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Alphabet Challenge - L is for Lake Garda and Lightning.

I recently had the opportunity to spend 4 nights in Lake Garda. 2 nights prior to heading into the Italian Dolomites to do some research for future workshops and 2 at the end of trip.

Despite Lake Garda being very beautiful, I have heard that Lake Como which is further to the west is far more photogenic and I do need to plan the time to visit there in the future. However, you must work with what you have got and there is still plenty to photograph.

The biggest tip I would give you, is to get up early or stay out late to avoid the crowds. There are certainly plenty of people about! Getting up early should also give you the best chance of finding the lake perfectly calm, allowing for reflections. Unfortunately, I didn’t get these conditions. However, using the photography trick of using a 6 or 10 stop ND will allow you to get a shutter speed that will smooth the water.

Golden hour will also give great soft light that will really compliment the amazing architecture that goes right down to the shores. During the day there will be plenty of boats to photograph too. If street photography is your thing, then you will be spoilt for choice. Talking of boats, there are lots of them and you can use them to get from one side of the lake to another. All the towns have ports where you can jump on, and off which makes getting around so much easier. Unless you want to spend a lot of time in the car, then I would highly recommend their use. The other option is to hire a boat yourself. It’s not the cheapest of options to explore the lake and you can’t dock at any other port other than where you hire the boat from, however it is great fun. You get a safety briefing, instructions on how to drive the boat and you are away. You can hire a 16 ft speed boat with a 40 hp engine from an hour to a couple of days. This will get you along at about 20 knots which doesn’t sound that fast but trust me it is fast enough. If you want to go quicker or hire a bigger boat, then you will need a licence. Using a boat to take photos from is always a challenge and unless you are hiring it for longer than 1 day, you will be shooting during the middle of the day, when the light is at its worst.

During my stay, there were 3 thunderstorms which were spectacular. Now let’s be very clear here, you don’t want to be messing around with lightning. You, your camera and your carbon fibre tripod won’t react well too it. And you know the old myth, that lightening only strikes the highest point, well Lake Garda is surrounded by mountains and as you can see by the photo below, the lightning struck the lake, and not just once either! The images that I took, were all done from the safety of my hotel balcony and having set the camera up, I just left it to do its own thing. Settings were around 10 second exposure, iso 100 and f5.6. Without any lightning then the images were dark, but I was more conscious about totally overexposing the image if I was lucky enough to catch a strike.

As with most things these days, you can get an app for lightning strikes. I use My Lightning Tracker which provides real time data for strikes around the world. It also shows where you are via GPS tracking. This is useful as it allows you to see the direction that the storm is travelling in and how close strikes are taking place to you. I certainly would not want to be out in the open when a storm got very close and indeed in the past when I have taken images, I retreat to the safety of indoors or my car when it starts to get close. As I have already said, don’t take any risks when it comes to this type of photography.

So that’s about it for Lake Garda. Would I visit again from a photography perspective – probably not, that said I enjoyed my time there. I flew into Bergamo airport from Manchester with Ryan Air. The flight time is only a couple of hours and from the airport you can be at Lake Garda in about 90 minutes with clear traffic. Ryanair also fly to Verona which is where I will go in the future. From there you are able to pick up the motorway bypasses Lake Garda and the traffic chaos and gets you into the dolomites within a couple of hours.

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