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  • Writer's pictureOlivier

Lake Geneva: The Best Spots For Minimalist Photography

Lake Geneva, a natural jewel shared between Switzerland and France, offers an array of breathtaking panoramas and secluded spots that delight photographers. I take you on a journey around the lake to discover the best spots along its shores that are suitable for minimalist expression.


Lake Geneva: The Best Spots For Minimalist Photography

Fine Art Print © O. Robert


After 25 years spent photographing the shores of Lake Geneva, I present here a selection of the 14 best spots from which I have been able to capture those moments of light that only this lake can offer, in all seasons.


Many places that were interesting in the past have unfortunately slowly transformed over the years, to the point of losing their photographic potential. Some new private or public constructions now no longer allow the landscape to be appreciated without disruptive elements. Other objects particularly sought after in long exposures such as jetties, trees, or pillars have simply disappeared over time.


Conversely, some new, welcome constructions have sometimes appeared on the shores of the lake and constitute interesting subjects to photograph. This duality reminds us that these lakeside shores are primarily inhabited and constitute qualitative living spaces. They are part of the scenery and should be considered as such in photography as well.


However, the spots proposed below normally guarantee the perpetuity of the landscapes as they are photographed in illustration.


The quality of your images should be assured as these places have never undergone transformation or alteration over these years. Consequently, you should find them intact and similar to the photographs in this article.

 

Contents of the Article:




 
Lake Geneva: The Best Spots For Minimalist Photography

Fine Art Prints © O. Robert


Brief History of Lake Geneva

Photographing on Private Properties

Before encouraging readers to investigate the shores of Lake Geneva and photograph all the objects that characterize its landscapes, I must warn photographers about certain points and clarify some aspects. Obviously, what follows is not reserved for Lake Geneva. These informations are the conclusions of many years of friendly and amicable discussions with the owners of my region or with my clients.


The Lake Geneva region, both in Switzerland and France, allows private owners to extend their property up to the shore of the lake. However, the lake and its shores are public domain. In theory, owners must therefore leave a passage (called the customs path or "Chemin des douaniers" in French) along the lake to allow hikers to move from property to property while skirting the shores.


This rule is not always respected to the letter even if it is a legal obligation. Most of the time, you will have to cross fence gates that are not open or difficult to open. And if you are allowed to pass, you cannot stop under any circumstances. Therefore, do not think of being able to set up your tripod and stay for long minutes to take some long exposure photos.


Even so, you are very often welcomed by dogs. And given the value of the properties and what they contain, the dogs are not there to have a good time with you.


You will also notice the impressive number of private ports and piers. Often, these constructions are part of the landscape and, even with the best will, you can no longer avoid them in your frames. They are part of the observed scene and must be composed with. The question of the right to photograph these private objects arises quite quickly.


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Photographing Private Objects

I am far from specialized in image rights and I invite readers to do their own research on these issues to avoid any problem in photographing, exhibiting, or selling images that include private objects. On numerous occasions, I have ensured the authorization of the owners before photographing the lakeside landscapes that include their pier, private port, or other. I have never faced any refusal or reluctance whatsoever.


As you will stay on the promenades and public places following my selection, know that all the piers you will encounter are private. With the exception, however, of the huge public embarkation quays available to each city or village, which are of no photographic interest.


Therefore, photographing private piers falls under the right to property, and you should normally have the owner's authorization before photographing. Unless you can demonstrate that your photograph is a landscape photo and that the pier it includes is necessarily part of the observed landscape since you cannot avoid it. However, if the pier becomes the main subject of your image, then you should normally ensure authorization. It is understood right away, this notion depends on the interpretation that a judge will make in case of litigation.


However, the reputation, expertise, and notoriety of the photographer's work are taken into account. Indeed, if you are a specialist in landscape photography of lakes and piers around the world, there is little chance that you will be very bothered by a judge. He should estimate that the potentially litigious photograph is an integral part of an entire work and does not constitute an exception.


If you do not plan to sell your prints including these private objects, you should not encounter any problem and should not necessarily obtain prior authorization. Personally, given the nature of my project on Lake Geneva for 25 years, my books, and my regular exhibitions in the region, I have always preferred to ensure prior authorizations in order to be able to exhibit my work and sell it without any problem.


