Nature Photography Guide to Southern Germany
Germany is a country with rich biodiversity and everchanging landscapes. Encompassing thick forests, green meadows, tall mountains, gushing waterfalls, idyllic lakes, and calm coastlines, photographers are presented with an abundance of natural spectacles to unleash their creativity.
While listing all possible locations goes beyond the scope of this article, here are a few of the most stunning places to explore for nature photography, with a predominant focus on Bavaria in southern Germany.
Lakes in Bavaria
Southern Germany has many lakes to choose from for great photographic opportunities.
Read more: 4 Steps to Shoot Beautiful Lakes at Sunrise
Eibsee in Grainau
Lake Eibsee is one of the most frequented and also one of the most beautiful lakes in Bavaria. It is located near the tallest mountain range southwest of the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
The towering mountains provide a picturesque backdrop to photograph reflections in the turquoise water, while the small islands add unique detail and flair to the shot.
The loop trail around lake Eibsee is 7.5 Kilometers long and takes 2-4 hours to complete, depending on pace. The northern side of the lake offers the most scenic photography spots and can be accessed from the parking lot via an easy hike through the larch forest.
Upon crossing the Eibsee bridge, photographers can shoot from the coastline at several sites. Alternatively, the scenery can also be captured from the slightly elevated gravel trail, which leads around the lake.
The best time to photograph lake Eibsee is in the early morning. At dawn, the water is still, while the rising sun behind the mountains creates a dramatic ambience. Moreover, as the lake tends to become crowded during the day, early risers benefit from a more peaceful shooting experience and greater flexibility with regard to perspective.
Hintersee in Ramsau
Photographers in search of an idyllic image of a mountain lake will find the Hintersee in Ramsau particularly appealing. Nestled in a spruce forest, the lake is framed by tall mountain peaks and is unique with its islands, which are covered with thick moss and haphazard trees.
The lake itself boasts crystal-clear, emerald-green water with mirror-like reflections. While the diverse flora in the surrounding Zauberwald (“magical forest”) allows for compelling macro photography.
Lake Hintersee can be accessed via a narrow, winding alpine road through the forest. Paid parking is available at the nearby inn Seeklause, which is located directly at the lake and only a five-minute walk away from the best photography angles.
Koenigssee and Obersee in Berchtesgaden
Lake Koenigssee can be discovered from several perspectives.
One of these encompasses the Malerwinkel – a popular viewpoint located at an elevation in the surrounding mountains.
Photographers can reach this spot following an easy, thirty-minute, uphill hike past the boat huts on the north shore. The elevation provides a unique perspective on the mighty rocks of the Berchtesgaden Alps, which drop almost vertically to the shore of Lake Königsee.
As droning is not permitted in the nature reserve, this spot additionally enables nature photographers to capture the shape and structure of the lake from above.
A second means of discovering the impressive natural scenery around Lake Königsee is via an electric passenger boat. This first stop of the boat tour includes the Baroque pilgrimage church of St. Bartholomew, which is one of the world’s most photographed motifs due to its distinctive red onion domes.
The second stop comprises the neighbouring Lake Obersee in Salet, which has several interesting sceneries for photographers.
Besides its wild location between the steep mountain cliffs, the Obersee is especially known for its reflections on the surface of the water. Due to its sheltered location and the fact that there are no boats on the lake, the water surface is usually completely calm and the reflections are exceptionally clear.
At Lake Obersee, nature photographers can find a photogenic boathouse and a fishing hut, located respectively on the lake’s western shore and eastern shore.
Photographers wishing to capitalize on the boat trip can also hike to the Roethbach waterfall from Lake Obersee. With a total cascade height of 470 Meters, the Roethbach waterfall is one of the tallest in Germany. This short hike along the shores of Lake Obersee is 3km towards Fischunkelalm.
Behind the alpine pasture, a small stretch of forest has to be crossed before the waterfall can be observed thundering in the valley.
Read more: 8 Tips for Photographers on Boats and at Sea
Germany boasts several National Parks, which offer photographers a range of opportunities to capture great shots.
Berchtesgaden National Park
The Berchtesgaden National Park is a nature-protected area located on the border between Germany and Austria. With over 21,000 hectares of pristine nature, its diverse flora and fauna provide a slew of opportunities for nature photography.
