Lucerne is said to be one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. I still have a lot of Europe to cover, but its hard to imagine a cleaner, more idyllic, more photogenic city than Lucerne. The place seems designed for postcards, coffeetable books and small 1-inch-by-1-inch decorative chocolate wrappers.
To get my best shots in Lucerne, I made my way to these places:
Capturing Blue Hour
There is a certain moment at dusk when an urban landscape looks its best. The grit fades into the shadows, the sky holds an ethereal cobalt, and the light of the buildings and streetlamps twinkle to life. It doesn’t last long, and in Lucerne I only had one true crack at it: the last night we were there. The previous two evenings I was too exhausted and jetlagged, and because the sun sets so late in Switzerland in June, I ducked in early before blue hour happened.
Fortunately, in the limited window I had, I lucked out and found one of the best vantage points in Lucerne. In the Google Map, I’ve labeled this image Jesuit Church at Blue Hour, and it was taken along the northern shore of the Reuss River.
Elements of Lucerne remind me of Venice — the stately bridges crossing placid water, the waterside restaurants with tourist menus in four languages, loads of drunks shouting into the wee hours (just add a thick cloud of rotting fish to the air and it might complete the vibe). This location, I feel, showed Lucerne at its romantic best.
Here’s another angle I played with while I had a quasi-blue hour. Like much of Europe in summer, dusk seems to last forever. It wasn’t really dark until 10pm or so, and since we were traveling with a 1-year-old, it was hard for all three of us to stay up that late. Still, from about 8:45pm to 9:45pm, there is a dwindled light that is fun to work with. From the Lake Bridge, you have this beautiful angle of both the Chapel Bridge and the Jesuit Church, with white swans in motion.
Working With Perspective
The crown jewel of Lucerne is the wooden Chapel Bridge, or Kapellbrücke, which spans the River Reuss on a diagonal. Dating back to 1333, it is historically important on two accounts: It is the oldest covered wooden bridge in Europe and the world’s oldest surviving truss bridge. It’s long corridor is decorated with paintings depicting the city’s history, though, tragically, many of these were lost in the 1993 fire that devastated much of the bridge (a boat moored to the bridge caught fire and it quickly spread).
Draped with colorful pansies and crowned by a stately brick tower, the Chapel Bridge’s exterior captures all the postcard attention. But I found the interior of the bridge provides more opportunities for creative photography. The bridge’s natural linear perspective, its artistic details, and the opportunity to incorporate the cityscape into the shot, all pose unique challenges.
The locations for the above and below photos are listed on the Google Map as Interior Chapel Bridge Shots and Interior Blue Hour Chapel Bridge, respectively.
The Postcard Shot
On the one sunny day we had in Lucerne, I rose early and so did my daughter, and the two of us cruised around the quiet city for a good 90 minutes. She’s only 1-year-old, and usually patient with me and my happy snapping. The biggest thing in Lucerne that really got her excited were the swans, and this location below — labeled Chapel Bridge and Mt. Pilatus — not only kept her happy and smiling, but it produced one of my favorite shots of the trip. I will post some tilt-shift images from here in a later post.
Beauty in the Details
Later on our trip, we went to Zermatt, where it is easy to get lulled into the habit of placing the Matterhorn in the background of every shot. The Chapel Bridge in Lucerne has a similar effect. It’s kind of like that guy at a wedding who seems to poke his head into every person’s photo and mug for the camera. Truthfully, I’m not sure I got enough variety to my Lucerne shots, but one subject that would have been fun to play with more are the town’s murals.
Colorful, vivid and lively, these painted walls decorate a few of the buildings (mostly restaurants) in the old town quarter of Lucerne. This one (above right, labeled Old Town Murals on the map) seemed to depict the harvest season, hell, and all the reasons why I hate clowns.
And this one (Zunfthaus zu Pfistern) suckered me in because I had never seen a golden pretzel before.
Finally, this fairy-tale like mural lies just across from the Harvest/Hell/Clown Show building. My one struggle in all of this was finding a unique way to frame these paintings. It just felt all too easy to crane my neck up and take a picture like a tourist. Oh well.
And because it’s like that dude at weddings who sneaks into every shot, here’s the Chapel Bridge one more time, from a vantage point labeled Quintessential Chapel Bridge.