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Permanent Tourist

A personal website by Mark Howells-Mead

Schloss Laufen and the Rhine Falls

The Rhine forms a large part of the border between Switzerland and Germany. In the north-east of Switzerland, the border is very complex and winds back and forth to enclose specific towns and valleys. The border veers north in the area of Schaffhausen and so the Rhine at this point is entirely in Switzerland. One of the most famous non-alpine landmarks in the country is here: the Rhine Falls (“Rheinfall”), touted as the “biggest waterfall in Europe” (based on water flow rate).

The optimal photographic view point is on the northern side of the river, at the bottom of (pedestrian-access only) Laufengasse, from which the view takes in the rocky upper reaches of the falls. Laufen Castle stands at an oblique angle on a small cliff above the falls, whilst the elevated landscape surrounding the river usually guides the spray away from this view point. The view from the Rheinfall quay, on the opposite side of the river basin, doesn’t offer a good angle of the castle and the falls offer a “flat” perspective when viewed from this alternative spot. Boats visiting the large rock in the middle of the falls do provide some foreground interest, though.

The best time to photograph the scene is using a tripod at blue hour, after the crowds have moved on. Arrive at sunset and set up, then take your photographs in natural light before the floodlights are turned on. A long exposure – here just short of 30 seconds – will make the rushing water nice and smooth. Alternatively, photographers visiting during the day might want to time and compose their shot so as to include the adjacent railway and pedestrian bridge, across which (sadly modern) trains shuttle back and forth fairly frequently. Check timetables for trains passing through the station Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall for precise timings.