Boat trip in the river Mira

Last month I finally managed to take a trip that had been in my plans for quite some time. I am talking about the boat trip that goes up the river Mira, between Milfontes and Odemira. The river Mira, one of the least polluted in Europe, springs in the serra do Caldeirão in Algarve, and runs its course for about 130 km until it reaches the Atlantic in Milfontes. It is one of the few Portuguese rivers that flows from south to north. Along its course, the waters are captured by the Santa Clara a Velha dam, as I have written in a previous post.

This part of the river between Milfontes and Odemira is around 30 km long, can be navigated by boat, and is part of the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina. During the summer months, two boat tour companies organize such trips, going both ways, up the river, and down the river. I opted to take the option of going up the river, starting in Milfontes. The trip takes about 2,5 hours in total, in a small boat that can carry 6 people.

We met André (from Bture), the skipper, a young and pro-active fellow, a bit before departing time, at 10.30 am. The schedules are dependent on the tides, so going upriver means profiting from the rising tide. After everybody settled, we started our trip with a short detour to see the magnificent view of Milfontes from the river – the highlights are the beaches (the morning was cloudy and somewhat cool, so not many people were around), and the 16th century fort of São Clemente, with its ramparts rising almost from the sand.

We were soon passing below the bridge, that was built in the mid-1970’s, thus facilitating the communication by road between the two margins; at its time, the bridge was a key element of fostering the development of the entire coast. Before that, the closest crossing point was in Odemira proper, 20 km away. Not to mention the locals of Milfontes themselves, that had to cross by boat. Today, crossing by boat is still a fun experience, and Dona Maria has a small boat just to do that. After the bridge, the river keeps winding in quiet and smooth sections, and we cross several fishermen in their boats. It seems a busy morning, but then, this river has abundant fish, like sea bass and corvina. There are also many species of aquatic birds, that André is happy to identify.

The sky is still covered in clouds, but this is not bad, as it makes the trip a bit cooler during this late July morning. The river continues to meander between gentle hills covered with cork oak trees, pine trees, and eucalyptus. Here and there, a few isolated houses can be spotted amongst the greenery, normally associated with small wooden piers. We pass a few abandoned salinas, old tracts of trapped water that in the past would produce salt by evaporation.

The silence and quietness are impressive, and we seem to simply float above the water. The boat’s engine is the only sound we hear, but even then, it is not that loud, because we go at low speed. About halfway along the trip, André suggests opening a bottle of wine, accompanied by some typical cheese from Alentejo: what an excellent idea! As if agreeing with us, the sun finally breaks the cloud cover, and we now seem to glide surrounded by the green and yellow hills, plus the sky reflected in the water. The margins are abundant with reeds, that hide the odd small bird. After another gentle curve, we spot a present-day oyster farm, it was reactivated in the 1980’s and it is still lucrative.

The morning rolls along at a slow rhythm, and the river gets narrower as we approach Odemira. After a final curve, we finally see the village in the distance, with its houses climbing up the hills, painted in the typical white facades with blue and yellow stripes. We dock in the small pier, and it is time to say goodbye to André and our trip companions. There is now some free time to have lunch, and after a couple of hours, a taxi transportation is arranged to carry the participants back to Milfontes. André will wait for the tide to reverse, and will make the trip downriver now, with a new set of passengers. It was a great experience for me, being able to know and see the region from a different perspective.

I took a lot of photos with my small and trusty companion for such occasions, the Fujifilm X100F. I can see a lot of potential to make this trip again, perhaps more dedicated to bird watching, which requires a different photographic kit.

As a final note, I leave you with a few links for your reference.

Boat tours:

https://www.bture.pt/

http://www.riveremotions.pt/

Bird watching:

http://www.avesdeportugal.info/sitestumira.html

Natural Park Alentejo and Vicentina Coast:

http://www2.icnf.pt/portal/ap/p-nat/pnsacv

Milfontes
Milfontes
Milfontes
Milfontes
Milfontes
Milfontes
Milfontes
Milfontes
Where is my signal?
Where is my signal?
Abandoned
Abandoned
Arriving at Odemira
Arriving at Odemira
Location_Mira_River
Location map

Water, land, and sky

 

A day in Constância with the Fujifilm X100F

During the summer months in Portugal, a good alternative to avoid the crowded beaches on the coast is to head out to the interior. In recent years, the popularity of fluvial beaches in the interior of the country has increased, as they offer a nice experience to those that look for the quietness of a rural setting. Far from the busy coastal beaches, it is possible to combine a visit to a historical village with a cool swim to mitigate against the summer heat.