Here is a personal list of 14 major sites for minimalist photography on the Swiss and French shores of Lake Geneva, starting from Geneva and following the right shore in Switzerland.

 

The Right Shore of Lake Geneva

1. The Lighthouse of the Geneva Bay


Lake Geneva: The Best Spots For Minimalist Photography

Fine Art Print © O. Robert


If you are not yet familiar with the region, you will undoubtedly be tempted to walk along the bay of Geneva and discover the main viewpoints it offers on the lake.


Here, I will mention the lighthouse of the "Bains des Pâquis". Located on the right shore, this white lighthouse with interesting architecture, is an object that stands out from afar.


You can ideally photograph it from the left bank in the "English Garden" or by getting closer to the water jet. Given the urban context of the outskirts of the bay, you will only get quality results during dense fogs, rainy days, or snowfalls.


2. The Platforms of the Nautical Center of Nyon


Lake Geneva: The Best Spots For Minimalist Photography

Fine Art Prints © O. Robert


This center, located below the lake road, has 2 interesting platforms. Like any aquatic and nautical space, it is imperative to go there in winter to avoid the crowd in and out of the water. These 2 platforms are built in concrete and constitute diving boards. In summer they are connected to the shore by wooden jetties. In winter, disconnected from the shore, they stand massively on the water's surface.


A cloudy or rainy weather will be appropriate for photography. You can get there by the lake road from Geneva or by the highway exiting at Nyon. Then head towards the lake and go back towards Geneva. The Center is located at the exit of the City of Nyon. It has a parking lot along the main road.


3. The Harpe Island


Lake Geneva: The Best Spots For Minimalist Photography

Fine Art Prints © O. Robert


Lake Geneva has 4 artificial islands except for the Island of Peilz which is claimed to be natural (see below). 3 of them are visible from public spaces where you can take your time. The 4th island is located a few meters from the shore in front of a private property. It is therefore not possible to photograph it with a tripod without obtaining the owner's authorization and thus being able to stay a few moments on his parcel.


Located in Rolle, the Harpe Island is remarkable for its shape and its proximity to the shore which allows multiple viewpoints while playing with distance. It measures about 100 meters in length by 30 meters in width and is now the property of the Commune of Rolle. The Harpe Island was created in homage to Frédéric-César de La Harpe, a political personality of the Canton of Vaud, in 1841. You can get there by the lake road or by the highway exiting at Rolle.


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It is in winter that you can admire it under its most beautiful day, when the branches of the large trees are perfectly drawn in the misty skies and no private boat is moored in front of it. It is however possible to photograph it in summer and at night as it is lit. But you will have to compose with a quantity of private boats and sailboats all around.


4. The Diving Platform of Saint-Prex


Lake Geneva: The Best Spots For Minimalist Photography

Fine Art Print © O. Robert


Built a few tens of meters from the shore in a swimming area, this original diving-tower is the favorite playground of children and teenagers in summer, and we understand them. Once again, it is in winter that you will have to go there to enjoy absolute clearance.


You can get there by the lake road (which I recommend) or by the highway, exit Rolle, and then head towards Buchillon. You will have to park your car in the vicinity and walk to the shore. There is no immediate parking available. This tower is located at the beach of the Backside Paddle Center of Saint-Prex.


5. The Promenade of Ouchy


Lake Geneva: The Best Spots For Minimalist Photography

Fine Art Prints © O. Robert


If you are eager to photograph piers, you will not regret this step. The Promenade of Ouchy is located, as its name indicates, in Ouchy (Lausanne). You can get there by the lake road crossing Lausanne by the shore and heading towards the Olympic Museum, which you will cross on the way. The Promenade is located at the end of the Quai d'Ouchy.


Park your vehicle wherever you can along the quay because the parking lot located just before the Promenade, at the height of the Haldimand Tower, is small and often saturated. You will then take the Lake Shore Path (public) and discover some piers and viewpoints that will not leave you indifferent. It is possible to photograph these landscapes in summer or other seasons because the clearance on the lake is important.


My equipment: GITZO Mountaineer S3 and S3 head. The ultra-stable and lightweight carbon tripod. The ultimate reference for landscape photography and long exposures. A durable investment for life.

