Traveling Through Germany and Austria on 35mm and Medium Format Film

Traveling Through Germany and Austria on 35mm and Medium Format Film

A documentary of a 2 week trip with friends discovering art and landscapes in Germany and Austria - all captured on 35mm and 120 film. I carried along my Leica M-A with Summilux 50, Contax T3 and Zeiss Ikoflex Favorit TLR, all loaded up with either Kodak Gold 200, Portra 160, Portra 400 or Portra 800. Areas Covered: Berlin, Munich, Middle Bavaria, Kitzbuhel, halstatt, Innsbruck.
June 15, 2020, 10:21 a.m.

About the Trip Through Austria and Germany

This trip started with an impromptu booking when my friend and I got a notification for a cheap flight to Europe out of Charleston SC. This is a pretty rare occurance, so when it happens, we usually snatch them up pretty quick. My friend and I are both photographers, so our schedules tend to be pretty flexible, especially in the off season for weddings. We called up our other photographer friend and an additional friend on top of that and the trip was booked. We were set to fly into Berlin in early March and stay for 2 weeks, traveling through Germany and the Dolemites of Italy. 

burner first of the roll frame of a mountain in austria through a leica m-a 35mm film camera with kodak film

Unfortunately, the start of our trip coincided with the western spread of Covid-19. A week before our trip, it was announced that Italy was on lockdown at the borders. We decided to still fly into Germany, travel down through Bavaria and into Munich, then head into Austria and do some mountain hiking and snowboarding. We brought along plenty of hand sanitizer as a precaution, along with some clorox wipes for the plane. The virus hadn't quite spread significantly in Germany yet, and we would be spending most of our time in small mountain towns, so we weren't too worried. 

hand sanitizer on kodak film during covid-19 travel to europe

What Cities in Germany and Austria Did We Travel To?

We flew into Berlin and spent 2 full days there visiting art museums and exploring the food scene. We had a rental car, so it was quite easy to get around. After berlin, we drove down through Bavaria and stopped in the Oberpfalz region in search of Zoigl Bier. It's the only place in the world you can get the beer, so for a couple of beer enthusiasts it was a must stop. We then proceeded on to Munich for more museums and potentially some mountain hikes. The weather prevented us from doing some of the hikes we had intended on, but we still got to enjoy Munich's traditionally Bavarian food scene and visit it's museums. We then made our way to Austria where we stopped in Innsbruck for a few days of eating, drinking and hiking. Next was two days of snowboarding in Kitzbuhel that was cut short to one because of our concerns for Covid. It was at this point that travel restrictions were beginning to be announced. We packed up and headed to Halstatt, which was our intended next stop anyway. While in Halstatt, we started to plan our exit back to the states. We initially had planned to spend 2 days in Prague, but we decided to cut the trip short, and I am glad we did. We crossed over the Austria-Germany border just 10 hours before they closed it down. 

germany mountain view with 3 friends traveling in bavaria on kodak portra 160 film shot with leica m-a

Germany Travel Highlights and Favorite Cities

I was so so excited to travel to Germany. I took German for 7 years in school and used to speak the language quite well. It's been a dream of mine to travel there and finally be able to practice my language skills. We flew into Berlin with the plan of experiencing the city's art scene. I enjoyed Berlin. The museums were wonderful, but there was something about the grunginess of the city that I didn't quite like. The highlight of Berlin, for me and my friends, was The Konig Gallerie. The museum was hard to find, and I think my friends thought I was making it up. It is situated, seemingly randomly, in an apartment complex with little signage marking it's existance. Inside, it is pretty minimalist, so you likely won't spend a lot of time there, but I highly recommend spending a solid 30 minutes just sitting in there. The entire building is constructed of conrete and is an acoustic masterpiece. I've never experienced anything like it in my life. It's hard to explain, but you can hear the silence - that's the best way I can explain it. 

favorite german museum the konig gallerie museum in berlin germany on kodak gold 200 film with contax t3

Berlin Museums and Art Culture

We visited several other museums in Germany like The Jewish Museum and the Hamburger Banhof. They were wonderful and are certainly worth a visit. For me, however, Germany was highlighted by the food and beer. We consumed a lot of beer in Germany and it was such a treat to taste all of the local styles of beer, actually in the regions of the world in which they were brewed. 