One of such places is the village of Constância, that I have visited recently with my family, simply to spend a nice and quiet day surrounded by nature. This village is in the Central area of Portugal, and sits atop a small peninsula, nested between the rivers Zêzere and Tejo. Constância is rich in historical and cultural heritage – the first Iberian inhabitants have settled here, followed by Romans, Visigoths and Arabs. One of the greatest Portuguese poets, Luís de Camões, author of the Lusiadas, has lived here between 1547 and 1550. In more recent times, the metal bridge over the Zêzere was designed by Gustav Eiffel, of Parisian fame.

The fluvial beach is a nice spot to spend the day, swimming in the clear and fresh waters of the river or resting in its forested green margins. Before leaving, we decided to stroll around the village in the late afternoon. The village has many points of interest, from its pelourinho to several medieval churches and chapels. Consequently, there are many interesting details to notice and photograph, wandering around the narrow streets. It is well worth it to walk up the village until the top of the hill, from where a broad view of the Tejo river opens to the east.

For this day trip I only carried the small Fujifilm X100F camera, the perfect tool for such occasions. It was entirely suitable to take a few obligatory family snaps, plus the required documentary shots. I also quite like the Acros B&W film simulation, which I have applied during RAW conversion. I think it suited the historical feel of the place nicely.

River Zêzere
River Zêzere
Constância
Constância
Constância
Constância
Constância
Constância
Constância - church
Constância – church
Constância
Constância
Constância
Constância
Constância
Constância
Location map
Location map

My experience with Fujifilm X system

I normally do not write (much) about photo equipment, but today I would like to share my experience about transitioning between systems. In order to do that, I need to go back 6 or 7 years, when I started to phase out from the DSLR world into the Mirrorless world. Back then, I had been using Canon EOS (film and digital) for nearly 20 years, so that was a major decision; mirrorless systems were starting to gain traction, and in particular two brands caught my attention: Sony – with the “full – frame in a small size” proposition of the A7, and Fujifilm – with the APSC X camera series and their retro look and ergonomics.

For a while I tried Fujifilm X (X-PRO1, X-E1), just to test the waters, while watching Sony closely. I shoot a lot of landscape and travel, sometimes in very low light and playing with long exposures (think blue and golden hour with neutral density filter). For that, the Fuifilm sensor technology was not yet good enough in terms of noise handling; mind you, I am not too bothered with noise, but back then the results were not fully convincing to me. So, I tried the Sony system, with the A7 and A7II, and used them for 4 years, with very good results. It had what I wanted: excellent quality in a smaller and lighter package, much more trekker – friendly.

However, I always kept an eye on the Fuji X system, and how it was developing. There was something that Fuji did better than the Sony, in my opinion, of course, and that was operational control (dedicated old-fashioned knobs), and the sensible choice of lenses. Shooting often in the dark, or near dark conditions in the field, it is very helpful to be able to set the camera and lens controls from a set of dedicated knobs and dials. Thus, by mid – 2018, I was trying the Fujifilm X system again, and this time around, the sensors were excellent for my type of photography.

Fast forward to today, and I am fully back in Fujiland, with two cameras, X-H1 and X-T2. As for lenses, after more than 20 years, I have learned to be sparse and pragmatic, so I mostly use a Fujinon 16mm F/1.4 and a Fujinon 50-140mm F/2.8. This is my core landscape and hiking kit, that I carry with a travel tripod in a small Lowepro backpack. I use the 16mm lens with the X-T2 off a tripod and reserve the X-H1 for the larger zoom lens; the X-H1 is wonderful to use the bigger Fujinon lenses, thanks to the higher mass, more robust construction, larger grip, and better balance overall. The X-T2 is also a joy to use, lighter and smaller, and hardly weighs down the backpack.

