Croatia 2018 Trip Report

By Joe Van Os on May 30, 2018

The Old City of Dubrovnik has a lot of stairs!  If you are prepared to climb them you are rewarded with spectacular access to commanding locations from which to photograph this beautiful city.  It has been less than 30 years since the artillery shelling of Dubrovnik by the Yugoslav People’s Army in 1991.  But following Croatia’s independence in 1992, the city has been totally restored and provides truly wonderful photo opportunities.

These days Dubrovnik is under siege by throngs of tourists who arrive each day on massive cruise ships (not by accident our photo tour was there in the quieter “off season”)—and, potentially, by dragon attack as the terracotta tile-roofed stand-in for King’s Landing in Season 8 of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Dubrovnik Croatia at blue hourOld City Dubrovnik is a pedestrian labyrinth of narrow and winding marble cobblestoned alleys.  They are attractively lined with hundreds of café tables, giving the impression that the Old City is one massive restaurant—providing everything from a simple cappuccino to a deluxe 3-course dinner with an incredible regional wine list.

Rising early to photograph the Old City during the “blue hour,” we found Dubrovnik to be a ghost town that allows an hour or so of photography of medieval architecture lit by incandescent lights—without people.  The city awakens slowly.  So, even as daylight commences, there are still lots of opportunities to shoot around the people heading to work.

From a hillside vantage point outside the city, a wonderful overview of Dubrovnik and its location along the Adriatic produced hundreds of images, as did our walk around the city walls which provided great shots of Lovrijenac Fortress and the local marina.

A high-speed catamaran ferry delivered us to the island of Hvar.  There is a beautiful harbor in the city of Hvar with medieval architecture, small working fishing boats, and many luxury sailing yachts—all highly photogenic.  Boarding our vans we traveled across the island amidst interesting terraced fields and scrubland with rosemary, sage and lavender interspersed among other native plants.  An alfresco lunch at the village square of Stari Grad was a relaxing break in the afternoon.
Another ferry transported us to Split, Croatia’s second largest city located on the Dalmatian Coast, known for its beaches and the fortress-like complex at its center—Diocletian's Palace—erected by the Roman emperor in the 4th century.  Our afternoon photography included the palace as well as the Cathedral of St. Lawrence in Trogir before we drove to Krka to shoot the Serbian Orthodox monastery and the numerous waterfalls of Krka National Park.

Plitvice Lakes National Park CroatiaBeing an inveterate nature shooter, Plitvice Lakes National Park was a trip highlight for me.  This forested park has a fantastic rustic wooden boardwalk that takes you up-close-and-personal to amazing waterfalls that are interspersed among the park’s attractive turquoise-blue lakes and limestone canyons.  The boardwalk is often suspended right over the lakes and occasionally clings to the steep canyon walls.  It is serenely beautiful (particularly in the early/ late hours before and after the tour busses arrive/depart)—and a place I hope to return to in the fall when its colors look truly amazing in photographs.

Back in travel photography mode we headed to Rovinj, a fishing port on the west coast of the Istrian Peninsula.  But first, a short detour to shoot the striking Roman colosseum in Pula.  For me, Rovinj is another favorite spot on the trip as it is off the beaten tourist track during the month of May.  Beautiful Venice-like architecture, a vibrant café-lined waterfront, and a maze of narrow streets and alleys add up to some enjoyable shooting around the town.  A short road trip took us to Motovun, one of many charming Istrian hilltop villages surrounded by endless acres of vineyards.  There we had lunch, ate truffles, and were offered a connoisseur’s tasting of regional olive oil—but, frankly, they all tasted the same to me!

Cobblestone street CroatiaOn the road to Zagreb we did a side trip to Bale to wander its winding cobblestone streets and window shop its tiny shops along our walk.  Bale has beautiful windows and I was particularly attracted to lace curtains billowing from open-shuttered windows surrounded by medieval stone masonry.  By the time we reached Zagreb we were back in the “real world” with city rush hour traffic, traffic lights, streetcars, and a blend of modern and Austro-Hungarian architecture.  Zagreb was our tour exit point for those of us not continuing on to our Slovenia tour.  We had scheduled only one shooting afternoon in Zagreb, but we could have easily spent three days there and not run out of great things to photograph!

Related Tags:  croatia, durbrovnik, joe, os, van, zagreb

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