In the summer of 2008, a cruise on the Rhine, Main, and Danube rivers from Amsterdam to Budapest was the first of my two Viking River Cruises. While the entire cruise was two weeks of bliss photographing some of Europe’s finest scenery, the 43-mile middle stretch called the “Romantic Rhine” between Germany’s Koblenz and Rudesheim was the photographic highlight. I couldn’t imagine that photographing 26 castles overlooking the river – a UNESCO World Heritage Site — on a perfect sunny day could get any better.
Nevertheless, as a photographer who had subsequently decided to do a pictorial book on “Cruising the World,” I felt a trip back to drive along one side of the Rhine shooting castles, and the cruise ships that glide past them, was practically a necessity.
Traffic on the Rhine moves slowly upstream allowing time to pass a longship and find a suitable location to stop to photograph it. When I spotted a Viking ship heading toward Rheinstein Castle I determined that I could get far enough ahead to possibly shoot it with the castle in the foreground.
Upon arrival I found that the parking lot for the castle is at the bottom of a switchback drive and the exhausting climb up takes at least ten minutes. Another five minutes was needed to find a gap in a fence in order to climb up the steep slope behind the castle. Unfortunately, as it turned out, the time was too short to find a photographable view before the longship reached the castle.
Disappointed that I had missed the photo opportunity, I took some time to venture along a path where I soon discovered a wide gap revealing an excellent scenic view of the river to the right of the castle. It would have made a perfect river cruise photo if a longship was included.
As a photographer I’ve learned that even the best effort often fails. But sometimes, unexpectedly, the photo god (the one only photographers know about) smiles on you. Suddenly, without warning, the Viking longship Baldur appeared emerging from below on the near side of the river. Unknowingly, I had only to wait a few minutes after missing the first Viking ship to get the shot at another, the photo that I had imagined.
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