The coastline between Almograve and Vila Nova de Milfontes is characterized by sand dunes, rocky cliffs, and small secluded beaches. It is a beautiful area, which can be walked easily along one of the sections of the Vicentina Trail. Even though it is a place I have visited and photographed many times before, I never tire of going back. This time around I planned to visit during low tide at sunset, to be able to access some locations where the wonderful geology exposed along the cliff faces can be seen.
After parking the car in Almograve beach, the trail follows the coast to the North. There are many interesting subjects to photograph, be it the vistas over the successive beaches, or the small flower clusters that populate the dunes.
At this late evening hour, there was no one else along the trail, and the sense of tranquility was pervasive. However, with the approaching sunset, I made my way back to photograph the rock outcrops in Foz beach, close to Almograve.
Thanks to the low tide, I was able to reach some locations from which the views towards the rock outcrops are really nice. I am a geologist, so being able to combine my professional interest with my favourite hobby is an added bonus. There are many folds of various types, plus several exposures of fractured rocks, all bearing witness to the tremendous tectonic forces that have shaped the area.
The low tide also exposed the algae covered rocks, and I took the opportunity to photograph some of them. They were a most vivid green colour.
I stayed in the beach until it was dark, simply enjoying the experience of being there. Most of the photos were taken with the Fujifilm X-E4 camera and Fujinon 14mm f/1.4 lens; the wide angle lens is quite appropriate to the near – far compositions that I like to photograph.
As I wrote in my previous post, in early June I have spent a few vacation days in my house in southwest Alentejo coastal region. I took the opportunity to visit several places and make dedicated photo sessions. This essay is about a pre-dawn visit to Vila Nova de Milfontes, where I wanted to photograph along the river Mira southern bank during the low tide.
After arriving, as I started walking along the beach, I noticed that the Moon was providing some light on the still dark landscape. I set up my tripod and started making some photos towards the East, where the pre-dawn light was slowly increasing. Because of the low tide, the wet sand was exposed, showing the small water rivulets and textures. I have also tried some longer exposures using a neutral density filter.
Looking West, towards the sea, there were also interesting subjects, such as the patterns in the sand and the boat pier. The sand was very wet and soft, so I had to push the tripod legs into it, and wait a little bit for the tripod to become stable before shooting.
As the sun was cresting the hills in the East, I wanted to photograph the Furnas beach, so I walked briskly to reach the sea. The tidal small sand dunes were exposed and illuminated by the first rays of sunshine, providing an interesting foreground.
After the full sunrise, the light became less interesting, but a light haze covered the river. As I walked back to the car park, I made a few photos of this hazy atmosphere. It was quite nice to visit the river, enjoying its peacefulness. As for photo gear, most of the photos were made with the Fujifilm X-E4 camera and Fujinon 14mm f/1.4 lens.
The Santa Clara-a-Velha dam, in the municipality of Odemira, is one of my favorite places to visit in the region. In fact, between 2019 and 2021 I have already written 4 essays about it. But I never tire of going back during different times of the year, as every season imparts its own particular character. Thus, just a few days ago I had the chance to spend a weekend in Longueira, and I planned a late evening visit to Santa Clara. The weather was wonderful, and the air was filled with Spring; the fields were turning from green to golden, and here and there covered with flowers.
During my last visit to the dam, last January, I had noticed a few tree trunks coming out of the water near the northern part. The water level has been lower than usual, revealing several submerged trees. In that occasion I was walking one of the local trails, and when I passed through this location I had no time to walk down to the water. So I made a mental note to come back; unfortunately, soon after Portugal entered into a rigorous Covid – 19 lockdown period, and 3 months elapsed before I could go back.
I always enjoy the drive between Longueira and Santa Clara, as the road winds between the gentle rolling hills. I hardly pass by another car, and the surrounding quietness is complete. After arriving, I parked the car and walked along the trail to the northernmost part of the dam, where I had spotted the trees poking out of the water. The sky is a deep blue with wispy white clouds. After a couple of kilometres I need to leave the trail and descend the steep incline towards the water. The terrain is covered with thick shrubs, so I have to struggle to make my way. I make some photos of the many wild flowers.
I walk along the margin for a while to reach the area where the trees are. After scouting the place, I start to make some photos, checking for interesting compositions. Near one of the trees, a boat lies under water.
