We feature some of the brightest Instagram storytellers in the Passion Passport community through our Instagram Spotlight series. Today, Lars Schneider (@larsschneidervisuals) shows us some of his favorite wild places in Europe and Asia.
I live just a few kilometers south of Hamburg, the second biggest and (in my opinion) most beautiful city in Germany. Even though I’m based here, I don’t often photograph the surrounding countryside, or even Germany at large. My work is mostly related to adventure and outdoor sports, so places like Scandinavia and the Alps are usually a better fit for my lens.
This year, though, there were a few exceptions, and I worked quite a bit in the northeastern and southern regions of Germany. In the north, my favorite place to photograph was the island of Rügen, as its beautiful any time of the year. (You can see the island in the first and second images of this section.) Rügen is home to some amazing old forests with gigantic beech trees, and — in addition to its many beautiful beaches — it boasts many kilometers of sheer chalk cliffs that meet the Baltic Sea. I loved flying along the coastline with my drone in the early morning and seeing the contrast of the lush-green forest against the pure white cliffs, sometimes mixed with the turquoise-blue waters of the ocean.
The southern end of Germany is basically all mountains, which vary a bit in altitude depending on where you are. The third image you see here is a drone shot from a summit in the Allgäu region of Bavaria. For me, the most interesting features there were the many, many peaks and ridgelines that were either completely covered in thick grass or, occasionally, were grassy on one side and rocky on the other.
When I am at home in Germany, I miss the wild and untouched places I see in other countries. There are lots of things you shouldn’t complain about in Germany, but the fact that so much land is civilized in one way or another is something I am not too happy about. So, being in Rügen and Allgäu, all by myself or with a few friends, made me really happy. You can’t get the uncrowded beauty of the wilderness all the time, but you can at least enjoy it in some places. You just have to be willing to wake up really early.
If I had to choose between ocean and mountains, I would probably opt for the sea. That said, the mountains are beautiful too, and I especially like those that are massive and dominating. In that light, Switzerland, with its majestic peaks, is one of my favorite mountain regions in Europe. (Plus, it’s home to delicious cheese, mouth-watering chocolate, and Ovaltine.) In the Canton of Valais, you can see some of the most amazing peaks on the planet — including the world-famous Matterhorn, which you might recognize from the package of Toblerone bars. (Coincidentally, Toblerone is a great example of the mouth-watering Swiss chocolate I just mentioned.)
You can also find huge glaciers in Switzerland, like the majestic Gorner glacier near the Matterhorn. It’s around eight miles (13 kilometers) long, which is impressive — but you can also clearly see that a lot of the ice has disappeared. On this particular glacier, more than 2.3 square miles (six square kilometers) have been lost due to climate change in just 80 years. As I looked out at the glacier, knowing that humankind is responsible for the melting ice, I couldn’t help but feel responsible, myself. It was a sobering experience.
This third photo was unplanned, but it’s one of my favorites from this year. I shot it from a little ridgeline in the Canton of Bern where I was doing some commercial work for a Swiss client. The message of the shoot was about people being active in their surroundings, but the main action was happening in the other direction. When the sun disappeared behind the mountains, and everybody started to hike down for cheese fondue, I stayed behind for a few moments to capture this moody scene with all of these layers of mountains and light.
Maira Valley, Piedmont, Italy
I had always wanted to go to Piedmont in Italy, mainly because I’d heard so much about the food — and I love good food. Luckily, some of my client work this past summer consisted of a road trip through the Alps, ending in Valle Maira. The Alps are often very crowded, but this valley was so peaceful. There are a few farms there that offer basic accommodation and great food, but besides that, there weren’t many people around. This sense of seclusion really added to the place, as finding beautiful spots with few people makes me extra happy. It’s not always an easy task, especially in central Europe these days.
La Meja, the single big rock in the first and second images of this section, is the prominent feature in the area. You can see it from all around — and though it always looks a little different, it’s always beautiful. Seeing the peak from these different perspectives added to the experience. It made me feel a little more at home because I had this one rock that I knew, no matter how foreign the area I was exploring felt.
