimism and incredible fairy tales.

Some are more and some are less liked by my followers, others excite my perfectionist shameless ego.

With so many opportunities, colours, smells, sounds, and sights, above all is the chance to touch my and your soul.

A decade photographing the Italian Dolomites

The Alpe di Siusi in Italy is about a 3-hour drive from my home. I still don’t know what drew me there, but I’ve been there nine times so far.

This mountain seems to have cast a spell on me, but it also cast a spell on my many attempts to take a photo that would stand out from all the images you can find of it online.

I was either stopped by thick fog, there was too much sun or rain, or the moon hid from sight, leaving me in the dark.

During my last visit, when I took a group of photographers there as part of a workshop, we were met with constant fog and rain day after day.

We waited and waited, and on the last day of the expedition, as our driver from the nature park urged us to stop taking photos and leave, I heard a gentle whistling of the wind and begged the driver to give us another 10 minutes.

landscape award winning photo Luka vunduk
The Italian Dolomites, quite possibly the love of my photography life. It took me 8 years of ‘second chances’ to get this shot.

In just a few short minutes, the fog in front of the mountain cleared just enough to give us a magnificent scene – we only had a few seconds to capture it forever.

The photo, with the magically intertwining fog, looking as if nature just exhaled, is the love of my photography life.

And as for this mountain, I will not look for a second chance to capture this moment.

Photography close to home

Most often depicted in my photography is Bled, in my homeland of Slovenia.

If you’ve ever visited Slovenia, you will have almost certainly seen Bled and the lake, over which the 11th-century castle towers over the top of the cliff, 139 metres above sea level.

bled, Slovenia

Bled, adored by locals and foreigners, really is beautiful. And always in a different way.

How, then, in a sea of different images of this beauty, do you create something that especially attracts the eye and soothes the heart?

I don’t know, but I take advantage of the countless opportunities that nature gives me and look for an answer.

Whether or not I have already found it, I certainly haven’t stopped looking.

Exploring the south-east

In the hills and plateaus between salty sea and sweet waters, lies the National Park of Plitvice in Croatia.

Croatia photography

After my first independent photo exploration of Plitvice, I thought that my first opportunity of this shot would be enough.

The summer weather was wonderful, there was just the right amount of clouds so that the sun didn’t eat up my colors. I felt like Tarzan, rested and relaxed while washing away my fear of snakes with a small sip of Dalmatian brandy.

I took a great photo and I had no intention of visiting Plitvice again. At least not in the foreseeable future.

As it turns out, I had to return, at the request of my students, and so back I went during autumn. At that time, the colors of nature gained in diversity and contrast, while the water, fighting its way out of the rock, gained in strength.

luka vunduk

Standing over the scene, I couldn’t help but scream from the exhilaration I felt. And when you feel something so deeply, you know that you will never give up countless ‘second chances’ to relive that feeling.

The feeling. Not the scene. The scene will change again.

In conclusion

As you probably noticed, I didn’t spend too much time talking about the equipment and technicalities of my ventures, or the endless hours I devote to thorough preparation before every expedition.

I didn’t admit to you that in the middle of mountains, seas and deserts, I sometimes miss my family too much.

Because it’s all self-evident, a work in progress. That is what we are. And endless chances are something that keeps us moving on.

Visit Luka's website

Renowned landscape photographer Luka Vunduk’s desire to explore the world’s beautiful places and to capture the profound experiences they evoke has taken him on expeditions all over the globe. His work brings to viewers the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the feeling of actually being there, in the landscapes he masterfully captures.

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