JANUARY 2019: MASSES OF SNOW

January 2019 began with new weather extremes in Central Europe. After the long drought in 2018 a lot of people hoped there would be rain and snow. Everywhere in Middle Europe there was too little rainfall from early 2018 til November 2018. In Berlin the river Spree was flowing backwards. There were concerns about the pheatric levels. Rain or Snow was indeed urgently needed to redeem the situation. Then the snow came but in a way that it created new problems.

After January 5 it was snowing in the alpine countries. However the winter dream turned for some places into a nightmarish situation. It didn’t stopped snowing for days. Villages in Austria and Germany were isolated and couldn’t any longer reached by cars. The problem: Snow and wind turned trees into dangerous obstacles.

Felled trees were lying on rail tracks and blocked many roads. It became also a rising danger for pedestrians. In Upper Bavaria an emergency alert was issued in the well known tourist areas of Berchtesgaden and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The snow was growing and growing and became too heavy for the roofs of many buildings. Some roofs had already collapsed. The danger of avalanches was continually rising. Casualties happened because some ski-tourists didn’t listen to the warnings.  In the countryside there were countless car accidents due to bad road conditions.

Beginning with the night of January 12-13 the situation started to become more severe. There was again heavy snowfall but also the temperature began to rise. It also started to rain in lower areas. This is a big problem because it makes the snow much heavier. The danger of trees and buildings collapsing was rising and it still is.

January 13 a severe storm is announced. It stems from another low pressure system arriving from the North. There was already a storm-flood in Northern Germany. Usually the time of mid-January is often a very cold time of the year with long lasting high pressure systems.

Weather researchers are saying this could also related to the changed climate conditions in the arctic. It is somehow a mirror image of the situation in summer when high pressure systems didn’t move any longer and created the drought. Now it is a situation where low pressure systems are hitting against the alps because there is generally not much exchange in the atmosphere. There is again a weather pattern where the same weather conditions last longer as expected.

Extreme situations in the winter happened before in 2006 and 1999 when there was a terribly tragedy due to avalanches in the Austrian Alps in Galtür. Since then a lot of protection measures were put into place in the Alps.



Nevertheless winter is always a great photo-motive: Wind and snow are creating sculptures. If you look you can see also often a “blue light” in the snow. This happens due to refractions of light in the snow.

Weather services are still warning about severe conditions the coming week beginning January 14. Perhaps later there will be some sunshine and people can enjoy the beauty of a winter in the mountains.

Panoramic Viewpoint: Hilltop Near Wessobrunn, Upper Bavaria

In Upper Bavaria, you can find an endless number of panoramic viewpoints. Thus the choice might appear a bit arbitrary. There will be certainly more places to be portrayed in the future but recently I discovered a viewpoint I particularly liked because of the extraordinary setting. There is a village nearby, meadows and woods and there is a free sight of the whole chain of mountains in the south.

It is easily accessible because it is close to the famous Wessobrunn monastery, where there is also a parking space, approximately one kilometre from the viewpoint which is basically a small road and a hilltop leading towards Diessen am Ammersee.

I discovered this viewpoint when I did part of the “King Ludwig 2 Trail” between Diessen am Ammersee and Wessobrunn. The viewpoint is certainly the highlight of this section of the trail. It is possible to do this (not recommended if it gets too warm) but there is no restaurant or such thing between Diessen and Wessobrunn. Due to the length of this part, it might be most suitable for a bicycle tour.

Sunday, March 11, was the first really warm day (17 Celsius) after the period of the arctic cold (“Beast From The East”) in Southern Bavaria. This was mostly due to the Foehn-Effect, which happens often during the wintertime. Foehn leads to an unusual rise in the temperature. The air becomes very clear and there is a clear sight of the mountains with many details. This day, however, there was also a special phenomenon, the so-called “Föhnkante”. This is a distinct border between clouds and the clearer part of the sky. It appears when the Foehn-Effect starts to break down. Subsequently, the following days were much colder and more winter-like.