Talking a little about the lenses, I have to say that I am favourably surprised with the 16mm F/1.4 lens. This lens handles, and feels, like a bigger brother to the classic 14mm F/2.8, which used to be my go – to landscape lens. The 14mm lens is a tried and tested superb lens, sharp into the corners, with no discernible barrel distortion. As I shoot a lot of sea and coastal landscapes with the horizon, very low barrel distortion is one of my requirements. There were a couple of nuisances I had with the 14mm lens, namely the loose aperture ring; it was too easy to change it inadvertently. The 16mm lens just feels tighter all around, no loose aperture ring for sure. It also keeps the optical character of the 14mm lens (sharpness, contrast, no barrel distortion), but of course the field of view is not as wide.

In the end, I chose the 16mm F/1.4 lens, despite a slightly narrower angle of view, because those 2 mm of difference were not significant to me, and I got a lens faster by 2 stops. This last factor is important when shooting the night sky and star trails and can open more creative opportunities when shooting wide angle close ups.

I struggled a bit when deciding to go with the 50-140mm F/2.8 zoom lens: it is larger and heavier, so would I be using it that often? After a few months of use in the field, the answer is a resounding “yes”. I used to shoot with a Canon EOS 1V and 70-200 F/2.8 zooms (almost 3kg), and that is something I don’t want to repeat today. Albeit large and heavy in terms of Fujinon lenses, the 50-140mm F/2.8 zoom is perfectly manageable. Fujifilm have a few excellent telephoto primes, like the 56mm F/1.2, 90mm F/2, or the 80mm macro, all very good options for those that prefer primes. To me, the advantage of the zoom is flexibility in focal length when in the field, for landscapes and hiking. And the zoom performs very well from wide open. I also like to shoot close-ups in the field, and the zoom allows me to use my old Canon 500D close up diopter with excellent results.

I wanted to leave to the end the camera that brought me into Fujifilm in the beginning, the X-100 series. I had the original one, today I have the X-100F. This little camera was the reason why so many photographers started noticing Fujifilm around 2010 and 2011. Its upsides (and downsides) are well known, and with each iteration (currently in its 4th one), the concept has been perfected. Today, the X-100F is the camera I carry with me when I don’t want to carry the other gear. The lens is fixed, of course, but it sports a traditional angle of view, and a fast aperture. With the traditional controls and the hybrid viewfinder, it is an instant classic.

As a personal conclusion, I can say that today I am very happy with my Fujifilm system, it delivers all I need in terms of quality, camera ergonomics, and lenses. Currently, when virtually any camera system can deliver the quality most people want, it is very difficult to choose from so many options. To me, Fujifilm offers something different, combining traditional controls and ergonomics with top quality modern image results.

Image from Fujifilm
Image from Fujifilm – X-T2
Image from Fujifilm
Image from Fujifilm – X-H1
Image from Fujifilm
Image from Fujifilm – 50 – 140mm f/2.8
Image from Fujifilm
Image from Fujifilm – 16mm f/1.4
Image from Fujifilm
Image from Fujifilm

The Santa Clara – a – Velha Dam – 50 years old

During the first half of 2019, I have been photographing a lot inside the area of Odemira municipality in Alentejo. This is a region that combines a beautiful coastline and beaches, with more interior plains and hills. Thus, it is often described as a “different Alentejo”. Several reasons have contributed to these photographic endeavours: doing several of the various trekking paths; assembling a portfolio for an exhibit; attending more local events; or simply taking more weekends off. There are many highlights in the region of Odemira, and you can get a very good idea from this institutional video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0ZqjNZ8o7w

One of such highlights is no doubt the Santa Clara – a – Velha dam, located about 50km inland. Simply getting there from the coast is a wonderful drive, best negotiated in a leisurely fashion. This is not a land to be appreciated, and understood, at a social network pace. From the coastal road that stretches south from Milfontes, simply follow the directions to Odemira, Boavista dos Pinheiros, until you reach Sabóia. Along the way, you will pass rolling hills and farm country which, depending on the season, will be covered with fresh green grass and trees, blooming flowers, or golden and dry hay. Dotting this landscape, you will notice the conspicuous cork oak trees, some of them very old and majestic, plus grazing cattle.