3 liter beers in a brew hall in germany on kodak gold 200 film with contax t3

NANO KAFFEE BERLIN! One of my favorite coffee shops I have ever been to. The aesthetic is pretty minimal but the coffee is nothing shy of fantastic. It was the second best espresso I have ever had in my life (the first, strangely being in Mallorca). We went to the coffee shop a total of 3 times in 2 days and consumed multiple beverages each time we were there. Their Costa Rican was one of the most complex cups of coffee I have ever had. I brought a bag home with me in my backpack. 

nano kaffee berlin on kodak portra 400 film with leica m-a 35mm camera

The Berlin Wall - It took a while for me to appreciate this one to it's fullest. We traversed the whole standing length of the wall, initially just admiring the amazing street art covering the remains. Eventually, however, the historical significance of it began to set in and you truly appreciate that it was only 70 years ago that this wall separated and divided an entire city / world. 

berlin wall street art on black and white kodak tri x pushed medium format film

Jewish Holocaust Memorial Berlin - This was the most sobering and somber experiene of the trip. I knew of the memorial's existence, but wasn't quite prepared for the emotional impact it has on you. It's an emersive, art experience that truly overwhelms you with it's size and complexity. We spend quite a bit of time just wanedering through it's maze of pillars, constructed in memorium of all the millions of Jews that lost their lives during the holocaust. For me, this is a must visit. It's such an important historical event, and I think everyone should visit for a reminder of just how quickly societies can devlove into genocide. 

berlin germany holocaust memorial on black and white 35mm film

Munich was amazing in it's traditional Bavarian charm

It was certainly more picturesque than Berlin and had more of that Bavarian charm, while still feeling like a very international city. The highlights from Munich were a few museums, one being related to the Holocaust, and all of the traditional Bavarian food and beer halls. The image below was taken in Die Pinakotheken Moderne - Modern Art Museum in Munich Germany. I LOVED this museum. It was a nice mix of moern, contemporary art in the well known sense - like Andy Warhol and such. It also featured a lot of really amazing art pieces constructed out of industrial housewares and furniture that I found to be quite beautiful. 

black and white film portrait of 3 friends in munich industrial modern art museum

The building's architecture was stunning!

die pinakothek museum of modern art in munich germany architecture on black and white film

Me and my Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex Favorit camera on pushed tri x film. 

self portrait on black and white kodak tri x film with zeiss tlr in die pinakothek museum in munich germany

Austria Travel Highlights and Favorite Cities

The highlight of Austria was it's beauty. Every town, even the smallest of towns, was clean and surrounded by mountains. The country is one of the most beautiful I have ever been to. So much of our trip was just spend pulling over for vistas traveling between our major destinations, like this mountainous lanscape, below, where we stopped off and made some sandwiches and had a few beers. 

austria landscape on kodak portra 160 35mm film of mountain shot with leica m-a

Skiing and Snowboarding in Kitzbuhel

We spent a day snowboarding and skiing in the bavarian alps of Kitzbuhel. It was a surprisingly hot 70 degree day, so the weather was far from ideal for skiing, but the snow was still decent and the mountain was beautiful. The resort was the highest rated in Austria and for good reason. The views are amazing an there is a nice variety of slopes, from beginner to advanced. 

oakley ski goggles on snowboarder sitting on mountain in Kitzbuhel austria captured on 35mm film

kitzhubel ski resort on medium format kodak portra 800 film at top of mountain resort