My equipment: GITZO Mountaineer S3 and S3 head. The ultra-stable and lightweight carbon tripod. The ultimate reference for landscape photography and long exposures. A durable investment for life.


This Promenade is located at the widest part of Lake Geneva. Therefore, you are not disturbed by the presence of the built background (French shore). This "Sentier des rives du lac (Lake Shore Path)" is quite long. Plan time because it's a major spot. It connects Ouchy to the neighboring Commune of Pully and presents photographic interest throughout the course.


6. The Diving Platform of Lutry


Lake Geneva: The Best Spots For Minimalist Photography

Fine Art Print © O. Robert


Another summer swimming place, this beach has a diving-platform with an interesting structure. You can get there from the lake road after your stop at the Promenade of Ouchy and continuing your journey towards Paudex and Lutry.


As always, however, you will have to go there in winter or in rainy weather to avoid swimmers and private boats. And if you are lucky enough to go there on a snowy day, the contrasts and lights are then exceptional.


The water level of Lake Geneva is controlled very precisely. Twice a year, this level is deliberately lowered to allow residents to carry out necessary repairs to their private works (ports, walls, piers, etc.). During these periods of low water level, Lake Geneva is not really interesting in photography. However, some places benefit from this drop in level to reveal rocks surfacing. This is the case of this diving platform.


7. The Chillon Castle


Lake Geneva: The Best Spots For Minimalist Photography

Fine Art Print © O. Robert


This magnificent medieval castle is located in the Commune of Veytaux, not far from the city of Montreux. Beyond the interest in visiting it, it is its position on the shore of the lake that interests us. To photograph it, you will have to take the staircase that passes under the railway tracks. You can park your vehicle in the free parking lot on the side of the national road.


The path is a few hundred meters after the entrance of the castle towards Villeneuve. You can get there by the lake road from Lausanne or by the highway exiting at Montreux. The castle can be photographed in all seasons. Its background is totally clear. It is lit in the evening. Read my article on the Chillon Castle.


8. The Peilz Island


Lake Geneva: The Best Spots For Minimalist Photography

Fine Art Print © O. Robert


Located in Villeneuve, the Peilz Island is characterized by its unique plane tree that seems to emerge from the water. It would have been planted in 1851. Of a very small surface, this island is also claimed to be natural by the inhabitants.


Relatively far from the water, you will have to get as close as possible to photograph it correctly. To do so, you can go to the end of the jetty located in the marina just in front of the island. Once again, it is in winter that this island and its tree stand out best.


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The heavy branches of the plane tree descend to the water's surface, which gives a particularly interesting look to this beautiful tree. It is not uncommon to be able to admire this island under frost and snow, given the characteristic conditions of the place. You can get there by the lake road just after the Chillon Castle by continuing your tour or by the highway exiting at Villeneuve and coming back towards Lausanne. It is also possible to walk to this site from the Chillon Castle by taking the pedestrian path along the lake.

 

The Left Shore of Lake Geneva

Continuing your journey from Villeneuve towards Saint-Gingolf, you will cross the border and enter France. You will have to continue to Thonon-les-Bains to go to the next spots below.


9. The Mottay Park


Lake Geneva: The Best Spots For Minimalist Photography

Fine Art Print © O. Robert


Located in the Commune of Publier, this park offers some interesting viewpoints in winter. If you have time, it deserves a stop. But if the weather conditions are not favorable, go your way. You can get there from the main road and follow the indications "Plage municipale d’Amphion-Publier". A free public parking is available.


This park makes for a nice stroll along the lake but will not be the place where you'll take your best shots. Unless you are lucky enough to go there on a snowy day.


10. The Pillars of Thonon-les-Bains


Lake Geneva: The Best Spots For Minimalist Photography

Fine Art Print © O. Robert


To get to this spot, you will have to head towards the center of Thonon-les-Bains following the indications Lac. Once arrived on the quays, you can stop for a moment to walk along the shore as the landscapes on the lake are interesting. The pillars are however located further in the direction of the Thonon Plage Nautical Center ("Centre nautique de Thonon-les-Bains") located at the end of the quays. You will have to park your vehicle a little further up the hill or just after.