Now and then, a road sign will seemingly point to nowhere, but by investigating more carefully, you will often arrive at a small village, with just a few houses. It is a great opportunity to spend some time with the locals and witness old and traditional ways of living. In Sabóia, the train station has a couple of beautiful painted azulejo panels depicting the nearby scenery. We are very close to the transition between Alentejo and Algarve provinces, but such border is smoothed by a succession of increasingly higher mountains to the south, culminating in the second highest peak in continental Portugal, Monchique (900m altitude).

After Sabóia, it is a short drive until the quaint little village of Santa Clara – a – Velha. It is worth visiting the small church, with its traditional blue and white facade, and walk slowly towards the river Mira, which winds its way under large willow trees. This village is the starting point of two circular walking trails, each about 12km long. One of them goes to the east, towards the dam, so it is a good choice when the weather is pleasant. Otherwise, it is another short 3km ride until the dam.

The Santa Clara – a – Velha dam was inaugurated in May 12, 1969, so this year marks its 50th anniversary. It was the largest dam in Portugal until the more recent Alqueva was built. It reaches a depth of 83m, with a total capacity of 485,000,000m3. The lake is a true haven of peacefulness and quiet, and a respite in the hot summer days. The only sounds that disturb the quietness are the ones coming from the wind rustling the trees, and the birds singing. It is amazing how quiet it gets. And dark too, which was one of the reasons I visited recently. Coincident with a new Moon, I shot a star trail over the lake. Having previously scouted the area, I set up my tripod with camera and lens facing north; the plan was to shoot for a total of about 1 hour exposure time, to obtain a nice star trail around Polaris.

Many other photographic subjects of interest are available, from the mountain scenery, to some of the infrastructure of the dam. Sunrise and sunset are particularly good times to photograph, as the light is more interesting. For example, sunrise is quite nice looking to the east, as the light is reflected from the calm water. At sunset, it is worth to relax in the balcony of the local hotel, while admiring the view; in this occasion, the warm day was coming to an end, and the golden light was filtered by the haze, bathing the hills in a surreal atmosphere. Visiting this dam is no doubt an enjoyable experience, as it provides a stark contrast with the coastal region.

Location
Location
Church
Church
Trail
Trail
Mountainscape
Mountainscape
Fluvial beach
Fluvial beach
The lake
The lake
Morning
Morning
View
View
First light
First light
Morning quiet
Morning quiet
Start trail
Start trail

Southwest Alentejo in June – part 3

This is the third and final instalment of a set of posts I wanted to make about my recent vacation in the area of Longueira, Odemira municipality, Alentejo. The first post talked about photographing the river Mira and the countryside near Vale Figueira, and the second post addressed the small fishing harbour of Lapa de Pombas, in the coast.

For this final piece, I want to take you to Milfontes, which is one of the highlights of the region. This is a village that is rich in history, from its colourful 16th century stories of pirates, to more recent “invasions” of peaceful tourists. From the three photographic sessions I wanted to carry out during this time – off, this was the one I had really planned: I wanted to photograph the interesting polygonal coastal rock formations at low tide during sunset. When the conditions are right, the water remains in small tidal pools and reflects the colours and light of the sunset, making for a truly spectacular scenery.

A quick research about tide, sunset, and Moon rise conditions, led me to reserve the evening of 15th June for this objective. There would be an excellent combination of a 70 cm low tide close to sunset at around 9 pm. The Moon would rise near full within that time period, perhaps providing more opportunities. The only thing that was more uncertain was the presence of dramatic clouds to fuel the interest during sunset; the only thing that was persistent during the day were some strong winds and clear skies… hoping for the best and keeping my fingers crossed, I pickled up my backpack and tripod, and made the short 10 km drive between Longueira and Milfontes, arriving about 1 hour before sunset.

