Visions of Heidelberg

by Paul
1 comment
winter is coming heidelberg photography

My favourite shots of Heidelberg, where I took them and the settings I used.

Heidelberg is a well-known tourist destination and the city has been well covered from all the common angles. But I have spent a lot of time around here over the past year and a half and tried to cover the city from a less common perspective. So here’s my take on Heidelberg and surrounds:

Ziegelhausen and the Odenwald


While these images are not specifically in Heidelberg, they’re close enough for me… One of the things I like a lot about Heidelberg is the proximity to the outdoors and what seems like complete wilderness. Heidelberg is surrounded by forests full of walking and mountain biking trails.

autumn road heidelberg drone photography
The Odenwald from above. Just outside of Ziegelhausen this road winds up through the forest and into hills. I only discovered this spot late in the year but it quickly became my favourite place to fly the drone.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro
1/25 sec at f2.8
ISO 100
Looking North West from above the peak of the road between Ziegelhausen and Wilhelmsfeld.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro
1/40 sec at f2.8
ISO 100
winter is coming heidelberg photography
I took this shot from the cycle trail along the Neckar in between Heidelberg and Ziegelhausen. It’s one of the few shots here that I actually envisioned before taking. Possibly one of the few things in my life that I’ve planned in advance… I was looking for the perfect collection of houses amongst the trees, and the perfect reflection.
Canon 5D Mark III (with tripod)
Canon EF 24-105 mm 1:4.0 L IS USM @24mm
30 sec at f11
ISO 100
I didn’t find anywhere with a better contrast between the rich green of summer and the fiery golden Autumn colours.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro
1/15 sec at 2.8mm
IS0 100
Not the most famous hairpin in Germany, but a beauty nonetheless.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro
1/25 sec at f2.8
ISO 100

Note: You’ll realise that basically all my drone shots are shot at ISO 100. If the conditions are calm then I prefer to lower the shutter speed rather than raise the ISO. Of course the P4P is an incredible piece of technology, but I still notice that the slightest increase in ISO can bring noise into the image. Yet the ability of the drone to remain still is incredible – I have printed out an A2 size 3 second exposure and you’d think it was shot at 1/500.
Also, given the perspective of top-down shots, depth of field isn’t really required, so shooting at 2.8 doesn’t present any problems.

Philosophenweg


The most famous walk in Heidelberg. This path runs parallel with the Neckar River – Rather than capture the traditional shot of the city from up above, I like to head a bit further and capture the forest trails. Particularly in autumn when the fog starts to roll in.

The left-hand option from the shot below. You can’t beat this place on a foggy day.
Canon 5D Mark III
Sigma Art 35mm 1.4
1/200 sec at f2.8
ISO 200
The most recent shot in this collection. After taking a shot in autumn – which I loved (see below)- I had to come back and get this same location covered in snow. There’s something about the diverging path, the hut and the angle of those two trees… I’ll make a point of trying to capture this same spot in every season.
Canon 5D Mark III
Canon EF 24-105 mm 1:4.0 L IS USM @24mm
1/125 sec at f4
ISO 1250
– A higher ISO than I usually use, but I don’t like to slow the shutter down much more than I already had – Mine aren’t the steadiest hands out there! One of those situations where I’d love to have the 24-70mm 2.8
High above the fog rolling into the valley where Heidelberg lies. It’s always a nerve-racking experience sending the drone through the clouds and out of sight, but sometimes I know it’ll be worthwhile.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro
1/400 at 2.8
ISO 100
– I purposely underexposed this shot to avoid losing the bright details in the sky, but not so much so that the shadows were unrecoverable.
Deep into the Autumn season I took advantage of the common foggy days to head along the Philosophenweg (Philosophers Way) – A pathway up above the northern side of the Neckar which offers beautiful views of Heidelberg Altstadt. As you walk further east the trail becomes more of a bush walk and you come across beautiful, moody scenes like this.
Canon 5D Mark III
Canon EF 24-105 mm 1:4.0 L IS USM @24mm
1/250 sec at f5.6
ISO 500
Technically not the Philosophenweg, but you can take part of the Philosphenweg to get here. This is Thingstätte, a haunting amphitheatre that was used for Nazi rallies back in the day. It sits right at the top of Heiligenberg on the opposite side of the river from Königstuhl.
Canon 5D Mark III
Canon EF 24-105 mm 1:4.0 L IS USM @24mm
1/60 at f6.3
ISO 640
– Here I wanted to capture some depth from the foreground to the background, hence the 6.3 aperture. Because of that I had to find some balance between the ISO and the shutter speed – I wouldn’t normally slow it down that much, but I was able to steady myself on the stairs to avoid camera shake.

Königstuhl


Evidently I like to go up Königstuhl when it’s snowy, and I generally only go there for drone shots – and usually for sunrise. The reason being that Heidelberg is in a valley and the sun doesn’t show until quite late. So if I get to the top of the highest peak then I can catch the first light better. Also, while the snowfall doesn’t usually stick around for long in town, the extra elevation up here means I’m more likely to catch some wintery looking shots.

