Small towns, especially very old ones, do have a certain attraction to photographers. Structures, old architecture, people and “street photography” are on their various bucket lists around the world. However, there are some places that are especially interesting – or beautiful in that sense. The small town Rovinj in the northern part of Croatia most certainly qualifies as such a spot and I was lucky to cross it off my bucket list recently.
Rovinj is located on the western coast of the Istrian peninsula and its busy history goes back to the Byzantine Empire, probably due to the strategic location at the Adriatic Sea. Today there are roughly 13 000 people living in Rovinj and the main economic activity is tourism with peak season between May and September. There are many restaurant and bars in the old town, a tiny farmers market and unforgettable sunsets almost every day.
You can quite literally sit on the stones directly at the sea shore and enjoy a sundowner drink – in a bar, restaurant or simply on the main pier of Rovinj. The view is stunning wherever you go – at the shore or from the basilica in the centre of the old town. There even is a small (actually tiny) light house and a small harbour that set photographers’ hearts aflutter.
I stayed at a small place directly in the centre of the old town in one of the narrow streets with restaurants and bars around. Its busy at night but because parking is virtually impossible it seemed like a good idea. Many of the places in the old town also offer to rent a parking lot somewhere near for the time of your stay. This usually includes a short drive because there is no space for cars in the old town. Like no space whatsoever. But being able to explore Rovinj by foot during the different times and lighting conditions of the day is absolutely worth it.
While walking through the town I found a brilliant little shop that sells the many different olive oils of the region, which happens to be one of the best regions in the world for olive oil production. They also offer cheese, honey, wine from the local farmers around Rovinj and the best consultancy (in terms of olive oil) I have ever experienced. The first time I ever did a proper olive oil tasting – which sounds strange but it was fun and I learned a lot. With all the pictures (and olive oil) in my bag I headed back home with the promise to myself to come back to Rovinj soon.
The extended possibilities you get by using an ND filter as a photographer have been discussed on the web intensively and I don’t want to add anything to that. Basically, whenever you need a slower shutter speed in bright daylight: You need a filter. The wikipedia page even mentions the “wish to photograph a waterfall” as example for using an ND filter. And I had that wish: To take pictures of waterfalls. So I actually went chasing waterfalls (in contrast to what TLC suggests). To accomplish this in style, I decided to get the Canon Drop-In filter for the EOS R to be able to use my different EF glasses with it, especially the Samyang 14mm f2.8 AF and headed for the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia.
Some quick info, if you haven’t been there or read about it: Plitvice Lakes have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage register in 1979 and the National Park consists of 16 lakes (upper & lower lakes). The difference in altitude between the lakes is roughly 130m, so many waterfalls can be found in between. There are two main entrances to the park (parking entrance 1 & parking entrance 2) and another option that I will explain later. And there is famous scene from a Winnetou movie that was shot at the Plitvice lakes.
Once you are there you will realise that the park is big. And I would suggest to plan more than 1 day to spent there, otherwise it will be only stressful. If you want to focus on the park, 2-3 nights is optimal in my opinion. The northern part (near entrance 1) is the more spectacular part with the big fall (veliki slap) and beautiful walks over the wooden footbridges. It is also the busiest part and the lovely (and well maintained) footbridges can become very crowded. Especially between 10-16h. But as a photographer thats normally easy to avoid since the light is not as good at these hours anyway. To cover longer distances in the park fast, there are two options: A bus driving from north to south and the electric boats over the lake. Just remember: No swimming anywhere in the park! And added more recently: No drones (without permit)!
The area between upper and lower lakes has many small waterfalls in the woods and a bat cave. Compared to the lower lakes in the northern part it is more quiet here, even though you will hear some water falling somewhere in the background everywhere. For me it was not always easy to find a good composition in this area, but water, trees and roots combined just look beautiful.
When you reach the southern part, confusingly the upper lake (because of the altitude), you will be blown away by smaller and very picturesque waterfalls. And I would even suggest to start here, the morning light and maybe some fog on the lakes will make up for any getting up early. The image below shows the Veliki Prštavac waterfall. Very beautiful and the sun creates a small rainbow in front of the fall when you are early enough. But it is only visible at a certain point – so also go chase rainbows in Plitvice!
And here is the trick that I learned during my stay that I can highly recommend, especially for photographers because you will not be bound to any entrance hours: You can book your stay somewhere at the very southern end of the biggest lake (Prošćansko jezero) in a very tiny village called Plitvička jezera. The places there are very simple but also quite cheap. You have to buy your entrance tickets for the park online. To have a guaranteed ticket, you should do that 2 days in advance. And if you are staying more than one night, you can also buy the a 2-day ticket. When you have arrived there you can then hike along the big lake into the park. Just don’t forget to take the online ticket with you because it will be checked occasionally and you need it for the boat or bus rides. The short hike into the park from there is roughly 5km and the area around the big lake is almost empty and very quiet. The images below might give you an impression. Enjoy!