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The Lightyears Photography Tours.

Tours, the making of, and the view behind the scenes

Christian Klepp on a frozen glacier lagoon in Iceland

October 2018: In the ancient fairytale-like Kellerwald forest in Germany

A one-week photo tour took me to the Kellerwald National Park near Kassel in Germany. This park is densely forested with ancient gnarled oaks and beeches. My main goal was to capture this fall-colored forest atmosphere during the early morning fog and to let the soul dangle. Fortunately, I was able to capture two of these landscapes with a fairytale-like atmosphere.

August 2018: In the wilderness of the Corolrado Plateau and the Rockies

During my five-week photographic hunt for magic light and new photographic horizons in the desert Southwest I was striving to capture the monsoon thunderstorm display and the arc of the Milky Way over the nighttime Colorado Plateau. It is pretty much trying to shoot the impossible but it is precisely these challenges that make this dream so intoxicating!

Being back from my photo tour on the Colorado Plateau, I am completely overwhelmed by the incredible amount of breathtaking scenery I was fortunate enough to experience. Chasing the thunderstorms of the monsoon, I stood at the sheer cliffs of the Grand Canyon's North Rim, surrounded by lightning during the vivid color-spectacle of sunrise and sunset while low-level clouds and the intense rain showers swept through the canyon! In the Bisti Wilderness in New Mexico I experienced a thunderstorm, which shortly before its passage kicked up an impressive sandstorm, in which I disappeared for two hours. In the middle of the night I hiked to beautiful Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park to photograph the overwhelming starry sky reflected in the lake. And I met so many great people, including many photographers with whom I teamed up spontaneously, musicians who enjoyed their time in the woods, painters who captured the landscapes, and hikers who explored the beauty of these landscapes and learned how to photograph them. All these encounters have deeply enriched my travel experience and I am very grateful having been able to share some of my most intense moments with them.

Here are some first impressions of my tour and I am looking forward to sharing new photographs with you soon.

My new images cover Rocky Mountain National Park, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Little Wild Horse Canyon, San Rafael Swell, Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce National Park, Grand Canyon North Rim National Park, Colemine Canyon, Monument Valley, Gooseneck State Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, Bisti Wilderness, Ah Shi Sle Pah Wilderness, Black Canyon National Park and Dinosaur National Monument.

Moreover, enjoy a live music gig with an enchanted, randomly gathered audience that I recorded at the campfire out in the woods of Bryce Canyon National Park with talented musician and entertainer Dennis McLelland from Montana. The guy to the very left is me.

January 2017: Karijini Gorges, Western Australia

Shortly after New Year's a two-week trip took me to Australia. In Hobart on Tasmania I worked with my scientific OceanRAIN instrumentation onboard two ships for an Antarctic expedition. The other week I used for a short tour to Western Australia to explore the spectacular ancient gorges of Karijini's banded iron formation.

As for the summer in Karijini, I expected harsh conditions. It turned out, however, that this was a serious understatement. Located in the northwest of Australia, Karijini offers not only some of the oldest rock formations in the world, but also the photographic conditions are difficult, to put it mildly. The enormous heat of the Australian summer is hard to bear. Temperatures reach well over 40°C (110°F) each day without any shade.

The combination with the frequent and intense thunderstorms leads to an unbearably high humidity. These thunderstorms immediately lead to flooding of the offroad trails by turning them into reddish brown rivers. Moreover, they block the access to the beautiful gorges. These flash floods can then occur at any time in these deep and narrow canyons, making the stay in them life-threatening. The advantage of the summer season, however, is that the number of visitors is low and the sky provides fascinating storm clouds, lightning spectacles and light conditions. As expected, one week was far too little time for these gorges and only allowed to preview the terrain. Unbelievable what would be possible in this enchanted region with more time.

A return to this amazing landscape in summer, however, requires a proper and sturdy SUV and a lot of time, to allow access to the gorges between thunderstorms. An enthusiastic travel companion will also help to bear the heat and the flies.

I am more than grateful for the great people I met. Most of them were backpackers travelling in their jeeps. The others were car mechanics who constantly tried to revive my unreliable Nissan Xtrail, and always with great success! They were all charming, warm-hearted and selfless in helping me wherever they could. Without them the few photos of this tour would not have been possible.

Thanks guys!

