Formerly one country, today two standalone countries: Slovakia and Czech Republic. From these two Slovakia offers wider variety of mountains - from high rocky alpine peaks to picturesque hills with old forests. All of those being part of Carpathian mountain range it is always sure to find some interesting landscapes there.
Vast emptiness of space
My first memory of this place dates only one year back. At that time everything was trapped in fog with first heavy snow falling. The mountains were completely hidden, I remember only the path going up and down endlessly. I welcomed the nearby hut with relief back then. How was I surprised now to find the great shapes all around, in addition shining in after-sunset residual light.
Great conditions of Indian summer, my favorite period of the year. Air remains warm while visibility is great, fogs form in valleys and trees and grass dress up into its colorful coat. Evening comes soon but light is usually good enough already in the afternoon. And yet, it can all change from day to day. All that glory can be lost in frosty white darkness like I experienced here before.
Forgotten cabin in the woods seems like an ideal place to get lost in thought. Total darkness with million of distant lightbulbs create uncomparable scenery for deciding what is important or what you want to change. At least until strange noises start coming from the forest outside...
Like a snake
I often wonder what is it that forces us to go to the mountains? What makes us search for those rare moments of pure joy hidden behind tons of sweat and pain? Is it our mundane lives? Is it our desire to do something seemingly out of any sense? To me it was always about simplifiing thoughts. In the mountains life compresses into 'go to that tree, go to that stone, eat, sleep, repeat' and all the other thoughts and worries are suddenly assesed in different way.
Back on trail
One of the best experiences in mountains comes at a cost. Sacrificing comfort and sleep to be back on trail just as the sun rises and enjoy all those shapes and shadows... Luckilly, in the middle of Europe in autumn, the sacrifice is nothing as the nights are rather long. Veľká Fatra in the distance, with Krížna, Ostredok and Ploská.
Tatras from Fatra
One of those calm autumnal mornings waiting for the Sun to rise. In the heart of Veľká Fatra mountains accompanied by gentle wind and sounds of deer. High and Low Tatras shaping over ridge of Ploská.
It is often true that after bad weather good weather comes. It seems that the same applies to photographic conditions. When the sunshine comes after cold fronts, rainy days or thunderstorms, it simply seems more saturated like it has to compensate previous gray dullness at least for a short moment. Like this time with dissolving clouds the sunset seemed so vivid orange.
Shape of Kôprovský štít
Dense cloud passing by over High Tatras, specifically mostly border between Slovakia and Poland. Triangular shape of Kôprovský štít, summit I was standing on, nicely projected onto opposing mountains creating another layer of contrast between blue waters of the lake and yellow rocky walls.
Oh, what an evening that was! After cloudy afternoon sun started to make its way through clouds with rapid changes from fog to clear skies, with vivid Brocken spectres projected onto the clouds over red painted rocky walls shortly before sunset to the moment when dense cloud came over the summit I stood on. At that time it seemed light show is over but the clouds passed by again leaving perfect view over Lower and Upper Temnosmrečinské lake.
The smallest high mountains in the world
High Tatras, often refered as the smallest high mountains in the world, are full of so wonderful views and surprises that it can never get boring. With the right conditions and on the right place, here strikes the truth more than elsewhere that ultrawide lens may not be ultra enough.
Dusk on the summit
The best conditions often come long after sunset when most people think best colours are already gone. Then shapes of the landscape are emphasized only by receding but still colourful light that creates soft transitions. Summit of 2363 m high Kôprovský štít.
Full moon shining bright in the morning over Satan peak. Satan and its surrounding peaks, all named after devilish creatures, served as a meeting point for all devils according to legends. In bright clear morning like this it looks like intimidating but calm mountain.
Shores of the largest lake in Slovakia, Veľké Hincovo pleso. While the weather was still mostly overcast there in mid afternoon, forecasts promised receding clouds in the evening. Certainly small gaps through which sunshine could get to the lakeside made me believe so.
Burning spikes on the horizon
Views towards High Tatras fascinated me throughout the entire hike on the Low Tatras main ridge trail. It was here, just below the highest peak of Ďumbier, where composition and light met ideally. Who would have thought that in the morning clear skies will be replaced by dense fog that will last for days?