In March there is little green and if the sun is behind higher-clouds colour in the landscape isn’t much appealing. But this time of the year between winter and spring could be interesting to capture structures in photography. After some time where I played a bit around with the pictures, I decided to present it in black and white. Black and white is often an interesting option and could reveal much of the special atmosphere of a place. The trick is not just to switch to black and white but trying different things with the software. There are also very good black and white filters in the NIK-collection software.

The viewpoint can be reached easily: you can use the parking space at the “Tassiloweg” behind the monastery. From there a steep path leads to the “Schloßbergstr.” The “Schloßbergstraße” leads to a settlement called “Haid” but do not walk towards the settlement but straight. The street becomes a small single road (better not go by car there because it is really very narrow and there is no parking space). It is great for a walk. There is also a seat there near the viewpoint and its fantastic for a rest – and of course to take pictures.

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The viewpoint is also not so far from the Hohen Peissenberg. Both places are very suitable for weather-photography. The place near Wessobrunn could be also of particular interest for sunsets or sunrise. It presents a very typical Upper Bavaria landscape setting.

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The most dominant mountain in the silhouette in the south is the Zugspitze. Seen from the viewpoint near Wessobrunn you have the Hohen Peissenberg with the big antenna in the foreground before the Zugspitze. It is good to choose a day like this one with the Foehn-Effect or come very early to capture the whole dimension of the view. The lower hills and the bigger mountains in the background add to the depth of the scenery.

The picture above is taken from the viewpoint and shows the whole Hohen Peissenberg. In the middle, there is a church. On the right side, there is a small tower, which is part of the weather station of Deutsche Wetterdienst. On the left side and also in the picture below is the big antenna.

March 3, 2018: Partnach Gorge

When the “Beast From The East”, the arctic cold in the second half of February 2018, loosened its grip on middle Europe I immediately thought of realizing a plan I had already the previous year: visiting the Partnach Gorge near Garmisch Partenkirchen. The famous gorge is a great destination in winter-time because of the fantastic world of ice with frozen waterfalls and curtains of ice. It is a natural monument since 1912 and is visited by many guests every year.

Last year the gorge was closed when I was there because when temperatures rise huge chunks of ice come down and it is too dangerous to let visitors walk through the 700 meters long gorge. An owner of a restaurant close to the gorge told me when the giant icicles are thundering down and fall into the canyon everything is shaking in the house when they hit the rocky bottom. It must feel like an earthquake. Sometimes the trail needs a lot of repairs. There are unimaginable forces at work and in former times this was a feared place. The gorge is a monument of untamed nature and demands respect. Very close to the city of Garmisch-Partenkirchen wilderness begins.

This year I was lucky and the cold temperatures had done a great job. The gorge was a palace of ice. It was one of the more positive sides of the arctic cold.

I knew I had to act fast or I would have to wait for the next winter. After the extreme cold, temperatures on Saturday were rising in Southern-Germany, since there was an inflow of warm air from Northern-Spain. The direction of the wind was changing.

 

The gorge is a 25minutes walk from the Olympic Skiing Stadium in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. As soon as you enter this wonder of nature it is like being in some Tolkien-setting from “The Lord Of The Rings”.
 

Stock photography by Peter Engelmann at AlamyStock photography by Peter Engelmann at Alamy

Words fail to describe the fantastic experience. Like the Breitach Gorge, there is a trail allowing visitors experience the dramatic atmosphere of the raging river and the close wet rock faces.
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But the ice curtains, the interplay of frozen water and snow make it a unique experience during the winter time.

Particularly on the first 100 and 200 meters of the walk, there were some impressive sights. The trail is close to the river Partnach and there is a chance to study the ice-sculptures.

 

For most of the year, everybody gets wet when walking through the gorge, because there are springs everywhere and there is always water coming down. Thus you can see these fantastic curtains of ice when the water, which normally rains down is freezing.

 

The Partnach Gorge is offering a huge variety of great motives for pictures. There are not only the big panoramas but also many details in this “palace of ice”. Of course, sometimes you have to share the trail with many other photographers. Thus it is good to start not too late in the morning.