August 2016: Monsoon thunderstorms in the Colorado Rockies

My three-week photo tour through Colorado in August 2016 was entirely dedicated trying to capture the monsoon storms in the Rocky Mountains during the peak season of the wildflower bloom.

In the week before the start of the tour there were impressive thunderstorm displays every day. However, from the day I started my tour, the weather pattern changed to stable high pressure conditions for the next two weeks and presented me with nothing but blue skies from morning to evening. This gave me a lot of opportunities for self-reflection.

I hiked countless mountain trails in search for unique places with the most beautiful wildflowers and found them on a mountain trail high above Silverton. In the last week the thunderstorm finally came back. Now I was treated for five days with impressive clouds, lightning and awesome light situations! I hiked each morning and evening to this impressive place up in the mountains near Silverton where the wildflowers bloomed profusely and waited for this one thunderstorm at the right time and the right place. I got wet quite often and was surrounded by lightning, but couldn't capture the shot I had in mind.

On the very last day the fifth intense thunderstorm of the day came over the ridge just before sunset. It came from just the right direction. I began to take picture after picture with as long exposure as possible in the hope of that one lightning bolt - and then it came!

Still in complete euphoria about this picture first the rain came over me and then it began to hail. Lightning flashed around and it became dark over it. After the thunderstorm finally pulled through I left my hiding spot between the rocks and began the descent into the valley while the stars came out. Three weeks waiting for this one shot were well worth the effort! Here is a preview of this photo that I call "Oh, be joyful!

January 2016: Nambung, Kalbarri and Shark Bay in Western Australia

After installing scientific equipment on board the Australian research vessel Investigator in Perth and more work in Melbourne I had the opportunity directly after New Year's Eve to tour along the coast of Western Australia for one week for new photos.

I rented a car big enough to live and sleep in for a week and headed north. The way led me to Nambung, Kalbarri and Shark Bay with a strong focus on the starry night sky photography of the southern Milky Way arc with my Astrotrack equipment.

The daytime temperatures were almost unbearable and exceeded 43°C (110°F) each day. However, instead of the usual blue sky I was rewarded with amazing storm clouds, which brought varied photos within the short time of travel. I also did a fantastic photo flight over Shark Bay in a Cessna 182 with a removed door for unobstructed images. Many thanks to the pilot of Shark Bay Air for this great experience!

In Melbourne had the honour to give a one-hour presentation on my photographic work to my colleagues at the Bureau of Meteorology in addition to my science talk.

August 2015: Swiss Alps Tour for the Perseid meteor shower

This one week photo tour in the Swiss Alps was mainly dedicated to the Perseid meteor shower at new moon. I wanted to capture the meteors as a time-lapse animation above the impressive Matterhorn. This week we also visited the famous Aletsch glacier and the Grimsel Pass.

Touring with my close friends Frank Paul and Paul Kucera was great fun. We were almost struck by lightning on the summit of Eggishorn at the Aletsch glacier, experienced many thunderstorms and were rewarded with hundreds of shooting stars during the clear new moon night of the Perseids. I could photograph no less than 42 bright shooting stars, many of which were impressively bright and fell just above the majestic Matterhorn summit.

This photo and this scenery left a deep impression on me and could easily become one of my favorites. It will be published as a photo and a time-lapse video and showing the rotation of the Milky Way with the falling shooting stars over the Matterhorn.

May 2015: Colorado Plateau and Rocky Mountains

Following a scientific visit at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, I had the opportunity to visit the Rocky Mountains in Aspen, Colorado with my friend Paul Kucera. We spent an unforgettable time at the Maroon Bells with an astro shooting in the freshly fallen snow.

For my following week on the Colorado Plateau I decided on the spacious Chrysler Town&Country. The tour through Utah and Arizona was fantastic, because the very unstable weather situation caused thunderstorms every day and created impressive cloud and light conditions. Even snow fell at Grand Canyon. It was just perfect that I could catch storm clouds over Arches, Bryce and Canyonlands almost every day.

The Astro Shooting at the Mesa Arch in Canyonlands will forever remain in my memory. That night the air was so clear that the Milky Way Arc sparkled like millions of diamonds on velvet in the night sky.

