Photographers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts love autumn. The colours of leaves turn from green (Summer, August) to yellow (September), orange and red (end of autumn) The breathtaking imaginary in New England created the name Indian Summer. In Europe the name is Golden October. It is indeed some times the season with golden colours. It’s the trees but also the burning skies during sunset when the sun illuminates the clouds. The fall season has indeed many faces. It is worth to dig deeper into whats happening during autumn. Because there are so many shades. Landscape photographers can discover a tremendous variety.

The Best Autumn Experience

It depends on one side on the time of the year and on the other side where you look for an autumn experience. As said before colours turn all the time: From the first yellow leaves in September often into more orange and red end of October/early November. Any sort of tree has its own color in autumn. And any forest has a different set of colours. Beech tree forests like in Northern Germany create a more orange imaginary, as the alpine forests have a unique set of colours. There are fine colours here and these colours are changing a lot. It’s always good to check weather forecasts a lot if you plan a stay in the alps to enjoy autumn or if you plan to do some landscape photography.

In some years the colours of autumn last til November or even longer. Then the mountains forests show a huge variety of compositions of autumn colours. However weather and climate in the alpine region is harsh. In some years winter begins earlier. Or a storm ends the time of autumn colours abruptly. Thus, it is important not to miss the right moment to take pictures or do a video about the autumn season in the mountains.

The second thing is to find the right place. Of course if it comes to watch the autumn colours decidous forests are a first choice. However a larch wood in autumn is also great. The needles are getting a orange color which looks great. What about a riparian forest?

A riparian forest has its own set of plants and trees. However, original riparian forests are rare. There is often flood measures or other regulations of the rivers in Europe. There are only a few real original river landscapes in middle Europe. One of them is the Lechtal in Germany and Austria. The Lech was once a wild river coming from high up in the mountains and ends in the river Danube. There is not so much left from this once intimidating river. However the Lechtal in Austria between Vorarlberg, Austria and the German town Füssen in the Allgäu region is still a unique wilderness in many places. It is a place of incredible beauty. A place for adventures, long hikes and a place to learn about nature. In this wild river region there are still impressing riparian forest. They change all the time. During autumn they present a unique scenery.

The Treetop Walk In Ziegelwies, Austrian-German Border, Füssen

Thus the river lech region around Füssen and the Lechtal in Austria is a great place to see these riparian forests. But what’s even more fascinating is to see that riparian forests from above and to learn more about it. The Ziegelwies Baumwipfelpfad offers an unique perspective. It is some meters above ground and allows to be at the same level as the tree tops. The entry is directly near the German-Austrian Border. A parking space is near the street between Füssen and Reutte in Tyrolia. It offers fantastic oportunities for landscape photography.

Here is a view from the entry area of the treetop walk. The riverbank of the river lech is in the background.

The treetop walk on the left side allows many scenic views and is an unique experience. At the highest point there is a platform above the forest.

A view from the platform of the treetop walk

The forest on the other side of the river Lech is a healthy mixture of many different tree species. The river changes the landscape all the time. Flooding kills some trees but also creates new spaces.

Riparian Forest with brighter colours. The wilderness near the river bank.

The treetop way has a length of 480 metres and a height of 21 metres. The entrance fee is 5 Euros. There is an exhibition and a playground for children. Furthermore there is riparian forest trail below. The well-known “Lechfall” is a famous photo-location and sightseeing location. There are walks to the famous Neuschwanstein Castle, the Schwansee, a geo-path and a mountain forest trail with certain stations where you can learn more about the forest and the region.


Ideas for landscape photography in the colder season

Autumn is just around the corner. This means the days are getting shorter. The colours change. In some regions like the Alps there is more often high fog, a weather pattern where hills and peaks sometimes are above the clouds.

Fog is interesting for photographers in many ways. It adds mood and atmosphere to the pictures. Fog is useful in landscape pictures to add structure. Of course if the fog is very strong and there is nothing but a white wall it is an obstacle.

Misty days occur mostly in autumn, spring and winter. The change of temperature and moisture creates fog. There are a lot of interesting phenomena connected with fog. Sometimes it is a thin veil above a meadow. On other occasions there are thick layers of fog and the fog lasts the whole days. Sometime the fog is moving, sometimes not. In time-lapse videos the movement of fog is somehow similar to water. The shrouds of mists “float” along mountain peaks.

