Landscape photographer and all around outdoorsman Brad Hays has captured some seriously magnificent shots of central Europe over the last several years. As an avid hiker and climber based in the Bavarian region of Germany, he has unfettered access to some of the most picturesque mountains and valleys that the continent has to offer.
Being enamored with his work, I reached out to Hays recently and asked him to share some of his favorite images of his home region in Germany with Resource Travel. He tells us how he manages to snag such successful shots and why Bavaria needs to be on your bucket list.
So, the question I always wonder about ex-pats. How did you stumble upon your new home in Europe?
I graduated a semester early from the University of Colorado so I could travel a little bit. I considered that time my “walk-about” to discover what I truly wanted to do with my life. After traveling in South-East Asia for a few months I came home to start the job search. Fortunately, I received an offer overseas to do marketing for the US military in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany for a resort hotel. That was 16 years ago and I’m still here.
When you aren’t pursuing your art by taking photographs, what are your favorite things to do in Bavaria?
I most enjoy being outside with my kids, hiking and biking. I love to combine my hobbies of climbing, biking (and whatever else I can do to be outside) with photography.
Why should photographers (or anyone really) make Germany the next stop on their bucket list?
Bavaria in particular has an amazing combination of culture and landscape. The scenery is dramatic. You see and feel the vertical gain of the peaks from the flat rolling hills just north of the mountains. We get very colorful mountain glow in the morning and evenings. It is also just a few hours away from some other iconic shooting locations. So you can combine your photography trip with other locations and come back with some very diverse cultural shots and mountain landscapes.
The colors you are able to capture are amazing, can you give us a quick rundown of your shooting and editing process?
I like to pre-visualize the shot and then go out to try to capture it. I use apps to help plan the images and have a list of shots I would like to capture during any given season. Then looking at weather I try to assess which of those shots would work with the conditions that are presented. I have pictures in mind for clear days, storms, night, sunrise, clouds, rainbows. You just have to be patient for the conditions and always be ready to strike on a moments notice. I think beginners underestimate how often landscape photographers get shut out. Good photographers can always come back with useable shots because they know how to make the best with what the conditions provide but things really have to line up for the composition and conditions to produce a five star image.
What can you tell others on how to best capture these stunning landscape shots?
Go shoot often. Always be shooting. You can only can get better by taking and reviewing a lot of photos. Also, surround yourself with great photographers. Friend them on Facebook, review their portfolios on 500px or photo sharing sites. You will start to see what it takes to make great shots.
If someone was planning a trip that direction, what would be your recommendations for “do not miss” places or events?
The summer parades in August make for some great cultural photos. You feel like you took a step back in time. I think May and September offer some really nice combination of seasons. Snowy peaks with flowers blooming in the valley. The sunrise is also a little later so you don’t have to wake up at 0400 to get good light.
What is your favorite thing about living in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Other than the delicious beer)?
The diversity. You can climb or bike in the morning and two hours later be in Italy eating pasta and enjoying a sunset. In a two hour radius you can experience big cities, mountain lakes, rivers and completely different cultures.
Your work has been particularly inspiring to me, especially when I was first starting out. So now I need to know, what is it that inspires you?
My family. I love watching my kids learn to take photos and start to see their appreciation for the world grow. I think photographers are unique in that they are really moved by the beauty of the world. When the light is good I am anxious. We have that FMAS disease (fear of missing a shot). It drives us and keeps you excited about each new day.
What is your favorite subject or style to shoot these days?
I just purchased a drone so aerial photography is interesting. The landscape sure changes a hundred feet off the ground. Otherwise, sports photography because you have moving subjects and you need to communicate with the athlete to share your vision for the share. This creates a big challenge for light, movement and skill (both photographer and athlete) to come together to make a good image.
What do you have planned next?
Climbing in Spain. We are doing deep water soloing. It is a form of climbing without ropes but when you fall you land in the Mediterranean. Good level of commitment and channeling fear all while being pretty safe.
Anything else to add?
Don’t worry about having the latest or best gear. Get some good lenses and a nice pack, always have it ready, always have it handy. Have a list of shots you want to accomplish and go out and do it!
To see more from Brad Hays, follow him on 500px.