I parked near the small lighthouse in the northern bank of the river mouth, which is not a bad location for nice views of the coast to the south, and the village proper, to the east. I spent some time making a few photos with the new Fujinon 16mm f/1.4 lens that I am testing (and that I have used for the photos in the previous two chapters of this essay). Even though this lens is larger and heavier than the 14mm f/2.8 lens (that I have used for years), after a few days of using it I was very comfortable – it basically feels and handles like a grown up version of the 14mm lens (same set of controls) – with the bonus of being more robust (it has Fuji’s Weather Resistant construction and labelling), and 2 stops faster (which can be handy sometimes). One other important change is that the aperture ring is a lot less “free rotating” in the 16mm lens, compared to the other.

Anyway, enough of gear talk… From the vicinity of the car park and after a few photos, I walked down to the beach, where the tide was already very low; I think that the combined effort of near full Moon plus the approaching summer solstice were contributing to such low tide levels. Even better for my plans. Walking along the sandy shallows and the rocks, I managed to reach a good distance away from “land”; this allowed me to make some photos that were completely new to me, which was excellent. In some places, the sand had consolidated into sharp – edged rock formations, so be sure to wear good shoes (summer – type flip – flops will not do!). There were plenty of interesting sand patterns, waves, and the view of Milfontes from this far away to keep me busy for a while.

As the Sun was approaching the horizon, I made my way back and entered the area that I was really interested in, featuring the above mentioned polygonal tidal pools. I took a few test shots to get a feel for the compositions, and finally decided on a location to set up the tripod. I already had a few filters ready in my pockets, as being prepared and ready helps a lot, especially if working over water – you don’t want to drop your precious Lee Big Stopper ND filter on the tide pool, or fumble in your backpack when the light is just great. My greatest fear – lack of an interesting sky – went away, because as the sunset approached, there were long and wispy clouds reflecting the light. This turned out to be a highlight of the session for me, and I was soon shooting frame after frame, as the light changed colour and intensity. I spent more than 1 hour in that place, shooting well after sunset. What a fantastic way to end the day, and I felt blessed to be able to witness this show of Nature.

Milfontes - location
Milfontes – location
Arriving view
Arriving view
It's looking good
It’s looking good
Estuary low tide
Estuary low tide
Sand waves
Sand waves
End of the road
End of the road
Erosion
Erosion
Tide pools - general view
Tide pools – general view
Tide pools
Tide pools
Touching
Touching
Moon bonus
Moon bonus
Colour harmony
Colour harmony
Stripes
Stripes
Exit
Exit
Two banks
Two banks

Southwest Alentejo in June – part 2

This is the second part of a three piece article that was started with the previous post.

A couple of kilometres South of Almograve beach, on the Alentejo coast, one can find the small and secluded fishing harbour of Lapa de Pombas. The harbour and its associated infrastructure provide support to the activities of a handful of fishermen, who brave the nearby ocean in small boats to help make a living. This small harbour is one of such locations that still exist along this coastline, providing a window into the hard-working ways of fishing, typical of days gone by. Other such fishing hamlets can be visited to the North, near Milfontes, and to the South, near Zambujeira.

When I am staying in the region, I often visit Lapa de Pombas, either for a simple relaxing stroll, or for photographic reasons. The place can be reached via a dirt road by car, or even better, by walking; this last option allows the visitor to appreciate the beauty of this rugged coastline, with its succession of small inlets and bays, where the waves crash against the cliffs. Along the way, it is also possible to see the coastal dune system, that has developed over geologic times in the area. Between March and June, patches of wildflowers bloom in the dunes, providing an added colourful backdrop to the scenery.

At the end of the dirt track, going down a small stretch of cobbled road, the harbour waits, with its half-dozen woodsheds, that house the fishermen’s equipment. Close to the water, at the end of a concrete slab, the small boats lie in wait. With their vivid colours, they provide an interesting contrast against the rocky background. After a while, it is clear why the harbour was built here, perfectly protected in this little cove against the rougher weather occasions. From near the water’s edge, the wood houses seem to be part of the landscape, disguised against the brown and green hues of the cliffs.