Still one of the most incredible sunrises I’ve seen in Germany, and one of my favourite shots from Heidelberg. I still remember the numbness in my hands that whole morning. It was brutal, but worth it.
DJI Phantom 3 Standard
1/10 sec at f2.8
ISO 100
This is the road leading towards the Max Planck Institute at the top of Königstuhl. The sun was just coming up, giving that slightly golden glow, but it was still brutally cold.
Canon 5D Mark III
Canon EF 24-105 mm 1:4.0 L IS USM @24mm
1/80 sec at f4
ISO 200
First light hitting the tip of the trees alongside the road heading towards the village of Gaiberg.
DJI Phantom 3 Standard
1/4 sec at f2.8
ISO 100
The road leading to the summit of Königstuhl.
DJI Phantom 3 Standard
1/6 sec at f2.8
ISO 100

Heidelberg Altstadt


Heidelberg’s Altstadt is famed for its beauty. As a result the town is generally full of tourists and tour groups. Because i dont usually like to get people in my photos – not groups of them at least – I tend to capture the Altstadt from a distance.

My favourite top-down of Heidelberg. I love the colour and haphazard nature of all the roofs.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro
1/10 sec at f6.3
ISO 100
– The 6.3 kind of contradicts my earlier comments about not needing depth of field for top-down shots. Anyway, I’d only recently upgraded to the P4P and I guess I felt like I needed to make the most of the option to adjust aperture. But, like I said, in calm conditions the slower shutter isn’t really a problem with this drone.
It’s a little known fact, to those who aren’t German at least, that Germany actually has incredible summer storms! I took this shot from the middle of the Old Bridge in town, right before I shit myself and hid underneath it.
Canon 5D Mark III (with tripod)
Canon EF 24-105 mm 1:4.0 L IS USM @47mm
20 sec at f14
ISO 50
To have the best chance of capturing a lightning strike I’ve increased the aperture and decreased the ISO to allow for a longer exposure. I found f14 offered the perfect balance between maintaining sharpness and allowing for a slow shutter speed.
1The view from the castle wall at golden hour on a beautiful autumn afternoon.
Canon 5D Mark III
Canon EF 24-105 mm 1:4.0 L IS USM @47mm
1/200 sec at f5
ISO 250
I took this shot on my first ever visit to Heidelberg in November 2016. Taken from the stairs below the front of the castle.
Canon 5D Mark III
Canon EF 24-105 mm 1:4.0 L IS USM @45mm
1/160 sec at f4
ISO 250
The Uni-Square christmas markets from above.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro
1/30 sec at f2.8
ISO 100
I guess this shot could have been taken anywhere, so it doesn’t exactly show off the beauty of Heidelberg. But I had to include it. Heidelberg does get some genuinely incredible sunset colour – especially heading into the Autumn season.
Canon 5D Mark III
Canon EF 24-105 mm 1:4.0 L IS USM @105mm
1/4 sec at f7.1
ISO 50
– This shot took a bit of trial and error, but the idea is to ‘swipe’ the camera from right to left smoothly and while staying as parallel with the horizon as possible. Try it when there’s water to the horizon – it looks incredible!
Last light on the Old Bridge. This is another shot I did actually plan. I wanted to get the shadows from the bridge on the river and to do so I needed a sunset where the sky was clear to the horizon – to avoid any diffusion.
DJI Phantom 3 Standard
1/160 sec at f2.8
ISO 100
Taken on my first drone flight of 2019. It may look warm and inviting, but this is winter at its peak!
DJI Phantom 4 Pro
1/60 sec at f7.1
ISO 100

Heidelberg Castle


While it is the obvious focal point of the city, I still had to include some castle shots. Hopefully, they’re a little different to what you’ve seen before!

Summer sunset from behind the castle. I was happy to allow the highlights to get blown out here because I wanted some of the detail in the shadows of the castle.
Canon 5D Mark III
Canon EF 24-105 mm 1:4.0 L IS USM @47mm
1/160 sec at f6.3
ISO 200
A moody summer sunset. Compare the angle of the sun here with the winter sunset two shots below – the difference is massive!
DJI Phantom 4 Pro
1/30 sec at f3.5
ISO 100
Pink castle, pink sky. I took this shot from the bridge where the Neckar level is regulated to allow for ships to head upstream.
Canon 5D Mark III
Canon EF 24-105 mm 1:4.0 L IS USM  @65mm
1/60 sec at f4
ISO 320
– In hindsight, I should have bumped up the ISO here and used a faster shutter speed, especially with the focal length at 65mm. On close inspection there is a little camera shake involved.
Here you can see the difference in the position of the sun between winter and summer. Also you’ll notice how much cooler the sunset looks in winter.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro
This is a composite of 5 shots ranging from 1/8 – 1/50 sec at f7.1
ISO 100
– I’m not completely sold on the merits of HDR merging but I did like the way this turned out. There’s still a bit of lost detail in the highlights but I actually prefer that, otherwise it looks like a proper HDR shot. That hasn’t been cool for at least a decade now.
This shot was taken during the same flight as the previous shot. There’s nothing spectacular about the light, but I like the minimalism and the fact that the clouds match the colour of the castle.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro
Also a composite of 5 shots ranging from 1/10 – 1/60 sec at f4.5
ISO 100

Leave a comment to let me know what your favourite shot(s) are and if any of the information I’ve provided is helpful!

Some of these photographs are available in my Print Store, but to enquire about purchasing the others as prints of digital reproduction please send me an email!

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1 comment

Jamie Aislabie January 14, 2019 - 12:02 am

Hi Paul. We were in Heidelberg at the end August 2017 was our first stop after leaving Budapest lovely City. Awesome Photos
Regards Jamie Janice

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