At certain points of the trail, the Partnach Gorge reminds me also of the famous ice-caves in Austria like the “Eisriesenwelt”. When walking through the narrow parts of the gorge there is only little light. If you want to take pictures a tripod is now extremely helpful.

The special experience of the Partnach Gorge is created through the change of very narrow parts and the parts where it is widening.

There is a special magic of these curtains of frozen water. In some places, it seems there would be a green glow on the ice adding to the otherworldliness of this special atmosphere inside the gorge.




Getting closer to the end of the gorge, there was sunlight coming in. This created another kind of experience and an even more enchanted situation.

The Partnach Gorge can be reached easily from Garmisch Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany. From the train station, there is a city bus going to the Olympic Skiing Stadium. There are also horse coaches. There was also an announcement that there are guided night-tours with torches.

The gorge is also a starting point for many hiking tours into the highest mountains of Germany. Alpine cabins and farmed alps are not far.

As said before sometimes the Partnach Gorge needs to be closed when the ice is melting. Thus it is always good to check before (partnachklamm.eu).

At any time of the year, it’s very important to have sturdy shoes and sturdy clothes. The trail is in very good shape but of course, such places can be always slippery or muddy. If you plan to do pictures it is good to have enough time since the trail is a narrow path. Often there are many hikers and tourists walking through the gorge in both directions and you need to wait for a quiet moment to set up equipment.

Furthermore, think of not only some rain-clothes but also about some water-protection for the camera particularly in summer.

During winter sunlight is limited inside the gorge since it is a deep canyon. When I was there, 10.00-11.00 seemed a good time for some sunlight in the last section of the gorge.

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February 26-28: Extreme Artic Cold In Europe

It’s Tuesday and light snow is falling. There is a pale sunlight at the same time as the sky is mostly overcast. Shortly before the begin of the “meteorological spring” winter arrived in Europe. Seen from my window the nice winter setting outside doesn’t tell about the extremes which befell Europe over the last days.

After a moderate winter in Middle Europe, a Siberian cold front reached Europe. It happened what had been forecasted in weather models days before. However, there is a surprising intensity of extreme weather these days in Europe: The UK was hit by lots of snow, and Rome is seeing snow for the first time in many years. Last night temperature was – 27 Celsius on top of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain. In Eastern Europe, there are very low temperatures and the danger increases particularly for homeless people. In Germany, there isn’t a lot of snow so far but the strong wind from the North-East makes it a bit of a challenge to stay outside for a longer time.

The blast of cold air from the artic has been already labeled: “The Beast From The East”. Scientists say that this happened due to “a freak warming around the North Pole”. They are somewhat alarmed about the retreat of Arctic ice during winter and the high temperatures. This weather pattern allowed the cold air on the other side to reach huge parts of Europe. There are now condition in Europe in some places which would normally apply to the polar region. It is not clear if global warming is causing this strange pattern or if other reasons are responsible.

However, very cold temperatures are not so unusual in February but what’s unusual is these sudden drops in temperature. They occurred also over Northern America in the last years and remind us sometimes on the “Day After Tommorrow” scenario in Roland Emmerich’s movie, even we can’t compare this to the “new ice age”.




In this weather-conditions, there are many things to see. Even if there is not a frozen-waterfall nearby, wind, snow, and ice create interesting patterns or sculptures.

It is always promising to look what happens at a lake or a river. Here are some pictures which were taken at the Bavarian lake Ammersee.

Weather services announced warmer temperatures for the end of the week, but in these times we never know what exactly will happen. Thus, there is still time to do more pictures. Staying outside is normally not a big problem with the right clothes, however, some common problems need attendance: cameras and tripods get extreme cold and it’s painful if you have to take off your gloves. Batteries don’t last too long in the cold, but these problems could be handled with a little preparation, for example, do apertures settings and other settings before going outside if possible.

In the surrounding hills around lake Ammersee there are many open fields and spruces. The wind and the ice led also to bizarre formations.

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