The mountains were so dynamic and seemingly everywhere. This stunning sunrise view was captured in Halstatt. Halstatt was really beautiful, but I think only deserving of a quick stop through, maybe a full day. It is pretty touristy, but the view is so unique that it's a must stop through on your journey. 

halstatt lake view during sunrise on medium format kodak film overlooking lake and mountains

This was another quick pull off the side of the road shot, where the sky was setting so beautifully over one of Austria's mountainous valleys. 

single cloud hovering over austrian valley with pink and blue cotton candy sky on kodak portra 800 medium format film

Innsbruck

Inssbruck was beautiful, even though avalanche blasting kept us from being able to experience the high elevation hike that we had intended to. We found plenty to explore, however, and it's a surprsingly industrious and bustling town with good food and coffee. 

The city was surrounded by mountains

innsbruck river with mountain on kodak portra 160 35mm film shot through leica m-a film camera and summilux 50mm lens

This image was captured at the highest point we could get to during our stay. Shot on Kodak portra 160 35mm film with my Leica m-a and Summilux 50mm F1.4 lens. 

35mm kodak film landscape photograph of mountains in Innsbruck austria

Photography Gear and Equipment Used During my Travels

I traveled with only film cameras and my iphone for a few digital snaps. I travel light...like really light. I only bring a backpack with me and that needs to fit clothes for 2 weeks and all my cameras and film - so portability is a big factor in deciding what cameras to bring. I settled on the following cameras for my trip:


Contax T3 - The Ultimate Travel 35mm Film Camera

My Contax T3 goes with me everywhere - no question. It's too small not to take. I don't use it as my primary camera, as I like a little more control over exposure and composition, but it never fails me. Exposure is always spot on and it fits in my pocket. I typically load it up with consumer film like Kodak Gold 200 for this trip. It's perfect for wider shots with it's 35mm lens and for quick grabs of my friends and I, especially with it's built in flash. 

contax t3 film selfie in mirror on kodak gold 200 film in germany

Leica M-A and Leica Summilux 50mm F1.4 Lens for Travel

This is my favorite camera/lens combination (that and my hasselblad). I shoot it all with this camera. I photograph portraits and take it with me traveling. It's compact, though not very light, and the lens is so sharp that often times I don't even need medium format. I LOVE the colors of 35mm film. It has a classic feel and rendering that I just don't get with medium format, so I tend to shoot more 35mm when I travel. 

wind farm in berlin germany on kodak portra 400 film shot with leica m-a

Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex Favorit and Portra 800 and Tri X Film

I brought along my Zeiss TLR for medium format. It's relatively small and I just love using the camera. Something about viewing the world through a TLR is so classic and enjoyable. I brought along this camera as my 'experimental' camera. I loaded it up, initially, with two rolls of pushed Tri X 120 film for some high contrast black and white film shots, then shot Kodak Portra 800 medium format film the rest of the trip. I love the look of underexposed film, so I rated the film at box speed of 800 iso and tended toward underexposure if I was between meter readings. Portra 800 loves light, so it can look muddy sometimes when rating it at box speed, which is precisely what I wanted. 

underexposed portra 800 medium format film shot in halstatt austria with zeiss tlr

Learn more about Brian D Smith Photography

Destination Portrait, Wedding and Travel Photographer - Brian D Smith Photography

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For More Adventures on Film Check out My Travel Blog

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~~                                                                                      ~~

If you are inspired by what you read, I'd love to invite you to reach out about the photography services I offer. My guarantee is that you won't find a photographer that cares more about you and your story than I. I'm endlessly passionate about travel and telling stories on film. Travel became a priority for me when I left my engineering career to pursue photography and in the few short years that I have been in business, I've been to over 2 dozen countries around the world. I travel only with film, and find the permanence of the medium perfect for capturing life's memories and advanture. I'd be thrilled to work for you and document your story, wedding or adventure anywhere in the world. No destination is off limits. 

If you'd like more info about this post, would just like to chat, or are ready to book, reach out to me by visiting my contact page here!

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