Italy’s Dolomite Mountains in Spring

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Northeastern Italy features one of the most distinctive and photogenic mountain landscapes on Earth—the Dolomites. Steeply vertical walls of pale gray rock rise to nearly 10,000 feet above forested foothills, deep valleys, sweeping meadows, crystal-clear alpine lakes, and charming mountain towns.
"Simply said, the Dolomites were one of the most beautiful areas I've had the good fortune to visit and photograph on the blue planet!"
- Robert S.
Three hundred million years ago enormous coral reefs over 3,000-feet-high emerged from a shallow sea floor. The area was uplifted when the Adriatic and Eurasian plates collided and then eroded and were carved over time into the craggy chains of superbly exposed peaks that characterize the landscape today.

Due to its unique geology and breathtaking beauty, the region was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009—calling it an archetype of a Dolomitic landscape. In summer and winter, this stunning area unsurprisingly teems with hikers and cyclists or skiers. Visit in springtime, however, and the winter tourist crowds vanish as this alpine region silently emerges from the winter freeze.

The vernal freshness of mountain air brings clarity to the landscape as exuberant wildflowers erupt across hill and valley as carpets of vibrant color. Shadows of billowing clouds drift across the pale rock walls and pinnacles of the Dolomites, providing dramatic graphic imagery. The light-colored rock is transformed by the changing light conditions from dawn to dusk. Below the peaks, forests of larch trees burst forth in rich chartreuse hue, a verdant glow that compliments the dark greens of the other stately conifers. 

The Dolomites are often called “the Pale Mountains” due to the mixture of minerals in the rock that give them their distinctive light gray color. At sunrise the morning light sweeps the pale sculptural forms with photogenic warm shades of vivid oranges and yellows. At sunset, the rock is imbued with the rosy blush of alpenglow.

We have ten days to photograph this extraordinary landscape. Lake Carezza at sunrise creates an iconic image. Here, reflections of rugged sunlight-swept mountains soar loftily over tall green pines that frame the gem-like quiet waters. We take several cable cars high into the mountains to create impressive “eye-level” images of these venerable massifs. We look for the ethereal early morning fog as it filters into deep valleys surrounded by a towering grand mountainscape.

In Val di Funes, the charming small churches of Santa Maddalena and San Giovanni sit gracefully in wide meadows while mountains soar above–and iconic images beckon. Near the resort town of Cortina d’Ampezzo, we have two full days for photography. Grand scenes captured from high mountain passes, reflections in serene alpine tarns, and the massive rock formations fill our days and our lenses. One of the finest photographic highlights of the region, the renowned three peaks of Tre Cime di Lavaredo, provides a dramatic final photo shoot.

The Dolomites are truly unique among mountain chains around the world. The sheer rock walls rising abruptly well over 5,000 feet are some of the highest to be found anywhere. Commanding mountain massifs form sweeping panoramas, while isolated pinnacles tower monumentally high above talus slopes and gradual foothills. In June the vivid contrast of colors created by blue skies, pale rock faces suffused with changing light, and rolling green meadows adorned with wildflowers is at its finest. For photographers, the quiet season of springtime in the Dolomites is the perfect time of year.

Tour Itinerary

Day 1
Depart from home.
Day 2 (Jun 16)
Arrive at the Venice Marco Polo Airport. Meet the group for our 3-hour drive to the village of Carezza in the Dolomites. We stop en route at Val Venegia, a photogenic mountain valley at the foot of the San Martino massif. After checking into our hotel we have time for sunset photography at Lake Carezza and enjoy a welcome dinner in a local restaurant. (D)
Day 3
Before breakfast we return to Lake Carezza for a sunrise shoot. Known as the “Rainbow Lake” due to its clear emerald hues, the watery surface often reflects the surrounding dark conifer forest and the towering mountains above. The water level is typically low in autumn and we may spot the submerged statue of Ondina, the nymph who protects the lake—and only one legend in this land of legends.

