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Six dedicated nature photographers founded the VTNÖ (Association for Animal and Nature Photography Austria) in 1988. Nowadays we count about 100 members throughout Austria. To communicate the beauty and uniqueness of nature to interested people is probably the most important objective of the VTNÖ. We further support projects and photo documentations of NGOs dealing with nature conservation.

The VTNÖ publishes an annual photo magazine, "Natur.Fotografie Austria". Its content focuses not only to members of the VTNÖ but also to a broader audience. The magazine is distributed to all members and sponsors of the Association and is sold online ( in substantial quantities. We regularly review club events of the past year and publish all winning images of the yearly photo competition. The magazine further contains several stories about nature photography, travel impressions and workflow related topics. Several companies do support the publication of the magazine with advertisements.

The VTNÖ organizes an annual internal competition for nature photography. All members of the VTNÖ are invited to participate and can send their best images. Photographs are divided into 9 different categories plus an extra category, which theme changes annually. During the last few years, about 40 – 60 members took part in the competition with a total of 500 to 1000 images per year. All images are pre-selected by an online jury and are finally rated during a jury event by six international judges, held in Vienna. The jury selects all category winners, a "Wildlife Photographer of the Year" and the "Image of the Year". The competition is highly endowed by a generous sponsoring of Swarovski Optik since 2009.

Just after the General Assembly, the VTNÖ organizes the public event "Naturfototage of the VTNÖ". During that event, the award winning ceremony of the annual photo competition is held and the best 10 images per category are presented in a slide show. New members are also invited to present their best images in another show. These presentations are followed by a various multimedia shows about travels and photo experiences of our members throughout the world. As a highlight, a multimedia show of an internationally renowned nature photographer is  presented.

Popular events are regional meetings, which are organized twice a year to allow a get together of widely spread club members during the year. Photographers now have the opportunity to enjoy their hobby together and share experiences. The regional meetings are public and are announced in the VTNÖ News.

The News is published in monthly intervals to inform members and interested parties about current events and news of the association. The published VTNÖ News are further available for subscription on the homepage.

The VTNÖ is sustained by its members and is run by six board members. The current board was elected in the fall of 2011 and has worked with great dedication to increase the awareness of VTNÖ nationally and internationally. The VTNÖ is regularly present at various Austrian nature and photo events, such as the Pannonian Bird Experience in Illmitz, the Festival of Nature in Linz and the Photo Adventure in Vienna and Linz. The VTNÖ is proud to be a member of the IFWP and has organized the annual IFWP in Fiss, Tyrol in June 2011.

Our common multimedia show "Cycles", created in early 2010, shows the beauty of Austrian nature from the Pannonian region in the East to the Alps in the West of our country. Cycles and another multimedia show are regularly presented at different locations and events. Currently, the VTNÖ is busy to preparing a book about Austrian´s nature, which is planned to be published in 2014.

Please visit our website for further information about the VTNÖ.


Austrian´s Nature preserves

Austria protects nature in 7 national parks and in 47 nature parks and several nature conservation areas.

The NPs are covering an area of more than 250.000 ha and are widespread from the Pannonian plains to the highest peaks of Austria. The first national park founded was the NP Hohe Tauern in the Austrian Alps in 1981.

Nature parks are focused on protection, recreation, education and on regional development. In general, they cover cultural landscapes and are mainly located in eastern and central areas of Austria.

Here is an overview of Austrian National Parks :


NP Hohe Tauern in Tyrol, Salzburg and Carinthia

This national park is the largest one in Austria and covers much of the central Alpine main ridge of the Eastern Alps in Austria in the Hohe Tauern Mountain range. Vast glacier fields (about 130 km²), glacially-formed valleys with majestic valley heads, massive landslides and alluvial cones, alpine grass and shrub communities are characteristically for the NP Hohe Tauern.

