In July I was fortunate enough to go on holiday to a beautiful coastal region in Croatia commonly known as the Makarska Riviera. After a 4 hour delayed flight from London Gatwick, we landed in Split International Airport in the early evening and then took a 1.5 hour taxi ride to the small coastal town of Tucepi (or Tučepi).
It was early evening by the time we arrived at BlueSun Hotel Alga in Tucepi. The next morning I arose early, unable to sleep, partly due to the jet lag I was still suffering after my flight from Mexico City. It was just before 530am, so I went out for an early morning run along the promenade in front of the hotel that extends along the coastline. It was light, yet the sun had still not risen.
The Adriatic sea was still as a millpond, motionless and serene. A beautiful hue of colours saturated the early morning sky and reflected in the tranquil sea as the sun began to rise, I had to pause for a moment and take a photo albeit with my iphone (left), as it was too picturesque to not photograph.
Sights and holiday activities in Tucepi are plentiful and accommodate all ages, or if a tour doesnt appeal simply laying on the beach soaking up the suns rays is an easy alternative. The beaches are not sand, rather stone and shingle, which can be a little uncomfortable for walking on bare foot.
The coast of Croatia hosts approximately 1,200 nearby islands which one could easily spend a lifetime exploring, and there are various tour operators in and around Tucepi who will gladly set you up on a tour half day or full day tour of one of the nearby islands.
Boat rental prices vary from agent to agent and may require a little haggling to reach an amicable deal. Boats of varying size, quality and price can also be rented, without or without your "captain".
We rented a boat with driver and set out early in the morning, once more the sea was motionless and like an oil painting as we travelled across the Adriatic sea. I took several handheld photographs (right) of the sea and misty headland from the boat as we travelled to explore the nearby Island of Hvar, about 10 miles from the Tucepi coastline. It is little more than a quaint bay where day trippers visit to escape the crowds on Tucepi, with pristine clear blue waters and a lone restaurant that sits on the hill top and offers panoramic views of the bay and further afar to Tucepi. But was certainly worth a visit.
We visited other pretty bays around the island, although simple conveniences such as restaurants, toilets and water aren´t available at the time of writing. However, various private developments look underway and Im sure there will be more conveniences nearby in the near future.
An Unforgettable Sunrise
One of the reasons I love the ocean, is its reflective qualities, unpredictability and changing currents which influence everything about it. From what I experienced in the Makarska Riviera, the Adriatic sea certainly flourishes in beauty with its occasional tiny superficial ripples that we often observe subconsciously.
No trip to Tucepi would have been complete without photographing its natural beauty. On the morning of 22nd July, I decided to get up at 340am with the intention of photographing the sunrise over the bay or headland. I wandered passed two dormant and motionless hotel staff in reception asleep on the sofa, and continued outside. I didn´t have the best advantage as I was unfamiliar with the best view points from which to photograph and without access to any form of transport, and less so at that hour of the morning.
The daytime proved problematic trying to find good view points, as the beach was laden with sun-kissed tourists, sun beds, jet-skis, inflatable sharks, screaming children and abandoned towels. Hence my idea of trying to visualise where to compose a sunrise shot way before sunrise...in the dark! I had observed a couple of large rocks on the shingle ridden beach during the day time, which I considered would make quite an attractive foreground to a sunrise photograph, so I did a little guesswork as to how the composition would be whilst I set up my tripod, using the torch on my iphone when necessary...the early morning was still pitch black.
I´d finished composing, and still had a load of time to kill before first light, so sat down in the darkness, in the silence. It was now around 420am, still another 74 minutes until sunrise...tic...toc...tic..toc. I heard a faint thunder clap in the distance, but didn´t think anything of it. The sky was ever so slightly beginning to brighten, at that moment I noticed there were some dense crepuscular clouds all around the bay, I began to come to the conclusion the suns rays would not penetrate these dismal clouds. Approximately 30 degrees to the west of where my camera was facing a bolt of fork lightening momentarily illuminated the sky and the island of Hvar in the distance.