The silence is only interrupted by the wind, bird song, and bees buzzing around. For this outing I had with me my two Fujifilm cameras and two lenses, one wide (14mm) and one short telephoto (50mm). I continued to photograph, mostly using the wide angle lens; sometimes I used a neutral density filter to smooth out the water, enhancing the quietness of the place. I also ended up converting some photos to black and white, as a way to further convey the stark character of the landscape.
On my way back to the car I ended up stopping at the southern part of the lake to make a few more photos. The light was nice, with the sun starting to go down behind the western hills.
After leaving Santa Clara I made one other stop, near a field where the hay was starting to be rolled up into bales. These days the hay bales are mostly covered by white plastic, but in some fields they are still left uncovered, which makes for more interesting photos. Along the region, one can also see some abandoned farms and the typical cork oak trees.
I noticed that the tall hay was swaying in the wind, almost like waves, so I used the neutral density filter to achieve long exposures of around 20 seconds. This was a trial and error process, as the wind would come in bursts of varying intensity. I had to start the exposure around the same time as the wind would pick up, hoping it would last for a few seconds. In the end, I was quite happy with some of the photos I got.
It was already after sunset when I arrived back home, but I was glad to have returned to such a beautiful area.
Almograve is a small coastal village in Alentejo, that is known by its nice beach. In the summer, it is quite busy, but during the rest of the year it is a quiet place. This is when I prefer to visit, away from the crowds, when it is possible to enjoy the area in the company of Nature alone. During springtime, the coastal sand dunes are full of colour, thanks to the many wildflowers that are in bloom. Due to the recent rain, the landscape and atmosphere looks and feels fresh.
There are several nice and easy walks around this area, but this time I chose the trail between the beaches of Almograve and Foz. This is a short walk, but it takes you along the sand dunes, with the ocean as a constant company. The littoral is characterized by the contrast between the golden and rusty sand dunes and the blue ocean water, with the dark cliffs in between. This coast is well known by its geologic features, notably the numerous folded rocks that are easier to see at low tide. The weather was a mix of sunshine and brooding rain clouds, with numerous heavy showers.
The golden light of the low afternoon sun was illuminating the landscape, enriching it colours. The wind was moving the clouds fast; one minute I was drenched by a shower, the next I was photographing a wonderful rainbow. I also spent some time photographing the many flowers around me, framing them with a little bit of the background to provide some context. The dramatic light was available, and I was making the most of it.
I stayed in the area until sunset, photographing the seascape under the fast changing light conditions. I had with me a wide angle lens and a short telephoto lens, and I used both to frame a bit differently. In the horizon, the dark clouds and heavy rain showers were passing quickly, adding a bit of drama to the scene.
I walked back to the car park near Almograve beach already at night, but I was glad to have visited this location with such interesting weather conditions. No matter how many times I return to this area, I often come back with some new interesting photos. And if not, I always enjoy walking along these dune trails.
After a (second) long period of confinement, from January to April, the Portuguese government has started to ease mobility restrictions a little. As a result, I was able to spend a few days of vacation in my house in Longueira, in the Alentejo coast. As you know, this is one of my favorite regions in Portugal, and I often spend time there with the family, hiking, photographing, or merely resting.
The coastal area between Sines and Sagres is part of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentina Coast Natural Park, as illustrated in the figure below. During this trip I wanted to go back to a few places that I have not visited for several years, namely in the vicinity of the town of Vila do Bispo. This entire coast has many beautiful and wild beaches, some of difficult access, requiring driving through dirt tracks.
The geomorphology of the area is characterized by a high coastal plateau, a remnant of the latest deglaciation period, when the sea level dropped significantly, exposing the very old Paleozoic rock formations to erosion. The result is an almost flat and uplifted terrain, with gentle hills, here and there deeply cut by small rivers that flow towards the Atlantic ocean. There are many hiking trails that belong to the Rota Vicentina network; they are the best way to explore the area in detail, allowing magnificent views over the landscape.
Near Vila do Bispo, the Algarve coast reaches its highest altitude, at 156 m above sea level. Due to the strong and shifty winds, care is recommended when approaching the cliff’s edges. My first stop was at the Cordoama viewpoint, which is reachable by car. From here, looking North, one can see a series of beaches, like Cordoama, Carrapateira, and Arrifana. Looking towards the South, the magnificent beach of Castelejo lies down below.