Since misty air is colder the fog can “fall” like a water-fall for example when fog floats over a ridge into a valley. Fog begins to form often before sunset and lasts in the morning hours. When the sun shines the mist often disappears during the day. However in river valleys like the Danube valley the mist can last much longer. It is often significantly colder in these day.

Fog is more often in regions with wetter soil like bog or wet meadows. It happens in summer too. Shrouds of mist appear after hail showers or after thunderstorms too. In July the first mornings with fog are early harbingers of the changing season. As the days become shorter and the nights getting colder misty mornings happen more often.

Its often hard to say if the fog lifts or disappears during the day. There are many different weather conditions. Fog can be also dangerous when it suddenly forms and the visibility turns to near zero. Drivers are surprised and can’t see a thing. Since conditions on a foggy day can always change quickly it is good for drivers to slow down particularly on motorways and highways when a layer of fog appears.

If the weather is cold fog can lead to hoar frost. Ice crystals form and surround twigs and trees. This a particularly interesting phenomenon.

There is one form of fog which is great for photographers if they are in a regions with hills or mountains. Mostly in autumn there are days with high fog. This happens when a thermal inversion occurs. This means you have low ground temperatures and a layer of higher temperatures above that prevent the convection currents. These convection currents usually mix in the atmosphere. You can think of a thermal inversion like a saucepan lid. It keeps the colder moist air layer with fog from rising. This happens a lot in basins and during periods of high pressure weather when there is not much wind.

The video below was taken in the morning of February 28, 2021 with a Canon 5d Mark2. The time-lapse shows the movement of the shrouds of mist above the hillside between the Hohen Peissenberg and the peaks of the Bavarian mountains. There is a quick change in visibility and a change in lighting condition. For video it is good to go into manual mode and fix aperture before shooting.

At the border between the layer of cold air and the warm air on top the cold air layer there are very interesting effects which are useful for pictures and videos. The challenge is to predict where that border is: Where does the blue sky break through the thick layer of mist? And when does it happen? Actually this is a lot of try and error.

Knowing some good places is “money in the bank”. You might want to get to a hill or mountain which is easily accessible and high enough that you can get above the cold air layer with mist. In Germany, Bavaria the Hohen Peissenberg with its famous old weather observatory is a good spot. Mostly because there is a road to the top of this mountain. The top of the Hohen Peissenberg has an elevation of 987 metres. However on some days the layer of mist will be above your heads and you need to find a higher mountain.

The pictures were taken on a spring day in 2021. That day there was a typical thermal inversion. In the morning the Hohen Peissenberg mountain was in the middle of a thick layer of high fog. But in the following hours the sun broke through and there was a very interesting scenery with fast changing moods and impressions.

The Forest between mist and light

Hoar Frost after a cold night in the mist. When the mist disappears the whitened trees create a unique scenery
Looking towards the Allgäu Mountains

The wilderness near the top of the Hohenpeissenberg Mountain. The fog creates an otherworldly atmosphere.

Extreme Weather In Southern Germany June 2021

Peter Engelmann, July 3, 2021

2021: A cold spring with temperatures in May below average. Luckily there was lot of rain in parts of Germany after a drought since 2018 in some areas which damaged trees and raised serious concerns for example about the future of the water balance and water supply. In June a heat wave followed. However unlike in previous years there were no long lasting high pressure systems. The weather situation wasn’t so far stable for a long time. The heat wave ended with some extreme weather events. And again, we had situations for example in South-West-Germany or in Landshut, lower Bavaria, which were unprecedented. There are a lot of discussions now going on if this is climate-change related or if it is another rare weather pattern.

Things began to change in Bavaria June 20, 2021. The days before had been mostly dry except first thunderstorms in the Southwest and in the Alps. On June 20 there were some rumble and not so intense lightning in the region west of lake Ammersee. As usual there are huge local differences: There were soon stronger thunderstorm whereas a few kilometres apart from that place nothing or little happened. That’s very usual and always challenges weather forecasters.