There are plenty of interesting subjects to photograph in this harbour, from the landscapes and seascapes, to the details of the boats and fishing traps, to the locals getting the boats ready for the next fishing trip, or negotiating the rocks at low tide to venture on foot into the best fishing spots. No wonder I got lost track of time walking around the area and playing around with several compositions. One familiar subject from previous visits was the local cat population, that just lies around leisurely, and are very friendly. They must have a good diet of fresh fish, as they are often the first ones waiting for the fishermen’s return.

On the way back to Almograve, with the approaching sunset. I stopped many times to take some photos of the seascapes, simply enjoying the spirit of the place, and playing with some long exposures, one of my favourite techniques with such subjects. In terms of photo gear, I am always surprised by the current options, particularly from mirrorless systems; they offer a perfect combination of high image quality, light weight, and portability for those like me who prefer to carry lighter weight gear. These photos were taken with the Fuji X system, namely just a couple of cameras (XT-2 and XH-1) and lenses (16 f/1.4 and 50-140 f/2.8). And a small travel tripod, of course.

As a final note for those who visit the area, this short trek is part of the larger Rota Vicentina, a network of trails that span the entire Alentejo and southwest Algarve coastline, totalling around 180 km. More information can be found here:

http://en.rotavicentina.com/

Location
Location

 

General view
General view
Fishing traps
Fishing traps
Low tide
Low tide
Rowing
Rowing
Transfer
Transfer
Fishing
Fishing
Boats
Boats
House cat
House cat
Work - life balance
Work – life balance
From afar
From afar
Sunset
Sunset
Secluded
Secluded
Looking down
Looking down

 

Southwest Alentejo in June – part 1

I recently took a few days off work and spent some time at my house in Longueira, in the Alentejo coast, during the first week of June. I had no firm photographic plans, but of course I packed my small backpack and tripod, just in case. Often I simply enjoy to see what opportunities come up my way, especially in areas that I know so well after many years of strolling around neighbouring beaches and hills. As it turned out, at the end of my short vacation, I realised I had photographed in a few new places (Vale Figueira), and other already known ones (Lapa de Pombas and Milfontes). Also, I managed to make some really interesting photos, approaching familiar locations from a different angle. I am going to split this set of locations into threee different posts, just to make them more manageable and organized. Thus, I will start with Vale Figueira, and how this new location (to me) proved to be worthile.

While driving from Milfontes to Odemira, a couple of kilometres after passing the turn out to Almograve, one sees a sign post indicating Vale Figueira, on the left hand side of the road. Taking the turn off, it is possible to drive until the end of the tarmc, which is replaced by a dirt road. After a while, the road ends, and it is necessary to proceed on foot. The objective here is to reach the river Mira and its left bank, as it snakes its way towards the mouth at Milfontes. Before reaching the river, the track crosses some farm lands, where the golden wheat is gently balanced by the wind, with scattered cork trees. It always amazes me this coexistence between a rural geography so close to the coast; we are maybe 10 km inland, and already immersed in the typical Alentejo countryside.

I keep walking towards the river, while mentaly taking note of some interesting potential photographic subjects, like the larger cork trees, a few farm houses, noticing the shadows getting longer, as the day gets to its close. Approaching Summer, days are of course longer, so I know I can profit from the extra time. Sunset will be around 9 pm. After a curve in the road, the river Mira appears at the bottom of the valley, a indigo blue strip amongst the greenery of the trees and shrubs. From its Eastern bank, a succession of hills rolls up towards the sky; the Moon has already risen and is close to being full. I make a few exploratory photographs, framing the river, the hiils, and sky, evaluating the scenery. I like to photograph this way, at my leisure, absorbing what the Nature offers in terms of sounds, smells, colours, subjects, different elements.

By the time I reach the river, I already have lots of ideas to try, and I get into my natural flow of photographing. It is almost eerily quiet around me, apart from the occasional bird chirp, fish splash, or wind undulating the tall grass. I spent some time photographing near the river, and I return up hill, to photograph what I had enviaged before – the trees and the landscape. I attempt a long exposure of the wheat flowing in the wind, about 30 seconds, works fine. Right at sunset, I happen to spot an old abandoned house, seemingly guarded by a large eucalyptus tree, with the Moon in the sky. My final shot of the day.