Following breakfast, we drive to Ortisei making photo stops at scenic overlooks along the way. This prosperous ski resort town is our base of operations for three nights. The town is surrounded by countless photogenic peaks made accessible by several high mountain passes. Our mountain landscape shoots commence this afternoon with a sunset session on one of those nearby scenic passes. (BLD)
Cattle taking a rest beneath Italy's DolomitesDays 4–5
We explore the Ortisei area starting with a sunrise shoot at Passo Sella (Sella Pass) which is surrounded by eight photogenic mountains. This high mountain pass (7,277 feet, 2,218 meters) connects the provinces of Trentino and South Tyro. The Seceda gondola lifts us high into the mountains for stunning views of the jagged Odle peaks—known as the “White Mountains.” Here we have lunch atop the mountain before transiting down to the valley below. Passo Gardena and Passo Pordoi deliver us to breathtaking locales providing impressive mountain-scapes and floriferous Alpine meadows. (BLD)
Day 6
We drive northward towards Passo delle Erbe. Our journey takes us via Val di Funes, a valley famous for two iconic churches. We photograph the iconic 18th-century church of San Giovanni, sitting perfectly in the midst of a broad meadow with spring-green larch forests in the background while the pale peaks of the Geisler Mountain group dominate the high backdrop. Next, we stroll the village of Santa Maddalena for an elevated view of the village and its church where Ruefen Mountain rises dramatically above it all. Later we check into our mountain lodge at Passo delle Erbe. (BLD)
Day 7
Passo delle Erbe (Herb Pass) is a quiet backwater location, different than the other places we visit on this photo tour. The towering Sass di Puttia massif dominates the broad verdant alpine meadows that can be packed with wildflowers. On this relaxed day we photograph the area’s grand landscapes as well as explore the macro photography delights of its colorful wildflower bloom. (BLD)
Day 8
We depart this beautiful area and travel to the last mountain region of our photo trip—Cortina d'Ampezzo, the ''Queen of the Dolomites,'' nestled in the valley of the Boite River. Cortina is a ski resort town that was host to the 1956 Winter Olympic Games—and one you may recognize from films such as The Pink Panther and For Your Eyes Only. Enroute we stop to photograph at several locations with grand sweeping vistas and flowery Alpine meadows. (BLD)

Day 9–10
We have two full days for photography in the stunning region around Cortina. Here we shoot grand mountain scenics from wildflower dappled meadows. Weather permitting, we take cable cars to a mountain hut at Lagazuoi, known for its extensive WWI mountain tunnels and/or into the impressive five towers of Cinque Torri. We photograph Tre Cime di Lavaredo, one of the most distinctive peaks in the Dolomites. In Cortina, we can stroll the old town streets—or enjoy the ambiance while stopping for a relaxing break with Italian coffee or an Aperol spritz—when we are not shooting the areas spectacular mountains or mirror-reflective lakes. (BLD)
Day 11 (Jun 25)
Depending on flight times, we may have time for a sunrise shoot before we depart for the Venice airport. (B)
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Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Enrollment Information

Italy’s Dolomite Mountains in Spring

Jun 15, 2024 - Jun 25, 2024

A deposit and completed and signed Registration Form are required to reserve a place on a Joseph Van Os Photo Safari.


All prices are quoted in US dollars and all payments must be paid in US dollars. For deposits we accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Final payment of the trip fee is due 120 days prior to departure and may be paid by check or bank transfer. If you wish to make your final payment with a credit card a 3% convenience fee will be charged.

We must receive written notice of your cancellation. Based on the cancellation date the following apply:

Trip deposits are non-refundable.
150-91 days before the trip start date: We will refund any payments made exceeding 50% of the total trip cost.
90-61 days before the trip start date: We will refund any payments made exceeding 75% of the total trip cost.
Within 60 days of the start of the trip: No refund.

If, on the trip start date, your space has been resold and the tour is full—as designated by “Limit” number of travelers on the tour website page—we will refund your payment, minus the non-refundable trip deposit and any discounts given to resell your space.

No partial refunds are made for unused portions or services of a trip for any reason. Trips are sold as a package only. This policy also applies to tour extensions and independent travel arrangements. Cancellation fees are not transferable.

We strongly encourage you to protect your travel investment and purchase a comprehensive travel insurance policy that includes emergency evacuation coverage. We can provide travel insurance options, or it can be purchased online. A CANCEL FOR ANY REASON policy is available. Trip participants without travel protection insurance are considered “self-insured.” Without insurance you assume all risks and losses for any conditions requiring your cancellation.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris are within the capabilities of average people in good health. Some of these trips require the capability of walking for several miles over uneven trails, stepping from a small boat to a wave-washed rocky beach, flying in small planes and helicopters, and occasionally hiking at high elevations—all while carrying an assortment of camera equipment. If you have concerns about your own capabilities and/or fitness as it relates to a trip, please inquire with our office before reserving a space. By forwarding a signed Registration Form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you, or other trip participants and you agree to inform our office in writing if changes in your health, including viral illnesses, occur any time prior to the tour. We reserve the right to request a doctor's statement of good health. The company's or trip leader's judgment shall provide the ultimate determination of an individual's ability to embark upon or to continue a trip. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements. Tour members are asked to refrain from smoking with or near the group.