I soon realised this was no longer a sunrise shot, the cloud was too dense and the storm was certainly moving closer, and the lightening bolts more frequent. The beauty of lightening bolts in the dark is their vivid luminosity and ability to illuminate the stark contrast in the most grungy skies.
I knew time wasn´t on my side and the challenge was now to rapidly change the composition of the shot toward where the lightening was momentarily shimmering, and guess as to where the next lightening bolt would be.
I was running, visualising, thinking and timing...it was now about 440am, whilst the sky was still dark, it was beginning to brighten. I needed to photograph the lightening bolts whilst it was still dark or the sensation and moment would be lost. I reeled off several shots and varied the composition slightly, and guessing where the lightening bolt would fall. Fortunately, I got it right on most of the shots, each exposure was about 30 to 50 seconds long. The shot below, being one of my favourites, was a 45 second exposure at about 445am as the lightening broke over Hvar Island. It was far darker than the photograph suggests, but...thats part of the beauty of lightening bolts radiating their luminosity momentarily to the surrounding sky. 30 minutes later, dawn had broken and the sky was no longer had the same appeal as 30 minutes earlier.
Imotski Tour and Wine Tasting
A day prior to our departure of Croatia. We went on a tour of Imotski and its surrounding areas of natural beauty, including the "blue lake" and "red lake".
Croatians claim the blue lake as the most beautiful lake in Europe, if not, the world, due to the glimmering tones of blue reflected in the lakes waters. Unfortunately, it was dry season when we were there and the lake wasn´t particularly full, which I dont think does the place justice as it was very scenic, so I will refrain from uploading a photo of it during dry season.
Red lake is located approximately 500m below a sheer rock face, and every year an extreme competition takes place here. It is BASE jumping in its purest form, the idea being the competitors jump from the top of the rock face and the person who opens their parachute at the lowest altitude before hitting the lake, wins! At the time of writing, the current record holder is Russian and released his parachute just 50m before impact...
Our final stop on the tour was to Glavota vinyard to try some of the wine from the region.
We were accompanied into an old house, and down to the cellar where our host presented us with food and demonstrated how to correctly taste wine. The house had evidently been passed down through generations as it flaunted numerous old tools used for wine-making and just oozed with character.
Despite out host being unable to speak English, he was very hospitable. A Croatian national and also a German speaker, more can be found out about his wines from the region and for purchase via his email address (email@example.com).
I spent a considerable amount of time in the cellar of the old house photographing the fascinating artefacts which looked like something straight out of museum.
The host saw me photographing the various items and tapped me on the shoulder and insinuated I accompany him to another part of the house. He escorted me upstairs and led me along a corridor to a room where he paused briefly to dig some large keys out of his pocket. The house was old, beautiful yet terrifying at the same time.
He unlocked the room and we entered what was at one time, the library of the house. I was only in the room briefly, so I shot what photos I could whilst I was there. None of the other guests from the tour had the privilege of seeing this part of the house as they remained in the cellar.
The library contained a variety of medical and other books from around 1910...and earlier. A newspaper from 7th December, 1953 lay casually on the table nearby as if it had just been bought that day (see below image). Then he showed me a graduation certificate of a family member who had become a doctor, with the date printed in roman numbers, 1893.
We left the library and once more it was locked with key, and I accompanied him to another room, he unlocked this room also with key. It was an old bedroom, was faded and dated portraits of ancestors hanging from the wall, old tables, chairs and ornaments.
I photographed as much as I could once more, too many photographs to upload here. As we were about to leave the bedroom, I couldn´t but notice a worn sofa covered with a rug with some very old, used and abused childrens dolls placed on the sofa (see below image), which i´m sure in their day were very much loved, but certainly looked abandoned and scary now.
Tucepi and the Makarska Riviera overall was a joy to visit and I´d certainly recommend it to anyone given the diverse activities available, and probably even more so if you love scoffing ice-cream. Two days after our Imotski visit, I flew back to Mexico City to return to my daily routine and my photography business. If you like the imagery contained on my website, and would like to know more, please contact me.
All Photographs are Copyright Gareth Davies Photography and may not be used without prior written consent. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own and do not represent those of any other person or entity.