Location
Location
Branching
Branching
Layers
Layers
Slow
Slow
Reflections
Reflections
Cork tree
Cork tree
Thorns
Thorns
Golden wind
Golden wind
Old
Old
Hills
Hills
Countryside
Countryside

 

 

Fujifilm X100F – initial impressions

The Fujifilm X100 series of cameras has been a great success since it first came in the market a few years ago. With its retro design and controls, plus the classic 35mm field of view, it looks like a camera from many decades ago. It is no surprise that has won over the hearts of many photographers, including mine. I was a user of the original X100, and over time I have tried their successors for several shots. Given its small size and high capability, the X100 series is a favourite of mine when to comes to always having a camera with me. Or when I wish to travel light, just documenting daily life. I recently had the chance to try the latest incarnation, the X100F, for a weekend.

It also happened that during said weekend I was going to a favourite region of mine, Odemira. I had made plans to attend the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Santa Clara a Velha dam, near the village with the same name. There were several activities planned, and I also wanted to make a small trek in the area, scouting for locations to shoot starscapes in the coming Summer months. I did attend some of the celebratory events, but because the weekend was very hot, I ended up not trekking much. I shot a few frames of the celebrations, including the students of viola campaniça (a traditional local guitar) and Phillipe (a local Belgian painter) teaching how to paint. On the way back I stopped at the village of Santa Clara a Velha for a short stroll. The town’s church is famous for its typical blue and white colours of the Alentejo. Then I ended the day in the town of Odemira, shooting a 16 frame panorama from the top of a hill.

I compensated for a couple of sunset and sunrise photo sessions in Cabo Sardão and Milfontes, two of my favourite spots. With just a small tripod and a set of neutral density filters, the small X100F makes for a perfect light companion to shoot the area. The first session was sunset at Cabo Sardão, a place that I simply love. I go there often during the year, but every time the feeling is different. This time the sea was calm, and there was just a light breeze. So, I simply set up the tripod, placed my 10 stop neutral density filter, and played with exposure times. The X100F’s operational speed is a step above the previous generations, and the little camera just begs to be used. The light of the sunset bathing the cliffs was fantastic. I spend more than 1 hour just experimenting. As I was packing to leave, I noticed a pair of seagulls framed against the colours in the horizon, so I grabbed one last shot.

The next morning, I woke up very early to catch the sunrise on the river Mira estuary, in Milfontes. I parked in the southern margin of the river and walked along the beach looking for interesting compositions. The tide was low, with the gentle waves lapping against the sand. I took a few long exposure photos just to run a few tests. Having just one focal length makes it necessary to try out compositions and work around the subject; a few steps forward or backward can make a big difference. As the sunlight was coming up, the small chapel in the promontory was bathed in golden light, making for a nice subject. Shooting against the rising sun also tested the quality of the lens; I have one shot that I am particularly fond of: a long exposure using the 10 stop ND filter, with the sun rising in the background. In the Spring, the dunes also make for good subjects, with the sand featuring patches of flowers, like the Armeria maritima, also known as sea thrift. At the end of the day, the little X100 series camera just got better, with the latest release, the X100F, being the best one until now. For sure it is a camera that I will keep, for the occasions where I want to travel lighter.

Cliffs, wind, and sea - Cabo Sardão
Cliffs, wind, and sea – Cabo Sardão
Lighthouse at sunset
Cabo Sardão lighthouse at sunset
Guardians of the light
Guardians of the light
Mira estuary - Milfontes
Mira estuary – Milfontes
Long exposure sunrise
Long exposure sunrise – Milfontes
Armeria maritima
Armeria maritima
Silhouette near Odemira
Silhouette near Odemira
Odemira panorama
Odemira panorama
Celebrating 50 years - students of viola campaniça
Celebrating 50 years – students of viola campaniça
Phillipe's live painting lesson
Phillipe’s live painting lesson
Church of Santa Clara a Velha
Church of Santa Clara a Velha

My photo exhibit in Odemira

This new post is all about my new photo exhibit that just opened on May 3rd in the Municipal Library José Saramago, in Odemira. As you may recall, I have been working hard on the preparation steps, involving a selection of 15 photos, and engaging with the Library’s staff to ensure everything went smoothly. I can now say that the opening was a relaxed and fun event, and everything went very well. I am grateful for all the help I got from the staff, plus all the family support.