In the land of mountains
I was in awe to find this place close to Krúpova hoľa with curved path leading atop the sunlit ridge while grass in front of me was frozen. Half of Slovakia was visible in the distance, starting with Malá Fatra on the left, Liptovská Mara water reservoir on the left from image center and Western and High Tatras on the right.
Highest of Carpathians
High Tatras seen from Ďumbier in Low Tatras. The mountains were already completelly empty long before sunset. As the sun got lower, nearby ridges were bathing in light while deep valleys stayed in dark shade.
Morning at Ramža shelter
There comes the time when stove is almost cold, everything is packed again in your backpack and you have to go on the trail again. You take one last look over the shoulder to memorize the cold autumnal morning.
During lunch break heavy clouds started to shape up in the north. Not long after that on Zadná hoľa sunlit High Tatras emerged over Veľký bok while most of the skies were still dark gray. While midday light usually promises nothing more than documentary shots, this was one of the rare exceptions.
Upper Hron valley
Ascending to the main ridge of Low Tatras, views towards opposing Muráňská planina emerged first followed by views to the valley of river Hron. Meadows and fields with scattered trees in late afternoon light made for necessary photographic break.
Evening in Veľká Fatra
The highest part of the mountains with Ostredok and Frčkov as seen from Kráľova skala viewpoint. The sunset went better than expected with nice soft light and scattered incoming clouds.
Dusk in Veľká Fatra
View towards the highest mountain of Velká Fatra - Ostredok - captured minutes after sunset from Kráľova skala. The clouds played the main role here reflecting residual purple light on the hills.
Rocks in Fatra mountains
Everything combined here almost ideally: colours of starting autumn, sun setting just over the interesting rocky pillars and clouds dramatically coming into the scene. Stitched from six images with exposure blending.
Morning below Úplaz
Starting autumn with cold nights and warm first sunrays at the edge of national park Velká Fatra. The sun was already way up but the trees dispersed the light nicely so I stopped to capture its wonderful colours.
Game of clouds
After a few cloudy days it is always nice to see sunshine again. If clouds are moving fast and light is constantly changing, then it is even better. The sun will eventually highlight the exact place you wish for.
Amidst the tree oceans
Away from the marked trails of Little Carpathians I hiked to this hill to find it the very best place there. It may not be the highest of the hills nor the rockiest but its simple presence in the center of the forests and combination of solitary trees with scattered stones makes it special.
The sun had been up for some time but the meadow of Holint, surrounded by deep forests, was still half in the morning shade. On mornings like this one can not want much more than a company of wild deer on a place like this.
Slopes of Vysoká
Passing beauty of wild garlic forming endless green carpets in the spring was originally what draw me to Little Carpathians. Two prominent mountains Vápenná and Vysoká were the places I found the most interesting concerning the magic of spring.
Essence of Little Carpathians
One of the rare places in Little Carpathians where lack of trees allows for some views - slopes of Vysoká. While not the top itself, which is definitely more dramatic with large rocky ridge, I liked this compact meadow below more.
Last light on Belianské Tatry. Clouds started forming in the valley and moved quickly to the east. If I have waited longer I would not get the chance to capture this shot.
First sunrays woke me up reflecting of the wall. My first steps that day led to close Zelené pleso to capture light on Kežmarský štít. 8 shots (in 2 columns) stitched together.
View towards Zmrzlé and České pleso and further into the Bielovodská dolina. Altough it was early afternoon, light prepared some nice contrasting scenes worth capturing. Captured on the way down from Rysy. 5 vetical shots stitched together.
New hut below Rysy
Newly renovated Chata pod Rysmi (Hut below Rysy) where final ascent to Rysy begins. Clouds added some drama to the shot.
Path to Rysy
Path from Slovakian side to border summit of Rysy which is also highest mountain in Poland. People in the scene were unavoidable but serve as a good scale compared to the mountains. 5 vertical photos.
Clouds played a nice game on surrounding summits which were for a few seconds completely visible while in another moment got fully hidden in white clouds. It was just waiting for the right second to balance clouds and mountains in the captured scene.
There was a lot of chamoises in Velká Studená dolina and it was possible to get just a few meters away of them so even short focal lenght of 90mm in 35mm terms was enough to capture some wildlife shots.