As I wanted to try some long exposures, I walked a little bit downhill to get some protection from the wind. I then proceeded to set up my tripod as low as possible, and made several photos. The weather was nice, sunny but with some fast moving clouds; these beaches are very popular with surfers, which looked quite small when seen from this vantage point. For this trip I carried my Fujifilm kit, consisting of a couple of cameras and lenses.
One of the consequences of the constant wind is that there are hardly any trees near the shore. The land is covered with shrubs and small plants that are able to resist the climate. The rain quickly escapes towards the deeply cut creeks, leaving the soil dry. This leads to a normally bleak landscape, but during the Spring the hills come alive with myriad wild flowers of various colors. I spent some time photographing this colorful landscape, dotted with yellow, pink, purple, and white patches.
After leaving Cordoama, I drove north and stopped near the villages of Bordeira and Carrapateira. These are only separated by a couple of kilometres, and along the road the fields are covered with flowers, including red poppies, one of my favorites.
In Carrapateira, the beach is large and very sandy, located at the estuary of the small Bordeira river. Again, the (windy) view is wonderful and I spent the rest of the day time photographing, before driving back home to Longueira. There are so many things to see, photograph and experience in this region, that many more days are required to explore it fully. After the confinement, I was just happy to be able to return to the region, even if only for a short visit. This is truly a special place.
I recently had the chance to revisit another favorite place of mine, Pego das Pias, in Odemira. I wrote about it before:
My previous visits were made either in the Summer or during early Autumn, so the Torgal river was mostly dry, with no flowing water. However, this time I visited in early April, after a Winter with abundant rainfall. My expectation was to find the river bed with plenty of water, and I was not disappointed. This small river runs along a narrow valley surrounded by high hills; in the Spring, the vegetation is luxuriant and green, with many cork oak, pine and ash trees, among others. After hiking a few hundred meters along the trail, the only sound comes from bird song and the wind blowing through the trees.
After a while, another sound becomes perceptible, and that is of running water. I head to the river bed, which is surrounded by trees and ferns. Setting up the tripod, I start making some photos, framing the small river and its banks. The weather is overcast, which is good to tame the scene’s contrast. There are also many flowers along the way, covering the schist terrain: rock rose, marigolds, and many others.
I finally arrive at the large pool of Pego das Pias, having found no other person along the way. The sense of isolation and being only surrounded by nature is quite dominant. The large quartzite rock that lies in the middle of the pool casts its reflection in the quiet waters, which makes for a nice photo. The river here becomes trapped between the quartzite rocks, that have been cut by water over millennia.
I walk a bit further upstream, where several rocks have created a few small rapids. The water is fresh and clear, a perfect habitat for the elusive otter, that only comes out at night. I make more photos framing the river, and playing with exposure times to achieve different flowing effects in the water. Before heading back, I simply sit down overlooking the pools and relaxing. This is indeed a wonderful place, and I am glad I could see the transformation brought on by the presence of abundant water and Spring.
In terms of photographic gear, I only carried my two Fujifilm cameras and couple of lenses, one wide angle and one telephoto. Plus the tripod, of course.
After one month under confinement due to the third wave of the pandemic in Portugal, and with probably another month to go, it has been difficult to make any sort of photography. Compounding this, the weather has been bleak, with overcast skies and lots of rain. Still, I periodically check the weather and tide forecasts, for possibilities near my home.
Because I live near the coast on the outskirts of Lisbon, in Carcavelos, there are several beaches within walking distance of my house. A few days ago, I finally had the chance to make a small outing and take some photos during the sunset. The location is about 3 km from home, where one small creek reaches the ocean, with the water dropping off the cliffs. This is the ribeira de Caparide, and due to the recent rain, there was plenty of flowing water.
After finishing work, I simply packed my camera, lens, and tripod, and walked to this location. The weather was finally nice, with wispy clouds. The sea was still rough from a recent depression, with waves crashing against the cliffs. The coastline here has a rocky nature, which results in an interesting scenery. After reaching the place, I walked around a little, looking for possible places to set up the tripod. I tried some long exposures, but I also wanted to photograph the waves as they crashed against the rocks, casting out a good amount of spray.
It was quite good to be simply out of the house doing some photography. It helps me to keep my spirit doing these difficult times. As for gear, these photos were made with the Fujifilm X-S10 and Fujinon 16mm f/1.4 lens.
