Next we headed to the postcard perfect Lake Bled. Expecting a tourist trap, we found nothing of the sort. The crystal clear greenish-blue lake was 6 kilometers around and feature the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria planted on an island in the middle of the lake, the Castle Bled sitting high above, and another quaint church at the foot of Castle Bled. The water was clearer than any natural body of fresh-water we’ve seen. You could see the fish, fallen trees, and plant life right to the lake bottom. We stayed at the Hotel Jadran, a vine crusted hotel with views of Lake Bled. Although, we didn’t pay for the balcony rooms facing the lake we got one of the rooms with a window view. The hotel was basic, but we were paying ~$65 euro a night during peak season. We quickly went to work and explored the circumference of the lake for all vantage points. We decided to focus on shooting the castle and trying a night shot with Jennifer in a row boat. Besides the technical challenges, there were logistics to work out. After walking around the entire lake, everyone had the same schedule for boat rentals, 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM. That presented a huge problem. We wanted to shoot at sunrise and just after sunset (of course for blue light). We decided to contact the sister hotel to ours, the Grand Hotel Toplice. It’s a five star hotel right on the water. If you have the budget, it’s well worth it. The staff was awesome. We got an immediate response from their manager who was more than happy to help us with our project.
We planned an early dinner, but I wasn’t sure how we were going to pull it off. We needed a lantern. Our search of the town’s stores came up empty. I tried to makeshift a solution with a soda bottle and my headlamp. However, when we went out to dinner, hanging all over the rafters were small lanterns. It never hurts to ask right? We again got an immediate yes coupled with a bit of sincere disbelief as to why wouldn’t they lend it to us. So we headed to Toplice excited, but too early. We had to time blue light perfectly. Jennifer rowing in the dress wasn’t going to last long. Instead of heading outside, we treated ourselves to a pair of drinks in the Toplice lounge. It was like stepping onto the set of the Titanic. Huge ceiling to floor windows gave us an unmatched indoor view of the lake. An incredibly talented pianist serenaded us as we waited for the light. Everyone we came in contact with was extremely enthusiastic and helpful.
When the time finally came, we headed out to the lake. Maneuvering the row boat proved more challenging than expected. The combination of her lack of experience rowing, the wedding dress, and the slight breeze didn’t help either. The boat needed to stay perfectly still for us to get a useable shot and not just a blurry glow where Jennifer was. The boat drifted to the opposite side of where I was planning, but that worked out well as the ambient light from the hotel lit Jennifer and the boat perfectly. We didn’t even need the lantern. After a few passes, we were done for the night. We woke at the crack of dawn and repeated the shot at sunrise, trying to recreate the exact positioning. We came pretty close. You can see the two shots side by side in the gallery.
After completing our shoots, we decided to head up high to the Castle Bled. The hike up the steps wasn’t bad and the view was breathtaking. However, the castle itself was renovated to the point that almost nothing inside looked like a castle. There were a few doors and a wall here and there that gave the feel of being in a millennium old castle but that was it. I assumed Jennifer was escaping without donning the dress until we turned a corner and I spied a door to a dark room. Imagine our surprise when we walked into a stocked wine cellar manned by a venerable Monk with a quick wit. With the skill of a late night TV host he performed his monologue. “Do you think Slovenia a small country?” “Yes,” came the cry of one of the tourists surrounding us. “No, it is a VERY small country, only 2 cm on a map!” There was wine for tasting, buying and even bottling. Of course we couldn’t resist a photo shoot. The presentation including filling the bottle, corking it, sealing it in bee’s wax, and the stamping it with another wax imprint before our monk presented Jennifer with a Gutenberg style printed certificate on parchment-like paper.
Happy with our Castle shot, we still didn’t get an image with the church on the island. We debated early in the AM or early evening. After many walks around the lake, we decided to go for sunrise. As luck would have it, that was the right choice. It poured during the time we planned for the evening shot. Our AM shot turned out to be pretty easy. Unfortunately, I helped Jennifer get out of the dress too early. We passed a pair of swans and they were more than happy to approach us for the stale bread we were carrying. Some shots are just not meant to be.
Given the slower pace of our trip, we decided to pit stop in the capital city of Slovenia, Ljubljana. We stayed in a hotel about two blocks from the Dragon Bridge and the Ljubljana Central Market. When we arrived a huge farmer’s market was underway, full a fresh fruit, veggies, and exotic sausages made from deer, bear, and of course wild boar. A big thank you to Trip Advisor for suggesting Hisa Pod Gradam for dinner. The local restaurant didn’t have a single tourist in it but us. It was easily the best food of the trip. We split a duck dish and a pork tenderloin dish. Unlike most meat that was cooked to death, both were prepared rare and juicy the way we like it. For dessert, Trip Advisor raved about the cheese cake. Having grown up next to the Whistle Stop cheese cake bakery, I had to try. Jennifer assured me she didn’t like cheese cake (sadly I keep wanting to type cheese steak, what is wrong with me!) However, when the lightest, creamiest, sweet plate of decadence came out, she was all in. After dinner, we walked around the river bank and bumped into a live performance on the streets. It was some kind of World War II presentation, complete with vintage motor bikes spewing irritating engine noise. Instead, we headed back to the bridge for blue light. However, with so many people driving back and forth, we rushed a bit to get done.
You can see all the shots in the Europe 2015 gallery.