Photographing the Undulating Hills of Moravia
To undulate: “Move with a smooth wavelike motion. As in: Her body undulated to the thumping rhythm of the music.” I like this rather steamy definition but in this case the subject is not moving. However, when capturing images of these stunning formations in a landscape, the result definitely conveys movement and rhythm.
So where the heck is this place called Moravia? I did not have any idea myself when I first encountered images from this region. Moravia is a county of the Czech Republic. It is located in the southeast section of the country and borders Austria, Poland and Slovakia.
The terrain and subject matter of the Moravian landscape is very much like the photogenic wheat-covered hills in the Palouse region of my home state of Washington. One main difference and advantage of the rolling hills of Moravia is their steepness. Since they are steep and relatively close together, one can climb to the top of one hill and photograph the adjacent hills with a mid-range telephoto lens and capture very graphic and pleasing compositions. It’s almost like photographing out of an airplane. If you drive up the curvy road of Steptoe Butte, the Palouse region offers a similarly high vantage point.
Like the Palouse, one the best times to photograph the hills of Movavia is when the wheat crop is at its greenest green. A safe bet is to visit near the end of April. Outrageously yellow canola (rapeseed) fields bloom at this time as well. On our first visit to Moravia a few years ago we actually encountered more rapeseed than wheat. At first we were a bit disappointed that we did not experience as much of the undulating green as expected but the resulting photographs featuring mostly yellow covered hills were a success. The color pallet of bight blue (sky), golden yellow (canola) and various shades of green and brown was stunning and the constant mild perfume of the blooming canola scented the spring air.
The above image was photographed from an adjacent hill that we were able to drive our van up to. We parked and walked for 10 minutes to our vantage point. We call this scene “The Ribbons” and when we asked a local Moravian directions to this location he simply told us to “Take a right by the junkyard, then drive to the dung yard and park.” Spot on and pungent directions!
To ensure success in capturing stellar images in Moravia, I have a few suggestions.
-A mid to long-range telephoto zoom is essential on a full frame sensor. I like the 70-200, 70-300 or 100-400. I use the 100-400 and love it.
-A sturdy tripod will come in handy, especially with a longer lens.
-It can be windy at times which can make achieving sharp photos very difficult. Here are a few techniques that I suggest for dealing with windy conditions.
-Lower your tripod. I sometimes have mine so low that I am laying on my stomach.
-Remove the lens hood. Lens hoods on larger lenses are big and can catch wind.
-Attach some weight to your tripod. A simple, small plastic shopping bag with a water bottle or rocks works good.
-Increase your ISO so that you can use a higher shutter speed.
-Use burst mode on your camera which allows you to fire off a flurry of frames. Often the second or third frame will be sharp.
-Try turning on your image stabilizer/vibration reduction. Usually you don’t want to use this on a tripod as it will add movement to your camera and render photos soft but if the camera/lens is moving with the wind, this technique could result in sharp images. Make sure to turn image stabilizing off during still periods.
-Plan your photo sessions for sunrise and sunset. Yes, this means getting up pretty early but after an early morning photo session and a delicious breakfast back at the hotel you’ll have deserved “a great big nap.” I especially love this technique!
You really need a car to photograph in this region. From Prague it is approximately a 3.5 hour drive. From Vienna it’s roughly a 2.5 hour drive. Or better yet, join us this spring on our Prague & Czech Republic Photo Tour which not only includes Moravia but also Prague, Kutná Hora, Telc and Cesky Krumlov.
Wishing you fun Slow Travels and Great Photography!
I’m wondering if Moravia is beautiful and colorful to photograph in late June. Or, is it simply a nice drive without much color or great landscapes to photograph?