Participants will receive three emails before the trip departs: 1. Initial Tour Information sheet confirms the deposit and provides pre-departure information. 2. Invoice/Practical Information provides clothing and photo gear recommendations, climate data, and applicable health advisories. Visa information will also be included (if applicable). 3. Final Tour Information includes arrival instructions, itinerary revisions (if any), hotel addresses, trip telephone contact information and participant list. We provide the trip leader's telephone number(s) and/or email address with final documents so you can inquire about special photographic questions you may have regarding your trip. We welcome your calls or email messages to

Information supplied upon enrollment describes the specific details that are included in your trip fee. Generally, these include lodging in double room occupancy, all meals (specified in the itinerary as BLD denoting breakfast, lunch, or dinner), ground transportation during the trip in vans or small busses, internal tour air transportation as specified, meal and baggage tipping, and guide services provided by the trip leaders. Not included are airfare or other transportation from your home to the trip staging location, airport departure taxes, insurance, alcoholic beverages, and bar expenses (plus bottled water and soft drink expenses on international tours outside of North America), tips and gratuities to local guides, phone calls, passport or visa expenses, laundry, or items of a personal nature. Gratuities to Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris trip leaders are optional and always appreciated. Rates are based on group tariffs; if the trip does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may be charged.

Most of our trips are priced in double occupancy (shared) accommodations. Single accommodation is available for a supplemental cost in many locations; see the pre-departure trip information or call our office for details. You will be charged the single supplement fee if you desire single accommodation or if you wish to have a roommate, but one is not available. In some remote locations, clients with single rooms are infrequently compelled to share a room due to circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, appropriate per diem refunds will be made reflecting the direct cost of the single room at the facility where clients are required to share. There is no additional single supplement fee on ship-based cruises if you request a roommate and one is not available.

Cost increases may occur unexpectedly due to rising costs of airfares, ground transport, fuel surcharges, accommodations, and currency fluctuations, among others. Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. may be compelled to amend prices, and we reserve the right to do so without prior notice. An increase in trip prices shall not be sufficient grounds for any refund of funds paid for the trip other than as determined by the terms of our cancellation policy.

Whenever possible, our trip participants are lodged in comfortable, modern hotels. We select among the best available accommodations but refrain from extravagance. Some interesting photographic destinations are far removed from modern amenities, however, and where necessary we will be accommodated in rustic country inns, cabins, or tented camps.

Meals are always a special part of our trips for the camaraderie they engender and the opportunity they provide to try new foods from different areas. Depending on the trip and specific locale, participants order restaurant meals from the full menu or, less frequently, table d'hôte. Some trips include picnic lunches in the field. Fruit juice for breakfast and coffee or tea is included with the meals. Soft drinks are included with meals on tours within North America. Participants are responsible for their own bar tab (including bottled water, soft drinks, as well as alcoholic beverages on tours outside of North America) at restaurant lunches and dinners.

Our itineraries are intended as examples only. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history or cultural events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or our leaders.

The second tour leader (and any subsequent additional leaders) listed for each trip on the website will be added as the group size warrants. If only one space remains on a trip, and logistics permit, we accept two people traveling together, even if it exceeds the trip maximum.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. and/or their Agents act only as agents for the passenger (trip participant) in regard to travel including, but not limited to, sightseeing, meals, lodging, transportation, and all other services whether by railroad, motor coach, automobile, van, boat, ship or aircraft or any other conveyance, and they assume no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or irregularity which may be occasioned for any reason whatsoever, or through the acts, bankruptcy or default of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger or in carrying out the arrangements of the trip.

They can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay, cancellations or changes in flights or other tour services, and by force majeure including sickness, weather, strike, war, volcanic eruption, terrorist acts, political unrest, quarantine, epidemics, pandemics and outbreaks, or other causes. All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger, as trip fees provide for arrangements only for the times and locations stated. Baggage is at the owner's risk entirely.