For the last morning of our shoot, I got up a bit before 4 a.m., and after a short drive, I started hiking toward Lago Nero in hopes of reaching it in time for sunrise. The lake is quite a popular destination for day hikes, but at that hour, I had it all to myself.
Three years ago, I visited the Faroe Islands for the very first time, even though I had been wanting to explore the area in the North Atlantic for at least 20 years. Though they’ve grown in popularity recently, many people still haven’t heard about them, or at least wouldn’t know where to put them on a map.
For me, the Faroe Islands are probably the most beautiful, most special, and wildest place on the planet. I’ve since been back five times, including four trips in winter and one in autumn. I’ve taught photo workshops there as well, and I think that I want to continue this tradition and return at least once a year for the rest of my life.
These 18 islands amaze me so much, as there is almost a constant battle raging between sun and rain, ocean and land. The islands are windy, sometimes stormy, and, more often than not, very wet. But without this weather, a visit there would only be half as thrilling.
The first image was taken from a spot where you can really feel the elements on a day of wild weather. From there, you can see a waterfall that sends the sweet waters of Leitisvatn (or Sørvágsvatn; there are two names for the lake, depending on which side you’re talking about) over the edge and into the ocean. If it’s stormy, the water might even shoot up over the ledge. When the seas are rough, you hear — and sometimes feel — the power of the waves crashing into the rocks below. And, as a bonus, you have an amazing view over the steep cliffs of the island of Vagar from here.
The third image is an unusual angle of a very famous waterfall, the one that might just be responsible for the fame of the Faroe: the waterfall at Gasadalur. Most of the time, you see images of this waterfall plunging over a cliff, straight into the sea. And that view is truly epic. But you see it so often nowadays that photographers often miss the other angles. It made me really happy to get a unique shot like this one.
I went to Nepal at the beginning of October 2018 on a “men only” trip with my six-year-old son. My wife and I have traveled with him extensively since he was very young, and I started taking one-on-one trips with him when he was about 18 months old. But this trip was particularly special. I hadn’t been to Nepal before, and he had never spent more time on a trail than simple day-hiking requires. And besides spending a few days in Kathmandu and Bhaktapur, we just trekked in Nepal, spending a whole week carrying everything on our backs and staying in teahouses.
There, we saw incredible mountains like Annapurna South and Machapuchare with our own eyes. The landscape was fascinating, and so were the people. For my son, one of the greatest experiences — which definitely made him the happiest — was seeing yaks in person. We were hiking about 11,500 feet (3,505 meters) above sea level, but he still ran toward them as fast as he could when he heard their bells. He didn’t seem to notice the thin air at all, and you can see that excitement in the first photo.
The second image shows Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, the most beautiful temple I have ever seen. The Stupa is visited by Buddhists from all over Nepal, and even from outside its borders. There is a constant stream of people walking around the Stupa in a clockwise direction, many of them praying and spinning the prayer wheels that surround it. What I found really special was that the 118-foot (36-meter) tall Stupa is surrounded by shops, guesthouses, and restaurants. These buildings are beautiful in their own way, and it’s extremely relaxing to sit on the terrace and drink a tea or have dinner while watching what’s going on below you.
The third image captures my son and me enjoying a little break during our hike. He loves branches and sticks (he was so happy when he got a bamboo hiking stick), but he also loves ropes. So we had to bring his favorite climbing rope all the way from home. And every now and then, I tried to teach him new knots.
Being able to go on this journey with my son meant a lot to me. Traveling with kids is never really easy, but it is rewarding in so many ways. If you have an open mind and are relaxed enough to take the days as they come (and at a pace that fits the individual child), you will travel in a different way and experience things you would have missed before. Children see things left and right of the trail, and with them, locals’ hearts are always open, meaning that you have a nice way to start your conversations.
Interested in meeting a few more talented photographers? Check out our Instagram Spotlight series!