Slovakia (5): Popradske Pleso and Strbske Pleso

The plan for today was to photograph two lakes – Popradske Pleso and Strbske Pleso. In order to get to Popradske Pleso in the early light, Erik picked us up from the chalet at 4.30 am and dropped us off a short walk from Popradske lake. In theory it’s possible to walk the whole way around the lake, but snow on the path meant that only part of the path was accessible.

The path ran about 8 feet higher than the lake, but I managed to clamber down the rocks and find myself a good spot by the water’s edge. I found a good composition of stones, lake and distant mountains, but like the others, was hampered by the lack of good light on the mountains to really make something of the scene.

Whilst we waited for the light to improve, Chris gave us some tutoring on the use of the ND grad filters, which was very informative, as my use of them in the past was rather haphazard. I used to have some once, but I’ve no idea what happened to them, or even whether the ones I had would fit my current lenses. Since I couldn’t expose the whole scene well using traditional methods, I took a number of bracketed shots with the aim of processing them with HDR software.

After working for a couple hours and being defeated by the light, we took a cup of coffee (we’ve been accompanied everywhere we go by a giant blue ice box of food and a thermos of coffee) and walked back to the van, for the drive to drive to Strbske Pleso.

Unlike Popradske Pleso, which felt quite isolated, Strbske Pleso was a little busier, with other people walking around the lake, and buildings around much of the lake side. Along with a giant ski jump, these offered quite a challenge to composition as it was hard to find a vantage point with good views onto to the mountains, without including at least one eyesore.

I slowly made my way around the lake, focusing on a few spots where I was able to get close to the water, and include some foreground interest in the shots. I borrowed Chris’ ND grads to try and improve the exposure, but found it difficult to hold the filters in front of the lens whilst balancing one rocks at the water’s edge. On my way back to rejoin the rest of the group, I saw a family stopped, and pointing into the trees. A deer – the first non-bird wildlife I’ve seen in Slovakia! I took a couple shots, but the tree cover was too heavy to get a clear view.

We came back to the chalet for lunch, and Chris held a critique session in the afternoon. Each of us selected 5 or 6 photos from yesterday’s shoot, and then we commented on them – primarily focusing on composition. It was a very useful exercise, which took us about an hour and a half, and gave us all both feedback on our own photos, and inspiration from the others’ photos.

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