I'd seen some incredible photos online of Plitvička Jezera, the national park in the middle of Croatia that features a huge series of lakes, impressive cascading waterfalls, the clearest blue-green water, and a series of boardwalks weaving serpentine across them. If you Google it, you'll immediately see what I mean.
As someone who likes nice hikes with pretty scenery, it was appealing.
As a photographer, it was VERY appealing.
So, on my way up from Split to Zagreb, I booked two nights at Hotel Plitcive, which is a good place to stay if you don't have a car, because you can walk right up to one of the park's entrances. Also, if you buy a one-day pass, the hotel will extend it for however many days you are staying (for free).
The hotel itself is interesting -- it feels like a relic from the 1950s or 60s, with some modern upgrades. It was clean, well-staffed, and had everything I needed, but there were hints of "The Shining" if you found yourself in a hallway or on one of the massive staircases alone.
The park itself is quite large. There are two parts: the upper lakes and the lower lakes, and a system of boardwalks winds through each, with a ferry ride connecting the two.
I entered with high hopes for beautiful photos, but I'll admit to being disappointed. Because the park is in a sort of canyon, the light is very tricky. At least in mid-October. Morning is tough because most things are still in shadow. Same for the afternoon, past 2 or 3 p.m. Mid-day is tough for the same reasons mid-day is always tough for photographs. And to top it all off, the orientation of the lakes and waterfalls is such that the sun is always BEHIND the waterfalls, making for crappy, back-lit photos overall.
One of the main attractions, Veliki Splat ("big falls"), a 100-foot waterfall that you can walk right up to, is never completely out of shadow at any point during the day (again, at least not in October).
As a photographer, I was disappointed. But as a person who likes nature and pretty things, it was still all well worth seeing.
The water is very, VERY clear, and you can find fish everywhere -- swimming to stay put in the current. Some parts of the boardwalk were flooded or becoming flooded, and though it was a bit nerve-racking to walk over those parts, it was also a bit thrilling. The power of falling water is not to be underestimated!
On my last morning in the park, I finally figured out the vantage point the great photos were taken from: the trails at the rim of the canyon, high above the lakes and the boardwalks. I wished I'd found them earlier -- with the changing leaves and shady trails, it would have been nice to spend more time up there. The views of the lakes and falls from above (crappy light or otherwise) would have been icing on the cake.