Thunderstorm in the early evening hours of June 20:

Short lived thunderstorm cell June 20, 2021

The next days there was a much different weather situation: In the late afternoon or evening real strong thunderstorms occurred. Rotating supercell storms were also reported in the Southern Germany. Even more extreme weather happened in France where an air mass boundary created havoc. In France huge clusters of thunderstorms formed repeatedly and moved to Belgium and North-West Germany.

Strong thunderstorm on June 24, 6.45 p.m. near Diessen (Lake Ammersee, Upper Bavaria)

Thunderstorm approaching June 24, 2021

The extreme weather with strong thunderstorms, flash-floods, even extreme hail with enormous hailstones and masses of hail lasted for a couple of days. The reason: The air mass boundary moved only slowly in Europe. It worked like a machine charging up the atmosphere and creating new thunderstorms. A time-lapse video from June 21, 2021 late afternoon gives you some idea how quickly the storms formed:

It was interesting that there were very different types of thunderstorms. The location southwest of the Ammersee experience short-lived thunderstorms, a thunderstorm which arrived very quickly as the next day there was slow movement and plenty of time to take pictures. In the night there was also one of the “stroboscope”-like thunderstorms, where you hear not much loud thunder but you see an incredible light show with high rates of flashes. There were both thunderstorms without wind and thunderstorms with very strong wind.

The thunderstorm on June 24 created some great lightning:

Lightning June 24, 2021

The storm below occurred June 28, 2021 and brought intense lightning. However it was completely different as the “strobe-storm” the night before before. The lightning was also better visible. After one of the storms there was also a thick mist around sunset. Later the mist vanished and another thunderstorm with strong lightning occurred. The stronger storms came mostly from the Alps.

Thunderstorm in the evening of June 28, 10.00 p.m:

Lightning June 28. 2021

Flash Floods and Super Cell Storms

Finally there was an exchange of air mass. The hot humid air was replaced by colder air. June 29 was the climax of the series of thunderstorms in Germany: In Bavaria, a super-cell coming from Baden-Württemberg, intensified and brought an incredibly flash flood in Landshut Lower Bavaria. The days before a deadly tornado happened in the Czech republic. The video shows the aftermath of the big storm on June 29 which was accompanied by very strong winds.

Here is also an interesting thing for photographers and videographers: Usually most people are interested to catch a storm coming to them or before it happens. But there is a lot of possibilities to get interesting moods and pictures when the storm passed. The video belows shows what was going on in the atmosphere after this huge thunderstorm on June 29.

Thunderstorms before Sunset

In Upper Bavaria weather changed Sunday, June 28. Along the Allgäu Mountains, intense rainfall began in the afternoon. Thunderstorms with hail occurred in the south-east of Bavaria. The hailstorm pilots near Chiemsee started four times theses days. Clouds and rain created a magical atmosphere around Weissensee not far from the famous Neuschwanstein castle.

Three days later an impressing thunderstorm happened in the early evening hours in South-Bavaria. It was before sunset. Thus there were interesting effects with a colored sky. There were some intense local rainshowers and the weather lasted for more days.

On July 2 a supercell-storm devastated an area around Murnau, which is not far from Garmisch Partenkirchen. Witnesses reported that there was both hail and a flashflood rain at the same time. They could not remember a similar phenomenon happened before. Within 15 minutes streets were flooded and cows had to be rescued from a farm.

Later the week the weather calmed down. This kind of weather is very typical for the season in Bavaria. There is always a change between warm summer days and rain except the last years when a drought happened. Most of the severe storms in Germany happen in July. In 1984 an unparalleled hailstorm led to incredible destruction in Bavaria’s capital Munich.

Intense supercell-storms, hail and flash floods can, however, occur any time between May and September. In June 2019 a hailstorm led to a lot of destruction in the Northern-Ammersee region. In some years there were storms with flooding in May. Storms happen also in August, usually in September heavy thunderstorms are not so often because the days are getting shorter. There is less energy from the sunlight to generate these type of storms however there are weather patterns which could also lead to strong storms in October. In September 2017 lightning hit the Munich Octoberfest.

Thunderstorms with devastating hail happen more often in the south-east of Upper Bavaria rather than in the Allgäu. Usually, the storms develop over the hills and mountains in the West and move to the East. A squadron of Hailstorm pilots, “Hagelflieger” from Vogtareuth protects the area around lake Chiemsee efficiently and gather important scientific information.