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Kočevsko - Photos of my home area

Year 2020 is a special one. It may be considered as a bad year and many of you have suffered through the year fighting with difficult challenges, brought by the virus, which practically destroyed the world we knew.

Frankly speaking, I always follow the view, that in every bad thing that happens, there is always (even if hardly noticeable) something good. In our case, we spent the last 2 months of lock-down in Kočevje, my hometown. After 12 years, since I started my study in Ljubljana, this was the longest period I stayed in town. Meeting up with our partner in crime Vasja, the local photography master and the explorer of the wilderness, we spent so much time in the places, I visited frequently in the past, but now rediscovered and implemented with better photography gear and much more knowledge. The views did not change a lot since I visited them last time, but my knowledge improved and I was able to shot some great images in this period.

I have to admit, there are no such impressive landscapes in the area, such as Alps or Tuscany, but you can find remote areas, great views and total wilderness where you can hike for a whole day not meeting anyone in the area. With a bit of luck, you can find traces of wild beasts, such as brown bear and wolf, sometimes even lynx, and see plenty of deer, rabbits, birds and other animals. For true wildlife photographers, we organize the Brown Bear spotting in the region.

In the following blog, I would like to present and describe you some of the places, I've been able to photograph during the last lock-down. Consider this as a part of my diary.

Strmec virgin forest
Virgin forest of Strmec

It was still full autumn, when we arrived to Kočevsko. This limited, but one of the most beautiful times of the year must be used well. The peak lasts only a week or two. First wind, and no leafs anymore. First day when we arrived, we met Vasja, and, even the light was far from perfect, we explored the Virgin forest of Strmec on the Stojna mountain plateau. The silence, colors and a pair of squirrels was the only presence there. And maybe a forest spirit, who knows?

Morning view on the lake Kočevje
Kočevje Lake

This image was on my bucket list for a while. Dark, dramatic clouds, yellow autumn trees and morning soft light shines on the coast of the lake of Kočevje. Mission accomplished.

I did return to Kočevje lake on several occasions. It is just about 10 minutes drive from the house, we stayed. But almost every time I arrived, I arrived a bit to late. Still, some colors were still caught on camera. Kočevje lake is a remaining of a former coal mine, which was flooded by ground water in the early 80's. It is a nice place for recreation, the fishermen are coming from all around the Europe for the famous carp fishing, there is a chance for swimming in the summer and they even have a yachting club and SUP activities on the lake. It is surrounded by beautiful plateau called Kipa with nice birches.

Birches on Kipa near Kočevje

If you look closely to the image above, in the left corner, you can find a yellow patch in the middle of the woods. The area of Kočevsko was plain forest till 14th century. At the time, the local rulers wanted to colonize the area, so they settled farmers, coming mostly from Bavaria. They colonized and developed agriculture and infrastructure. Plenty of villages and towns were mostly German speaking at the time. Till second world war, they lived in the area, which was surrounded by Slovenians but keeping the identity and culture. During the WWII they sadly had to abandon their homes and move towards Germany. While they were in the area, they were experimenting with the crops as well. And in the middle of the forest, they tried if the Larch trees would work in the area. It looks like it did not work as that patch is the only one in Kočevsko. But there is about 300m long and 100-150m wide rectangle of larch trees. We tried to find it and succeed.

Larch trees from the first Kočevsko settlers

We extended the search towards the Veliki Rog, where we were able to enjoy in beautiful and extensive colors. Veliki Rog is a 1099m peak in the region of Kočevski Rog, one of the most wild areas in Slovenia.

Roška pešpot
Sign of Rog Trail (Roška pešpot) on beech just under the peak of Veliki Rog (1099m)

Nights were also amazing. The only problem appeared from the politics. We had and still have "Hora legalis" between 9 p.m. till 6 a.m, which means we have to stay home at night. Luckily for us, the night started early enough and we were always close to home to made it till then. I'm extremely happy that I could teach my mentor the star trails technique in the evening. I will start to offer one-on-one guiding tutorials online soon, where I will be teaching my complete digital workflow of post-processing the images.

One of the places, I've visited after a while again, was Pajtlerica peak. This is a peak, high above the Kolpa valley and is oriented towards the West which makes it useful for the sunset shots. The top of the peak is rocky and we were hoping we could find some Smoke tree - the flower which grows on rocky limestone surfaces and turns crazy red every autumn, view over the valley and sunset. We found a perfect spot. One of my favourite images of the lock-down period. Thanks to Fujinon 16-55mm f/2.8 lens from Fujifilm Slovenia. This lens makes one of the most fantastic star burst effects on f/16 or above.

Smoke tree illuminated by sunset light
Smoke tree, sunset and Kolpa river

When there is autumn, there is moisture, rain and mist and fog. Foggy conditions combined with the sun can be fun. We were spotting some Aura on Loška stena wall. And telling ourselves that there is no such thing as bad weather.

And fog can make images which are nice that extra touch. I've been on this site several times, but never experienced the conditions as the one on that day. It makes the surreal and mysterious atmosphere of the mysterious valley bellow, surrounded by mountain peaks all around. And the colors were just wow.

And for the final touch, the snow started to fall. Everything was covered with fluffy white and everything got quiet. We couldn't help ourselves to hike up the ridge near Krempa and enjoy in the divine nature. There was about 45 cm of fresh snow and the nature, we were exploring in the last month changed totally. Unfortunately it didn't last, but at least we got a taste of it.

One month and a half of divine nature, wilderness, hiking, non-stressful environment, laugh of the close friends and breathtaking images. I believe, I add quite some images to my #Kočevsko library. And got many exciting ideas for the future.

In case you are interested about my gear pack:

  • I was using my trusty Fujifilm X-T2

  • Lenses 10-24mm f/4, 16-55mm f/2.8, 55-200 f/3.5-4.8 and 100-400mm f/4-5.6 and 35mm f/1.4

  • Kase filters Wolverine pack and K9 holder with polarizer

  • Manfrotto Tripod

  • Remote trigger system for timelapses and startrails

  • Reserve batteries and cards

  • f-Stop backpacks Tilopa 50l and Lotus 32l

In case you have any questions or comments, I invite you to leave them below.

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