November 2014: Cascade Range and Pacific Coastline

Following a scientific conference at the Oregon State University in November, I spent a week on the west coast of the USA. This photo tour took me to the snow-covered Crater Lake volcano and the Pacific coastline of Oregon. The scheduled flight to Portland was a unique experience, as the aircraft circled around snowy Mount St. Helens volcano before descending into Portland.

September and October 2014: Five weeks through the European Alps

A five-week tour through the European Alps took me to the French, Swiss, Italian, Austrian and German mountains. Highlights were the Brianconnais, the Graubünden Alps, the Dolomites as well as the Hohe Tauern National Park and the Bavarian Alps. The tour led me from the glaciated peaks over the colorful autumn forests into the deepest winter.

January 2014: HALO research flights on Iceland

In January 2014 I was the principal investigator of the scientific research flights of the NARVAL North (Next-generation Aircraft Remote-Sensing for Validation Studies) campaign with the HALO (High Altitude and Long Range Research Aircraft) Gulfstream 550 of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Oberpfaffenhofen. For this purpose, the aircraft was based in Keflavik on Iceland and research flights were conducted over the cold season North Atlantic.

During these research flights the camera was always with me. Furthermore, I was able to explore the closer surroundings of the Reykjanes Peninsula.

April 2013: Five weeks New Zealand Southern Island

From 2 April to 7 May 2013, Christian Klepp is photographing for five weeks on New Zealand's South Island in search of new photographic horizons. This tour focuses on the autumn light and the arc of the southern Milky Way over the New Zealand Alps at night. Another focus is on the rugged coastline of Motukiekie Beach with its stunning red starfish.

March 2013: Winter Rocky Mountains

During a two-week scientific visit at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, I had the opportunity to photograph the snowy winter landscape of the Rocky Mountains. I also gave a one-hour LightYears presentation for the NCAR scientists.

October 2011: Swiss Alps in colorful autumn

A one-week alpine tour took me to the Swiss Alps of the Bernina region to photograph the autumn foliage.

August 2011: French and Swiss alps with Mont Blanc and Matterhorn

The two-week Swiss and French alpine tour to the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc is a great success. After a long planning phase and failed attempts, the long-envisioned photo of the Mont Blanc massif mirrored in Lac de Cheserys at night with the Milky Way over the mountains fell into existence.

My thanks go to Frank Paul for the "inspiring cheese" and the fabulous team of the Refuge du Lac Blanc. Without your enthusiastic support this picture would not have come true.

January 2011: Iceland in winter

Two weeks with Örvar Þorgeirsson from Arctic Photo around Iceland.

July 2010: Midsummer Iceland

The midsummer tour to the glacial lagoon Jökulsarlon.

July and August 2009: Canadian Rocky Mountains

This five-week tour focused on the Icefield Parkway between Jasper and Banff and Mount Rainier volcano in Washington.

November 2009 : Leonid shooting stars over Cypress

Cypress tour for shooting star photography of the Leonid meteor shower.

July and August 2008: Northwestern USA

This included the national parks of Olympic, North Cascades, Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, the Columbia River Gorge as well as Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Waterton Glacier.

August 2007: Swiss Alps

October 2006: Great Barrier Reef in Australia

August 2006: Along the Sierra Nevada with California, Nevada and Oregon

March 2006: Total Solar Eclipse in Side near Antalya, Turkey

July 2005: Southwest USA Tour through Arizona and Utah.

February and March 2005: North Atlantic Winter Expedition

Five weeks offshore the Lofotes, Norway, onboard the Irish research vessel "Celtic Explorer".

August 2004: Swiss Alps

November 2003: Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

July 2003: West coast of Norway

October 2002: Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

August 2002: Swiss Alps

February and March 2002: North and South Islands of New Zealand

September 2001: Lanzarote, Canary Islands.

May 2001: Arizona and Utah

December 2000: Austrian Alps

November 1999: Tenerife, Canary Islands for the Leonid shooting stars

August 1998: USA and Canada

Washington, British Columbia, Alberta, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado.

May 1998: Austrian Alps

May 1997: Austrian Alps

March 1997: Comet Hale-Bopp astronomy sessions in Northern Germany

August 1996: Along the North Cascades

Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada

February 1996: Chasing comet Hyakutake in Northern Germany

September 1994: Austrian Alps

February and March 1993: Winter expedition to the North pole

Onboard the German icebreaker "Polarstern"

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