The right is reserved to 1) substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary or transport where deemed necessary, or caused by changes in flight schedules or equipment substitution; 2) cancel any trip prior to departure due to low enrollment, in which case full refund of the paid trip funds will be given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non -refundable air tickets, visa fees, travel insurance premiums and medical related expenses; 3) At the company’s sole discretion, suspend or postpone any trip due to force majeure or disease outbreak in which case the trip may be rescheduled, or a refund issued less any non-refundable deposits paid to tour component providers on behalf of the passenger, or a travel credit given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 4) substitute trip leader(s) for the leader(s) originally specified, in which case the substitution is not a basis for participant cancellation or refund other than provided by our normal cancellation policy; or 5) accept or retain any person as a member of any trip.

Trip prices are based on tariffs and exchange rates in effect at the time of publication and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein.

A signed Registration Form with the Enrollment Conditions and Release and Assumption of Risk sections must be returned by each participant prior to the commencement of the trip. Participation by any trip member will be declined in the absence of the signed Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section, with no trip fee refund. No modification to the Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section will be accepted.

Should Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or anyone acting on their behalf be required to incur attorney's fees and costs to enforce this agreement, the enrolling trip participant(s) agree(s) to indemnify and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, the enrolling participant(s) agree(s) to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington.

I have read, understand, and agree to the terms, conditions, and provisions of the enrollment information, as stated on the Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris website and the Enrollment Conditions section of this form, especially noting the policy on cancellations, refunds, and limitations on responsibility.

I am aware that during any trip or tour that I am voluntarily participating in under the arrangements of Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., a Washington corporation, and its employees, agents and associates, certain risks and dangers exist while traveling in the United States, foreign countries, and wilderness areas in any country or territory that include the possibility of property damage, bodily injury, and death. There is a possibility of accident or illness occurring without access to immediate or timely medical treatment or facilities. There is a risk of tropical or communicable diseases that may require quarantine and removal from the tour at my expense, food-related illnesses, the risk of personal injury and property damage or delay or inconvenience by forces of nature, wildlife or wildlife models, quarantine, political instability, acts of terrorism, strikes, government restrictions or regulations change, thefts, and the risk of accidents during travel while on foot or by aircraft, train, automobile, van, bus, boat, ship, or other conveyance. I understand that such risks cannot be eliminated without jeopardizing the essential qualities of this trip or tour. In consideration of, and as part payment for the right to participate in such trips, tours and/or other activities and services arranged for me by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., its employees, agents and associates, I have and do hereby assume all risks, and hereby release Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., its employees, shareholders, agents and associates, and will hold them harmless from any and all liability, actions, causes of actions, debts, claims, and demands of every kind and nature, howsoever caused, which I now have or which may arise of or in connection with any of my trips or tours and participation in any activities arranged for me by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., its employees, agents and associates.

Should Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or anyone acting on their behalf, be required to incur attorney's fees and costs to enforce this Agreement, I agree to indemnify them and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, I agree to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington and further agree that the substantive law of that state shall apply in that action without regard to the conflict-of-law rules of that state. The terms hereof shall serve as a release and assumption of all risk for myself, my heirs, executors, and administrators, and for all members of my family.

If any part, article, paragraph, sentence, or clause of this Agreement is not enforceable, the affected provision shall be curtailed and limited only to the extent necessary to bring it within the requirements of the law, and the remainder of the Agreement shall continue in full force and effect.

I acknowledge that if anyone is hurt or property is damaged during my participation in this activity, I may be found by a court of law to have waived my right to maintain a lawsuit against Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., its employees, shareholders, agents, and associates, based on any and all claims from which I have released them.

Italy’s Dolomite Mountains in Spring: Moderate Activity Level

Van transportation. Photography from near the vans as well as hiking on worn trails and occasionally across uneven ground in alpine meadows. Hiking as much as one to three miles per day (total) on a few days. Midday lunch breaks at restaurants and country inns.

Trip Details
Jun 15 - Jun 25, 2024
Fee: $8,595 from Venice, Italy
Deposit: $2,000
Limit: 12 participants
Activity Level: ModerateModerate

Single Supplement: $1,120
  • Shoot stunning mountain landscapes and reflections in serene alpine lakes
  • Quiet villages tucked into gentle valleys amidst soaring Dolomite towers
  • Light at dawn and dusk paints imposing pale rock with brilliant hues
  • The quiet time of year between bustling tourist seasons
Tour Leaders
Joe Van Os

Joe Van Os

And local leader
“The Dolomites are now one of my favorite places on earth. They were awesome. The guides took us to many wonderful picturesque places to photograph!”
—2019 Tour Participant

“I loved everything! The fellow photographers, the leader’s willingness to share his knowledge and the wonderful local guides.”
—Kathleen H.