The National Park is home to a third of all plant species occurring in Austria despite extreme conditions with a winter that lasts eight months a year, and very short springs and autumns. An important botanical refuge is the special protection area Gamsgrube under the Fuscherkarkopf. There grows the endemic Rudolph Saxifrage (Saxifraga Rudolphina) and the Edelweiss.


NP Neusiedlersee-Seewinkel in Burgenland and Hungary

The reed belt of Lake Neusiedl and the flat and salty small lakes are an important breeding and resting place for migratory birds. There are saline soils (called Zick in the local dialect) covered by a specially adapted flora. Halophytes as the Salt Cress (Thellungiella salsuginea), the Samphire  (Tecticornia pergranulata) or the autumn flowering Aster (Aster tripolium) are among the characteristic plants.

Approximately 320 species of birds are documented and around 120 birds are breeding in the area. Visitors could observe large numbers of white storks and Greylag geese, as well as Great and LesserWhite-fronted Geese and Bean Geese. Typical are species such as Avocet, Kentish Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Great Bustard, Spoonbill, Pygmy Cormorant and Grey and Purple Herons that nest in the various habitats of the protected area. Of the mammals, the European Ground Squirrel is especially interesting. In addition to numerous and sometimes very rare butterflies, grasshoppers and other insects, over 40 species of dragonflies live in the NP.


NP Donau-Auen in Vienna and Lower Austria

This NP is one of the largest relatively intact primeval forests of central Europe along the River Danube. The area has a length of 38 km and barely measures 4 km at its widest point.

In the reserve there are more than 700 species of higher plants, more than 30 mammals, 100 species of breeding birds, 8 species of reptiles, 13 species of amphibians and 50 species of fish. Some of the characteristic inhabitants of the floodplains are the Danube crested newt, the European Pond-turtle, the Sterlet, the White-tailed Eagle, the Kingfisher and the Beaver. The total number of animal species is estimated to be at least 5000.


NP Kalkalpen in Upper Austria

It was founded in 1997 and comprises Sengsengebirge and Reichraminger Hintergebirge in the Upper Austrian Alps.

The park is home to some 30 species of mammals, 80 species of breeding birds and 1,500 species of butterfly. The flora includes more than 1000 different species of flowering plants, ferns and mosses. The following mammals live in the park: Brown Bear, Lynx, Otter, Dormouse, Beaver and numerous bat species.

The park is a habitat for many species of birds that are on the Red List of protected animals, including Capercaillie, Hobby , Black Grouse, Whinchat, Kingfisher, Herons , Hawks, Grouse, Doves, Serpent Eagle, Black Stork, Golden Eagles, Hawks, Owls, Woodcock, Peregrine Falcon, Dipper, White-backed Woodpecker, Honey Buzzard, Meadow Pipit, Nightjar and Flycatcher. Among the most endangered reptiles in the park are Aesculapian Snakes, Mountain Lizards, Slow-worms, Grass Snakes and Sand Lizards. Of the over 850 documented species of plants in the park 102 are on the Red List of Threatened Plants of Upper Austria.


NP Thayatal in Lower Austria and Czech Republic

The smallest of our National Parks is located in the Lower Austrian Thayatal (Thaya valley), just at the border with the Czech Republic and joins the Czech Národní Park Podyjí. The Thayatal with its steep hillside forests is one of the most beautiful rift valleys in Austria. The highest peak is the Umlaufberg, which lies in a meander in the River Thaya.

This Park is home to half of all plant species occurring in Austria. The reason is that the area is on the border between the harsher and humid climate of the Waldviertel (forest district) and the continental influenced climate of the Weinviertel (Wine district). In the western part and the shady northern slopes, beech forests dominate the vegetation together with Sycamore, Yew and Elm. In the herb layer grow Turk's-cap Lily,  Daphne, Sorrel, Cardamine Bulbifera, and as a speciality the Siberian Melic Grass and the White Helleborine orchid.

