Returning to Huckinger See

One of my favorite places while I lived in Burghausen in Germany was the set of three little forest ponds named Huckinger Seen (“Hucking Lakes”), which lie just across the border in the woods near Tarsdorf in Austria (portfolio & many blog posts with photos). I often went there for a walk with Toni, with or without camera, enjoying the solitude and stillness throughout the seasons. Naturally, when I visited Bavaria again in early October this year, I really wanted to see the place again.

I had these old images in my mind, I was wondering what I would see today by comparison, how I would see the place photographically, and I was hoping to maybe get a chance to re-take one or the other photo that didn’t work that well back then. I went with my friend Irmi on an overcast Monday morning.

The forest dirt road that leads to the lakes was a muddy mess because it had rained over night – and pretty much as soon as we actually reached the first of the three little lakes, it began to rain again, and then continued to do so, on and off. Despite the recent rain though, the water level of the lakes was quite low – I had heard about the relatively dry summer in Germany and Austria this year, and the summer heatwaves they had, so I guess the ground soaked up most of the fresh rain and wasn’t quite saturated. No excess precipitation had begun to refill the lakes yet.

At first I thought that not much had changed, but at the second lake, a lot of trees had disappeared. They must have fallen into the water and were then removed from there, because no snags were left standing, and no logs were on the ground. Some of the scenery as I remembered it simply doesn’t exist anymore. Once more I couldn’t help but think that the momentary desire to hold on to nature’s beauty through my photos only seems to turn into a long-term documentary of loss. (I’m including some older photos that show what is gone now, further below.)

Although the forest canopy provided some shelter, the weather was too poor to extend the walk all the way around the third lake, but just before we concluded the loop around the first and second lake, I came upon this scene. Luckily, it wasn’t raining at that moment, so I got a nice and dreamy reflection of the woods in the water:

I titled the photo “Palinopsia”, afterimage, or more precisely, “the persistent recurrence of a visual image after the stimulus has been removed” (according to Wikipedia). Which is not quite accurate in my case of course, since the persistent recurrence was a mental image for me. But I eventually expressed it visually, in this photo. ;)

The view in the following photo, from 2009, doesn’t exist anymore – the trees that are bending over the shallow pond must have collapsed, and have been removed. I titled this photo “Mourn” back then… and now it’s the loss of these beautiful gnarly trees that we have to mourn.

It’s the same for this scene, also from 2009 – all the tall trees in this photo (at the outlet of the second lake) must have collapsed as well. It’s much more open now, and due to the lower water level, green with low-growing vegetation. It’s more like a clearing in the forest now:

What’s still there is “The Tree that is Falling in Slow Motion” and I had to make a picture of it, of course. As far as I can see when comparing with my old photos, it is almost horizontal above the water now. You can tell by the growth of the newer branches that it has been this way for a long time already:

I left the place a little unimpressed. Not with the place, but with myself I guess. I didn’t see anything new or different, I didn’t have any photographic revelation. I concluded that I have indeed seen this place in its entirety, and maybe I made all the photos that I can make there, the way I see – or perhaps my photographic vision of the three little lakes in the woods is simply exhausted, and out of the familiarity with the place, I can’t break out of my routine. I guess one could say that it was a different kind of photographic revelation.

As I worked to include the new photo into my existing portfolio gallery though, I reviewed both the portfolio, and all past photos from the lakes that I had, to see whether any other images would be worth adding to it – and due to the loss of trees and the changes I had seen, decided to make the gallery far more inclusive, and add a stronger “documentary” element to it, to cover everything that I associate with the place. I will announce the update when it’s ready, in my monthly end notes.

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12 thoughts on “Returning to Huckinger See”

  1. Beautiful images! The Mourn one is particularly stunning! Yes, sad that they do not exist any longer, great that you captured them so beautifully before they were gone.

  2. The loss of those trees… doesn’t make sense to me. I can’t figure out how any natural event could have done that as they are relatively mature and look like they’d stood the test of time. Not knowing what goes on in Germany in regards to land management practices, but I’d certainly know why such a scene would have been modified here in California :( Beautiful images, Alex!

    • Glad that you like the photos, Rick! Forest management is probably weird there too ;-) but as far as I know, this place has always been left pretty much alone. The water level was down by a foot or two though, which seemed more than the normal summer fluctuation that I’ve seen there in the past. I’m not sure what happened.

  3. Jö fein, dass du wieder mal an einen so schönen Ort kommen konntest. Und wow, Mourne ist ja ein beeindruckend tolles Foto!!! Licht so einzufangen, ist schon hohe Kunst!!! Für mich sieht der Tod dieses Baums nach einem natürlichem Ende aus. Google zeigt, dass der Baum 2018 schon sehr nah an der Wasseroberfläche war, so stark neigte er sich da schon. Kann mir vorstellen, dass der Untergrund zu nass war und der Baum zu wenig Möglichkeit hatte, sich festzukrallen. Biber waren es offenbar nicht ;-) Panta rhei. Aber schade, dass sie den alten Herrn weggeräumt haben. Wünsch dir und uns Zusehenden noch viele schöne Ausflüge!

  4. It’s these sorts of stories that I try to keep in mind when I’m out at some location where I see something but feel rushed to head out, thinking I can come back some other day to photograph whatever I’ve seen. Some other day the scene could be completely different. Today might be the last time I can photograph whatever it is I’ve seen. And afterwards the photos we’ve taken are all we have left, besides, of course, our memories. From these photos I can see some of what might have drawn you to the location. Very beautiful, and very peaceful.

    • Thank you, Todd. I know exactly what you mean with the feeling of being rushed to head out. It’s a conscious effort to remind ourselves that we may not see the same scene again, ever. I also try to be more aware of the effort it took to just GET to a certain place – hours traveled, miles hiked, gear hauled… it’s foolish to not make the most of it then!

  5. This is so sad, Alex. When you wrote, ” the momentary desire to hold on to nature’s beauty through my photos only seems to turn into a long-term documentary of loss.” at first I thought, “No!” but then I have to agree that this is a reality. No wonder you cherished this place – the photos are stunningly beautiful. I do think that when we approach situation with expectations we’re bound to be disappointed – I’m sure you know that! It could be that if you returned again at a different time, it would be different, and you would see the place in a totally new way. But as you said, you still learned something. I like that you decided to add to the Huckinger gallery, that sounds like a good idea. And thanks for this interesting post!

    • Thank you, Lynn. Glad you found the post interesting. It may sound sad but as you said – it is reality. We probably live in a time where we see more changes, and are more aware of these changes, due to the impact of our way of life on the planet, but if there’s one constant in nature it is change. Mature trees die just like flowers wilt. Young trees will grow back, fresh flowers will sprout again in spring.


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