Forbidden lake relfection

In the Alps with just a smartphone

My first adventure in the Alps and how to deal with your poor choices in life when you arrive in Heaven with no camera, just your smartphone.

Mostly just a smartphone.

OK, it’s about time I write about my short adventure in the Alps. The Austrian Alps in Tyrol. And how to deal with your poor choices in life when you arrive in Heaven with no camera, just your smartphone.

(Two) three weekends ago I went for a couple of days to Fulpmes, Austria. Fulpmes is a small town in the Stubaital valley. This valley has the Ruetz river flowing through, and several cities like Fulpmes, Mieders or Schonberg spread along. At the end of the valley is the Stubai Glacier, while on the other end is Innsbruck.

My mission in Fulpmes was to attend a two-day intensive training on UAV and terrestrial photogrammetry at RedCatch Gmbh. This training was eye-opening and it actually cleared all my questions regarding the professional workflow in photogrammetry. It actually changed and defined the way I am doing photogrammetry from now on.

Even before I got there I knew it was going to be a special place. All the photos on Fulpmes over the Internet were showing a small town right between huge mountains. I said: I’ll take the camera and everything and try to get some really good photos. This is my chance! 


Not long before the departure, I had to decide on the luggage. To take one carry-on bag or two (only one to the cabin) and another backpack for the laptop and books (comics actually) or just one carry-on and the backpack.

The itinerary was split in three: one flight to Vienna, one hour stop, another flight to Innsbruck and from there a bus to Fulpmes. Two carry-on bags were a little too much. To help myself decide in favor of the more comfortable choice I took a look on Google Streets in Fulpmes to see how well the mountains are actually visible from the town.

Fulpmes city google streets
Snapshot from Google Streets of the mountains surrounding Fulmes

Never trust Google Streets for this kind of choice.

Looking at the photos I said … Nah, the smartphone can do quite well. So there I was knowing I was making a mistake, I left my camera bag at home. I usually take it like every-effing-where even if there’s nothing to shoot, but just in case. And now, when I was going in one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever been …. 🙂 yeah. 

While landing in Innsbruck it was cloudy and I couldn’t see much of the landscape. But when I got off the plane … man. I cursed myself for not bringing the camera. Instinctively I pulled my smartphone from my pocket and I started shooting. The mountains were growing out of the airport’s tracks … It was an incredible sight.

Innsbruck airport
Nothing to see here … Just huge mountains everywhere

From Innsbruck to Fulpmes I killed my smartphone battery with photos and maps. I barely reached the destination with 1% on my smartphone and 0.05% on my body. My office adapted body was destroyed in 10 minutes of hiking uphill in the streets of Fulpmes. Old chaps lively passing by me ahead on the road and me heavily breathing.

At least then I was happy about the lack of luggage.

I accommodated myself at Gastehaus Morandell, where an extremely kind lady was in charge. I totally recommend this place. Not just the best services and breakfast but the view here is the best you can get. Again I spent a lot of time with my phone trying to capture the breathtaking landscape. 

Fulpmes scenic view from Gastehaus Morandell
Scenic view from Gastehaus Morandell in Fulpmes

I tried the newly-found expert options for my phone camera: manual, panoramic, close-up, etc. And the results are not that bad actually. 

All the photos from my smartphone in this post are not edited. At all. I could’ve, but I didn’t …

Enough excuses, let’s see the shots

Fulpmes panorama with smartphone
Fulpmes panorama
Biker uphill in the Alps
Took my time to capture one the many bikers going uphill in the mountains

Next, some macro shots of … flowers. Austrian, alpine flowers.

Finally a DSLR!

In one of the lunch breaks during my training, the guys (awesome guys btw) proposed a short trip to Mieders, somewhere up in the mountains with the gondola lift, to have lunch there. I agreed but kindly asked them to burrow me a camera. Wish granted and there I was prepared with a Nikon D610, a full-frame sensor, and a 24-85mm lens. Hell yeah! 

From the gondola lift, there was not much to photograph because the windows are not quite photo-friendly.  The weather was perfect. Well, too sunny for photography but for what I needed up there it was just right. 

The guys didn’t tell me but I was in for a surprise up there. The view was – to quote photographer/YouTuber Thomas Heaton – “absolutely stunning”.

One way you could see the city Innsbruck between the mountains far away. All other views were “blocked” by huge mountains that were way higher than our altitude. The surprise was actually a small lake. Man-made. Perfect greenish-blue water against the white rocks that allowed beautiful reflections of the surrounding mountains. I was speechless. The guys were watching me actually expecting a kind of reaction. Speechless was my reaction. Jaws dropped. The first thing that came to my head was: I’m gonna pull a Peter McKinnon today. Good thing I don’t have any tripod with me. So good! …

I was so happy to have the D610 with me.

We walked around the lake and some of the surroundings after we had a local dish and drink (kids drink from what I was told). All along I tried to capture as much as I could and of course, my goal was to get a perfect reflection in the lake of the mountains. Unfortunately, without a tripod for long exposures, I had to deal with what I had.

The way back was a two-option: gondola lift again ooooor …. A MONORAIL SLED!

Hell yeah!! (I was mortified).

The way down was … long. But a very great idea. You are not allowed with cameras or action cameras so you have to keep your eyes open to memorize the trip :)). It was awesome. I took my time to enjoy it and ride safely.  Although the kids that were behind me kept saying something with “schnell” for some reason. 

Bottom line …

In conclusion, I have to go back!! NOW! And stay there. For good.

But what I am trying to say is that, yeah, sometimes you won’t have access to your top gear equipment. It can be cumbersome to have all the stuff with you while traveling (extra luggage, extra safety measures). But having a decent or better smartphone can save you a lot of trouble on your trip. Smartphones for 350EUR and higher can take more than decent photos on your trip. Image quality is enhanced by performant AI algorithms. You can also take RAW photos but I doubt it’ll be that easy to post-process them and get the same quality. Trust your phone and focus on great compositions. 

Hans captured me in full glory.

Peace and take full advantage of your creative time! Use all the available tools.

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