One of the most exciting locations around the Berchtesgaden National Park encompasses the ice chapel, which can be accessed in late autumn and early spring. Characterised by grooves and textures formed during the melting and freezing process, the cave allows photographers to create layered images with lots of depth and vivid colours.
However, please note that necessary safety precautions must be taken before entering the cave, as the ice may thin according to weather conditions.
Another picturesque location in the vicinity of the National Park is the suspension bridge in Klausbach. This spot can be accessed via an easy one-hour hike, which starts directly at the Tourist Information Centre.
The alpine landscape and green foliage compliment the wooden bridge, which serves as a vanishing point within the scenery and guides the eye into the photograph. Venturing to this location during a cloudy autumn day provides an ideal opportunity for atmospheric shots with a misty setting.
Besides landscapes, Berchtesgaden also harbours numerous photogenic chapels and churches situated in the heart of the mountains. Therein, the Parish Church of St. Sebastian and the Pilgrim Church of Maria Gern are two of the most prominent.
With the rapid Ramsau river and charming Erstleg bridge in the foreground, the Church of St. Sebastian is particularly suitable for long-exposure photography. Meanwhile, the best time to photograph Maria Gern is at sunrise during the golden hour, when the Watzmann mountain lights up in the background.
Bavarian Forest National Park
The Bavarian Forest is one of the oldest national parks in Bavaria. Bordering the Czech Republic, its landscape includes forests, meadows, mountains, wildlife, waterfalls, and rivers.
While direct wildlife encounters are rare in the forest itself, the wildlife enclosure at Lusen provides an excellent opportunity to capture native animals in their natural habitat. The lynx, which was reintroduced in the forest in the 1970s, is a very special and elegant subject.
In addition to Lusen, another unique location in the Bavarian Forest is the Baumwipfelpfad. The elevated wooden path leads through various treetops in the Bavarian Forest. For a photographer, the pinecone-shaped observation tower is particularly interesting. During the ascent to the peak, the winding path reveals diverse forest scenery and stunning panoramic views.
When venturing deeper into the forest, nature photographers can also discover the Hochfall and Rissloch waterfalls. The Hochfall (which translates to “high waterfall”) is the second-highest waterfall in the Bavarian Forest and can be distinguished through its powerful current.
The Rissloch waterfalls, which cascade down the top of the Bayerwaldberg, can be captured from various perspectives. When visiting the waterfalls, it is important to note that during heavy snowfall, the path may be obstructed by fallen trees. Hence, the hike may be a little more challenging and sturdy footwear is a necessity.
Read more: How to Photograph Panoramas
For those seeking high peaks to capture, here are a few of the best mountain ranges to visit for photography in Germany.
Zugspitze in the Wetterstein Mountains
The Wetterstein Mountain Range is composed of three large ridges, which all combine at one point: the Zugspitze. At 2,962 meters above sea level, the Zugspitze is Germany’s tallest peak, which offers impressive views of the alpine landscape. From above, nature photographers can witness over 400 mountain peaks across four different countries.
The Zugspitze can be accessed in the vicinity of lake Eibsee in Grainau. A cogwheel train or cable car can be taken during opening hours, which are typically extended during summertime and shortened during the winter.
The best time to visit the Zugspitze is during the early morning hours or directly before the ‘magic hour’. As the alpenglow sets in, photographers can observe and capture an incredible spectacle of colours spreading into the distance.
Kuhflucht Waterfalls in the Ester Mountains
A hidden gem in the Bavarian alps comprises the Kuhflucht waterfalls. Located in the Ester mountains, these waterfalls offer versatile photography perspectives for those wishing to capture mystical nature shots.
The best way to photograph the Kuhflucht waterfalls is by using long-exposure photography and an ND filter. This helps to bring out the motion of the cascading water and highlight the beautiful colours of the golden rocks surrounding the scene.
Reaching the Kuhflucht waterfalls requires a thirty-minute hike through the Walderlebnispfad (“forest adventure trail”) in Farchant. As several climbs are a little steep, it is recommended that photographers pack lightly and refrain from bringing any unnecessary gear. To avoid harsh shadows caused by direct sunlight, the early morning, late afternoon or a cloudy day are the best times to go out and shoot in this location.
Read more: The Best Equipment for Landscape Photography
The diverse landscapes across Germany provide a slew of opportunities for nature photographers to explore and create, regardless of the season.
The aforementioned locations in southern Germany are just the tip of the iceberg, providing an initial insight into everything this country has to offer.