Best photography moments in Lake Bled, Slovenia

Picture this:  

A calm lake surrounded by the soft slopes of alpine mountains.
A small island in the middle, just big enough for an old, white church—the sound of bells ringing from its clock tower.
Couples paddle away on their wooden row boats making ripples on the otherwise still water.
White swans parade close to the shore watched by al fresco diners enjoying a slice of cream cake and their afternoon tea.
An old castle sits atop one of the hills overlooking the town.
And how can I forget the most important detail—the water is the most beautiful emerald green.  

It sounds unbelievable—a movie set, a setting of a novel.  I wouldn’t believe it either if I had not seen this scene with my own two eyes.

Do not think twice—put Lake Bled in your bucket list right this moment.

Prepare to fall in love with one of Slovenia’s most beautiful treasures.
Prepare to get mesmerized by the jewel tones of the water.
Prepare to feel vulnerable as you watch the ducklings waddle away.
Prepare to get on a boat and feel the worries melt away with each paddle.
And most of all, prepare to take the most beautiful photographs you will cherish for a lifetime. Here are a few tips:

1. Take photos at sunset.

We arrived in Bled late afternoon from Ljubljana, so we had an opportunity to walk around the lake as the sun went down.  This allowed me to take slightly moody photographs of the lake and Bled Island—fully exploiting the golden light and the shadows cast by the setting sun.  With the growing darkness, however, came flying insects frolicking in the twilight so instead of making a full circle around the lake, we decided to head back to the hotel and to a sumptuous dinner punctuated by Bled’s world-famous bled cream cake.

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2.  Take reflection photos at sunrise.

Thanks to my exhaustive training in photographing reflections in Amsterdam’s canals (like this photo here), I knew what I had to do to take reflection photos in Lake Bled.  Armed with my wide-angle lens, I was in position at the edge of the lake in front of our hotel just as the first rays of sunshine broke the morning sky.  It was just past 6AM, and apart from a Chinese tour group taking last shots of the lake before they board their coach bus to the next stop in their tour, I was alone.  In my experience, being up very early is key to taking great reflection shots for two reasons: (1) the light is still soft—the kind of light that will give you the best details in the reflections; and (2) there’s not much wind yet that will cause waves and ripples in the water.  And so while most of Bled still slept, I clicked away:

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3.  Row your way around the lake.

One of the perks of staying at Grand Hotel Toplice is that your room booking comes with your very own row boat.  After breakfast, we hopped on to our wooden boat which was parked right outside the hotel, and my husband paddled away.  Spoilt by such chivalry, I was able to take lots of photos from the middle of the lake just as the sun shone its brightest, bringing out the shades of emerald and jade green from the beautiful water.

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My husband choosing the lucky row boat

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Tourists aboard the traditional pletna boats – taking them shore-to-shore

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This photography angle of Bled Island and the unbelievable emerald green waters is only possible from the middle of the lake

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Rowing can be quite tiring but the amazing view definitely helped

 

4.  Take photos from Bled Island.

Even before going to Bled, my husband and I were already convinced that weather permitting, we will make the trip to Bled Island—whether by the traditional pletna or by row boat.  Not all visitors share the same excitement apparently—in fact, a big percentage of visitors actually do not make the short and wonderful trip to the island.  I am guessing that this is possibly due to (1) time constraints—since many tourists visit Bled as a daytrip from Ljubljana, or (2) because most are already pretty much impressed by the views from the shore that they do not feel the need to make the trip to the centre of the lake.  If you decide to spend a night in Bled (which I highly recommend), I encourage you to visit the island.  Although small, Bled Island offers interesting photography view points.  The island in itself is tiny and apart from the white church and one pretty vine-covered building, there really isn’t much more to see.  But what I loved is the unique views I got of the water, the town of Bled, and the Julian Alps in the distance.

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My favourite photo from the island: Empty pletna boats docked and sitting under the shade of trees, an oarsman rests while his load of tourists explore the island

 

5.  Walk up to Bled Castle for breathtaking views.

If there’s one view point that I’d recommend to visitors of Bled, it’s that of Bled Castle. With an overlooking view of the lake and the island in the middle, framed by the alpine mountains, it is without doubt the best photography spot in Bled.

It took a 15-minute climb up a set of stone and wooden stairs to the castle. My husband and I hiked up under a scorching midday sun at 32C so our climb was less than comfortable. (If it were a little cooler, I can imagine that the climb can actually be quite pleasant, even enjoyable.) But after reaching the top and seeing the views, my panting, exhaustion, and aching limbs were taken over by sheer awe for the most beautiful vista of Lake Bled. These photos surely speak for themselves:

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A quick visit to St. Martin’s Church at the foot of the stairs leading up to the castle

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The canopy-covered climb up to Bled Castle

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Inside the medieval walls of Bled Castle

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The Bled Castle cellar, featuring fine bottles of Slovenian wine

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Picture perfect: Don’t think twice and add Lake Bled to your bucket list

Up next: A post on Grand Hotel Toplice—the hotel to pick in Bled.

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