The theme of the exhibit was about “Landscapes with Memories – Odemira”. I have been visiting this region for more than 40 years, so I have plenty of memories (and photos) that I have been collecting and making along this time. Odemira is home of some of the best beaches in Portugal, which are a haven for those that want to enjoy Nature. The interior of the region, with its rolling hills and farms, offers a nice contrast with the seaside. I am now planning for a more thorough exploration of this interior area, so stay tuned!

Below I am showing all the photos that are part of the exhibit, plus a few from the inauguration. I hope you enjoy them.

20190503_120207 IMG-20190503-WA0016

Almograve Brejo Largo Milfontes Milfontes Milfontes Milfontes Cabo Sardão Cabo Sardão Cabo Sardão Cabo Sardão Cabo Sardão Zambujeira do Mar Santa Clara a Velha Odemira Odemira

Spring has arrived

Spring has finally arrived, bringing with it longer days, more sunshine, and lots of flower covered fields. In my recent weekend visits to Longueira and Almograve, I have kept an eye out for one of my favourite Spring photographic subjects – poppies. This flower can impart a very special character to any area, sprinkling the fields with small red dots. Every year they seem to appear in different parts of the region, with stronger or weaker presence.

Last year, I remember sawing them in a good number quite close to Odemira. This year, the best area I have seen so far is just before Milfontes, where there are many red poppies among the lupine fields. I noticed it whilst driving past; there they were right next to the road. A large tract of land covered with yellow lupine and the conspicuous red splashes of the poppies. I was elated to see this view, because just a mere days before this field was empty of such colour. Such is Spring, whimsical and surprising.

I made a mental note to plan and come back for an early morning shooting session in the next couple of days. I knew that the light at sunrise would be great over this area, bathing the flowers in golden light. I also knew that I would have to return relatively quickly, because poppies are fragile – their petals do not resist stronger winds or showers, which had been abundant recently. It is a good thing that I do not mind (very much) to wake up well before sunrise…

Thus, one morning I packed up my photo backpack plus tripod, and off I went. It is a short drive from my house in Longueira, and I really like the time of day before sunrise – Nature seems to be waking up, and the morning was clear with some clouds over the mountains, from where the Sun would rise. Excellent conditions for photography, with some clouds adding interest to the sky. After arriving, I strolled into the fields looking for nice compositions, making the most of side light and contre jour conditions. I had decided to bring only a couple a lenses in my Fujifilm X system; the 14mm wide angle, and the 50-140mm telephoto zoom. The former would be able to frame the typical wide vistas of the landscape, whereas the latter would allow flexibility and some close-ups. To add a bit more versatility, I had also packed an old Canon 250D close-up lens, to use on the zoom. This significantly increases the magnification (up to around 0.25X), which is nice for semi-macro shooting.

I started shooting before sunrise, when the light was still low, just to experiment and explore the surroundings and subjects. The light became much more interesting when the Sun started to crest the mountains in the East; I started to shoot faster, trying to make the most of it. As I was close to the road, I must have made a strange spectacle to people driving past, lying low on the ground to frame the poppies against the rising Sun! At one point, an old farmer showed up with his dog, and we had a nice conversation, with me trying to explain how interesting his field of flowers was to photograph. As I always do, next time I am back I will give him a print.

After about 1 hour, I was confident that I had managed to capture some interesting photos, so it was time to go back home for breakfast. Looking back at the last year or so, I reflected how lucky I was to be able to photograph this beautiful region throughout the various seasons. Each season brings a different feel and emotion, and Spring is no different. I will be back in about a week, with plans to visit the fields near Santa Clara-a-Velha, more to the interior. I think that more flowers are waiting.

Sunrise
Sunrise
Poppy at sunrise
Poppy at sunrise
Sunrise
Sunrise
The fields
The fields
Towering
Towering
Red and blue
Red and blue
Delicate
Delicate
Red and yellow
Red and yellow
Transparent
Transparent
Close.up
Close.up