Equipment: NISI Filter Kit. High-definition circular ND filters, treated for rain resistance. The reference brand for long exposures. Comes with a carrying bag.

Equipment: NISI Filter Kit. High-definition circular ND filters, treated for rain resistance. The reference brand for long exposures. Comes with a carrying bag.


Then head towards the lake by taking the path that bypasses this Thonon Plage Nautical Center. Continue for a while in the wooded area and you will come across these pillars. As said, the level of Lake Geneva is controlled very precisely. This level is lowered considerably every 4 years to allow repairs of constructions, ports, etc. Although they are a nice subject in every season, it is at this time of low water that the pillars are the most photogenic. Check before you go.


11. The Corzent Park


Lake Geneva: The Best Spots For Minimalist Photography

Fine Art Prints © O. Robert


Located in the Commune of Thonon-les-Bains in the direction of Geneva, you can easily get there from the quays of Thonon-les-Bains by taking the "Boulevard de la Corniche". At the end of this boulevard, you can go down towards Corzent. The park has a free public parking. You will find in particular an interesting terrace once again in winter for the geometry of its balustrades and its pruned trees. Other viewpoints from this park are also interesting.


12. The Beach of Excenevex


Lake Geneva: The Best Spots For Minimalist Photography

Fine Art Print © O. Robert


Continuing your way towards Geneva, you will pass through a fast lane. At the end of this fast lane, you will cross the village of Sciez. Arrived at the large roundabout located at the exit of the village, take a right and continue for 5 minutes. You will then arrive in the next village called Excenevex. At this location, there is the largest public beach on the shores of Lake Geneva.


Very popular in summer and as soon as the weather is nice, the beach has a huge public parking. Few things are interesting at this location but some trees present particular silhouettes as well as a pier structure (in winter) or the complete pier (in summer).


13. The Domain of Rovorée


Lake Geneva: The Best Spots For Minimalist Photography

Fine Art Prints © O. Robert


This domain called "La Châtaignière (Chestnut Grove)" is located in the Commune of Yvoire. It is easily accessible from the lake road that you can take directly after the Commune of Sciez. A free public parking is also available. At this location, you can photograph the fishing port, but also elegant compositions of trees and water. This place is interesting in all seasons. It is however in autumn or winter that the structure of the trees will be the most interesting.


14. The Medieval Village of Yvoire


Lake Geneva: The Best Spots For Minimalist Photography

Fine Art Prints © O. Robert


Perfectly located on the edge of the lake, this village, interesting for itself, offers some attractive viewpoints. However, you will have to move away a bit to enjoy the silhouette of the castle. Yvoire being a must-see if you take the lake road, you will have no difficulty getting there. Several paid parkings are available. In summer, this tourist hotspot welcomes thousands of visitors.


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This selection is obviously not exhaustive. You will certainly find many other spots along the way on which you will want to spend time depending on the weather conditions. Enjoy your visit to the shores of this magnificent lake.

 
 
 

The Final Word

Lake Geneva offers a palette of landscapes of striking beauty that are just waiting to be captured through the lens of photographers. This vast expanse of water, framed by majestic alpine peaks, serves as the backdrop to a natural spectacle in perpetual change, where light and seasons draw living paintings.


By capturing these ephemeral moments, photography invites reflection on the intimate relationship between man and nature, between the gaze that observes and the landscape that reveals itself. The shores of Lake Geneva, with their tranquility and timeless beauty, remind us of the importance of preserving these spaces where silence speaks and where time seems suspended.


The history and geology of Lake Geneva testify to the forces that have shaped our planet, offering a perspective on the smallness of human existence in the face of the immensity of the Earth. This gradual transformation invites reflection on the concept of ephemeral and eternal, where geological time meets the instantaneity captured by photography.


By immortalizing the essence of these unique landscapes, the photographer invites us to an introspective journey, leading us to meditate on the ephemeral beauty of the world around us, teaching us humility and wonder.


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Topaz Photo AI: Get the most out of your photos with artificial intelligence. Increase resolution and reduce noise. Standalone software and Photoshop or Lightroom plugins. Try it for free here.

 
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