Trips: Bavaria and Southern Germany Stories

Jonathan Sailer captures the raw untouched beauty of the Bavarian forest, exploring how the pace and process of Large Format perfectly suits his photography and subjects.

Three years ago, I rediscovered my passion for landscape photography. Back then I was still shooting digital but I wasn’t really satisfied with the results I got. The fast pace of digital photography just didn’t fit me. After some months I bought my first analogue camera, a Canon AE1 Program. 

Working with film made me slow down and think more about the stuff I was shooting. A year later I began to really think about getting into large format photography, but the costs held me back another year. Finally after some research I stumbled across the Intrepid Camera and made the decision to sell all my other cameras and invest the money in a large format starter kit. I bought a camera (Intrepid 4x5 MK II), a lens (Fujinon 135mm f5.6), three film holders and a light meter (Sekonic 608). 

At first I found it a bit intimidating shooting with the camera but with a bit of help from a friend it got easier really fast. The camera fits my style of photography perfectly. My preferred subjects are intimate landscape scenes, woodland, and mountains. I live in Southern Germany and two of my favourite locations are the nature park Gunzesrieder Tal, and the national park Bayerischer Wald.

This summer I took a trip to the Bavarian Forest in Bayerischer Wald. The first couple of days I spent scouting different areas of the park. From my last trip I had already envisioned a couple of compositions I wanted to photograph. The Bavarian Forest is Germany’s oldest national park, in the 1990s, twenty years after the park was founded, huge parts of the forest died because of the bark beetle. Following this incident the management of the park decided to ‘let nature be nature’, and even today you still find a lot of dead trees with really nice texture and details.

In the following image you can see one of these dead trees. The trunk of it had broken apart revealing the great structure inside. I overextended the bellows of the Intrepid a bit to get a nice detailed shot of the bark inside the fallen tree.

The image was taken on Fujifilm Provia 100F with a Chamonix half frame film holder and a Fujinon 135mm lens.

The following day I hiked through a really nice Beech forest. After a couple of miles I spotted a tree that’s bark had been ripped apart. It almost looked like a scar because the wood of the beech tree had this nice orange reddish colour contrasting against the grey of the bark. To take this I used my Schneider Kreuznach 210mm lens, Fuji Provia 100F and the Chamonix half frame film holder.

On the last day of the trip I went back to one of my favourite mountains in the national park, Lusen. The top of the mountain consists of these really nice granite boulders that are covered in green lichen. From here you have a great view in all directions. At sunset the boulders glow a beautiful orange colour, although unfortunately on this occasion it was quite cloudy. But nevertheless it was a nice gloomy sunset. To take this shot I used a bit of front tilt to get a nice and sharp image front to back.


My second favourite location is the Gunzesrieder Tal, a valley located in the south of Germany near the small Apline town of Immenstadt, and part of the nature park Nagelfluhkette. The mountains in this area aren’t that high, but they contain a special type of rock called Nagelfluh (where the park gets its name from). In the valley you can find nice parts of woodland, waterfalls and open landscapes that offer impressive views of the Alps. 

In spring and early summer you can find a variety of Alpine flowers growing here, there are lots of wild orchids, ferns and gentians. I really like the huge leaves of this plant, in the morning the leaves are covered in dewdrops. The combination of the drops and the early light creates a nice textured image.

The valley also offers a range of possibilities if you’re more into woodland photography. Most of the time you’ll find a good mixture between maple trees, beech trees and conifers. But there are also more open areas with old, isolated maple trees. In most parts of the valley there is no forestry so you can find spots with undisturbed tree populations. Often there are blueberries, ferns and other small bushes growing in between the trees.

There are also a lot of small creeks running through the park. In some of these the erosion creates fantastic rock formations. Different types of rocks are mixed with each other so it is possible to find intimate compositions with nice textures and colours. I enjoy wandering through these small creeks because behind each bend you can stumble upon something completely different. 

Lately I’ve been really enjoying shooting colour negative like Kodak Portra 160 and the nice subtle colours the film delivers. In my opinion it’s great for capturing moody and atmospheric images. My favourite slide film is fuji Provia 100F. It isn’t as contrasty and saturated as Velvia 50 but it is very good for long exposures. The image of the gentian and the rock formation were both shot on Provia 100F. The best time for visiting the park is in early summer and in autumn.

Jonathan Sailer | Instagram. 

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