Many rare animals live in the Thayatal : Otter, Dice snake, Great Crested Newt and the White-tailed Eagle as winter visitors benefit from the intact river ecosystem. Black Stork, White-backed Woodpecker and Aesculapian Snake live hidden in the natural forests. Also, the dry grasslands and rocky sites are an important habitat for endangered species such as the Eastern Green Lizard, the Smooth Snake, the Eagle-Owl and the common Raven.


NP Gesäuse in Styria

This small national park is characterized by the steep Gesäuseberge with its distinctive rock and gorge-like valley section of the Enns. The altitude ranges from about 500 m to 2369 m (Hochtor).

The habitats of water, forest, pasture and rock are the key elements of the National Park Gesäuse. One can walk from the valley of the "blue" Enns up through the zone of green forests and pastures to the region of alpine meadows. These are dominated by the "grey" ring of towering cliffs of Dachstein Limestone.

The Enns is the backbone of the national park and is home to many endangered plant and animal species. On their shores breed Sandpipers, Dippers and Wagtails. The forests in the NP are characterized by their nativeness and diversity caused by the high relief and the steepness of the terrain. The height difference between the valley of the River Enns and the summits of the Hochtorgruppe is almost 1800 meters. One could find a large number of different forest communities there. In addition to rare species of woodpeckers and owls there are also traces of the wild animals finding their refuge in those inaccessible forest.


NP Nockberge in Carynthia

This park is known as National Park in Austria – however, it is only recognized as a “protected landscape” by the IUCN. Its size is about 180 km2, of which 80 km ² belong to the core zone with peaks and alpine pastures and 100 km2 to the outer zone with vast mountain forests.


Photographing in Austria

Photography is a restricted craft in Austria and one needs to be a “master of photography” by profession to make a living of selling photos. However, there are currently some changes to the law and press photographers are now allowed to work for business clients too. There are some further restrictions dealing with the duration of running a business as press photographer and for offering services to private clients.

This is in contrast to most other countries, where anybody could run a business as photographer.

In reality, these restrictions apply mainly to commercial photography / advertisement, weddings and portrait photography. I´am not aware of any complaints against nature photographers who sold their nature images. But there are (were) a lot of complaints against non-professional photographers trying to succeed in wedding and portrait photography !

In Austria, there are only a few magazines regularly published, which are dedicated to nature. So the marketplace for nature photography is very small here and only a few could make their living with nature images only. Most of the marketplace is engaged by amateurs who are happy to see their work published, even without getting paid. I guess this is not very different in most other countries.?

Nature photography as a whole is covered by the VTNÖ only. However, there is no professional organization for the few nature photographers who work professionally and publish their work regularly. Most of us work on an individual base, with some sharing of ideas and tips. Again, this might be not very different to other countries.


Accessing the wild places

Access to wild places is somewhat restricted, which is typical of an industrialized and relatively populated country. There are various restrictions of access in the different national parks and nature parks.

For instance, access to wild places in the NP Neusiedlersee-Seewinklel is very restricted and photographers could take their pictures from public roads and viewpoints only. There are no hides offered by the management, which is in strong contrast to most of the parks in neighboring Hungary. However, the concentration of birds during spring is immense and a lot of national and international photographers visit that NP regularly and successfully.

The situation in the NP Donauauen is somewhat different, since a main part of the park (the Lobau region) belongs to the city area of Vienna and has been used as recreation area for a long time. Even in the Lobau, there are some remote areas where wild animals could be photographed without special permissions. The management is offering only a few viewpoints and occasions to leave roads and enter the shore of backwaters.

Individual access for photographers to remote places in the NP Hohe Tauern is not that restricted. Photographers share the park with mountain climbers and with the infrastructure built for them. Of course, there are some core zones not open to the public, but access is mainly limited by personal fitness and dedication of photographers to climb high mountains carrying a lot of gear.


Thomas Kästenbauer, VTNÖ