Plitvice National Park sits about a third of the way between Zagreb and Split and is a currently a UNESCO site, although, as was saw on the drive to the park there, is substantial building around the wider park area and UNESCO has provided a tacit warning to the Croatian government that they need to protect the site from over expansion of tourism. You can see why tourists flock to this natural beauty, but this area of Croatia is one of the poorest in the country and so it may be wise to spread the tourists further away from the park and provide a boost to the economy. We stayed some 25km away from the park in Slunj and it is only a 30-minute drive to the first of the park’s two entrances.
Assuming you are driving to the park, there are two entrances. Entrance 1 gives you access to the low lakes and Entrance 2 is at a mid-way point where you can either catch an electric bus up toward the very upper lakes or take a boat (again electric) across to the more interesting falls. I would recommend that you spread your visit over two days so you can spend quality time photographing the 16 lakes and countless waterfalls and cascades. We visited in October and even then coach-loads of people enter the park at a fairly constant rate, walking along the wooden paths that have been created over the waterways so if you are using tripods to capture the milky flow of water over the falls you will need to wait for them to pass to avoid camera shake.
Our first day was a combination of sunshine in the morning to overcast in the afternoon which was perfect for shooting. I’ll mention more about the second-day weather later that gives the title of the post. At the lower lakes don’t rush through to try and capture the largest lakes, stop for a while at some of the little cascades where you can get down low and capture some drama in your photographs. This cascade is only about 6 feet long but I find is a rewarding image.
Similarly, this second photograph was taken after waiting 10 minutes for a group of Korean tourists to take their selfies at. It’s definitely worth the wait to capture the gnarly roots of the tree and the flow of the waterfall. The water is flowing quite quickly over this set of falls so experiment with your shutter speed but I found that 0.3 seconds worked well to still retain some of the detail, whereas the first shot was taken at 0.8 seconds because the water was flowing much slower.
As you walk through the bottom lakes head toward the P3 boat station that takes you over the Kozjak Lake to the area of the park with the falls that you will have no doubt seen in the many photographs of the lakes. At the end of the boat trip there is a small islet in the middle of the bay that makes quite a pretty image and something a little different to the falls.
I have added two photographs to the next set of falls so you can see the width of the entire set and then how it is possible to isolate just a few of the individual falls to take an equally interesting photograph. The first image is a panorama of six photographs stitched together in Lightroom (if you have never used this feature head to my own photography blog – http://richdysonphotography.com/2015/04/new-lightroom-cc-features/ ) for instructions on how to use it. The second photograph is the section on the right hand side and, I think, totally changes the view of the falls. This is a great set of falls for spending time at and experimenting with crops and shutter speeds.
A little further round there is another set of falls that are good fun for spending time at and it is also a good place to have a lunch stop if you bring your own sandwiches. We were here around 1:30 and managed to get some quieter time as the rest of the tourists were spending time at the rather basic food shops in the park which seem to serve only hotdogs, burgers or pork chops with chips. I have to confess that to take this picture I did have to step off the path slightly but when I do this I always ensure that I am careful where I put my feet and definitely do not get into the water.
Finish the day by heading to the very Upper Lakes and you can then get the free bus back to a high path that takes you to Entrance 1. There are some nice pathways on this walk to the upper lakes that are worth the wait for tourists to go past.
Day two in the lakes turned into a much shorter stay due to the weather turning quite significantly overnight. The forecast was for rain in the morning, turning to heavier rain around noon and then very heavy rain in the afternoon. There are two options when you see this forecast, either stay at home or head out and try to be creative about what you shoot. The photographs below tell you the option I chose.
If it is raining head toward the Upper Lakes where there is much more in the way of tree cover and if you are there in Autumn then there is plenty of opportunities to capture something (maybe not what you were looking for when you arrived, but flexibility makes you a much better photographer). We parked at Entrance 2 and took the bus up to the top lakes. There are some great views from the bus stop at Entrance 2 and even in the rain, I got quite a nice image showing the Autumnal colours in the mist.
The path heading down to the right from where the bus drops you off is full of fallen logs just off the path and in these conditions it allowed mushrooms to sprout as can be seen in this series of photographs and I do have to admit that in one of them the little red leaf may not have fallen in such a surreptitious place.
At the top of Lake Galovac there is a sheltered viewing point that allows you to capture the top of a waterfall cascading 20m downwards behind a very attractive knot of roots from a tree holding on to the hillside.
By this time, the rain had become even more intense so we decided to cut the trip short and head back home having captured a good collection of photographs for the day. On the way back though, I noticed this nice little cascade which I managed to take handheld at 0.5 seconds lay on one of the wooden walkways – an advantage of wet days is that the paths are a lot less busy!
Not ideal conditions to spend the second day at the park but in no way should you decide not to head out when the rain is falling.
For this post, I think I have already displayed my favourite shot of the little cascades at the start of the Lower Lakes walk, so I’ll just repeat it again as I like it so much!