As I described in my previous essay, I spent the second weekend of January in the village of Longueira, on the Alentejo coast. I had the opportunity to make my first trail of this year in the Santa Clara-a-Velha region, in the interior of Odemira municipality. One of the highlights of this area is the large dam that exists near the village, which was built more than 50 years ago. I wrote about it in a post from 2019:
This particular trail is number 13 in the list of circular paths that belong to the Rota Vicentina. The full details can be found in the respective website:
Whilst revisiting my records, I actually found out that this was the first trail I did in the region, back in February 2018. Since then, I have walked many more of them, but I have a fond memory of this one. Thus, 3 years later, I found myself again in a very cold morning in Santa Clara-a-Velha. After having a hot coffee in the local café to warm up a little bit, I started the walk near the church. With the typical white and strong blue colours of the Alentejo, the church was built in the 16th century. It was open, so I went to inside to admire the religious golden woodwork.
This interior region is already isolated and scarcely populated. The local economy, based on agriculture, cattle, and some tourism, has been severely impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. Hopefully all this will go away soon and people can return to appreciate the tranquility and the beauty of the area. After leaving the church, the path is parallel to the Mira river, following its northern bank. Because of the dam, which is upstream, the water is really quiet. The previous night was very cold, with freezing temperatures; as a consequence, there is heavy frost on the ground, with plants covered in ice crystals. I make some interesting photos along the way.
The first interesting stop is near the medieval Dona Maria bridge. The structure is not complete today, but it is possible to admire two large remaining arches. Again, a nice stop to make some photographs of the scenery. Continuing along the trail, the next few kilometres are a leisurely walk that follows the valley, surrounded by hills and agricultural fields and farms. This is a pleasant walk, enjoying the sunshine to warm up. After a while, we reach the bottom of the dam, a near vertical wall of rock. This is the first steep climb of the trail, but at the top we are rewarded by the magnificent view of the great blue lake. For those that want to spend a few more days exploring the region, there is a nice hotel that overlooks the lake.
I have seen this view many times before, but I am always impressed. Today, the strong blue colour of the sky and the water, surrounded by green vegetation and the earthly yellow and brown, result in a strong palette. From the wall, the path continues along the margin of the lake. There are several nice spots for a swim, should you be here in a warmer season. In fact, I normally come here during the summer. Today, I stop to rest a bit and have a picnic lunch. The wind is picking up, which enhances the cold even more.
The path is well marked and is easy to follow. After a while, there is a sharp turn to the left (west), and we face the second steep climb of the trail, which reaches the top of the hill. From this vantage point, the view is panoramic, over the surrounding mountains. It is possible to see a few isolated farm houses. To the south, the heights of the Serra de Monchique (the second highest mountain in continental Portugal) dominate. This is a part of the trail that I particularly enjoy, due to the rugged landscape. From here, the final leg of the journey is basically all the way down, back to Santa Clara-a-Velha.
Concerning photo gear on this walk, I merely carried the Fujifilm X-S10 (nice small camera indeed), plus the small Fujinon 23mm f/2 lens. I have also used a polarizer filter to help bringing up more detail in the distant hazy landscapes. A few days after this trail, we are now back in lockdown. I wish everyone to keep safe in these difficult times.
As we enter the new year, it is clear that the Covid – 19 crisis is here to stay. Christmas and the New Year have come and gone, and I spent some days off of work at home, with the family. After that I decided to go to Longueira on the second weekend of January. I have a small house in that nice little village on the southwest Alentejo coast; it has been a sort of refuge on these dire times.
As always, I had my photo backpack ready, plus plans to visit nearby beaches and also walk an interior trail. It happened that on a very cold afternoon I went to one of my favourite local beaches, Brejo Largo. Looking at my records, last time I went there was at the end of 2019, more than one year ago.
So it felt appropriate to return and make some photos around sunset time. As I mentioned above, the weather was very cold for Portugal (still is today), with cloudy skies and a stiff northerly wind.
Even though it is possible to reach the beach using a four – wheel drive, I prefer to walk the 4 km between Longueira and Brejo Largo. It is a wonderful walk, crossing firstly cultivated and pasture fields, and secondly the coastal sand dunes covered with twisted pine trees and shrubs. Approaching the coast, one hears the sea before seeing it, as the the sound of the surf gets carried by the wind. After reaching the cliffs, there are two ways to go down, via rough steps excavated on the soft argillaceous rock: one set of steps on the northern end of the beach, and another one more or less in the middle. I chose to descend using the former, because it is also a nice viewpoint to start making some photos.
For this short photo session, I decided to keep things simple, using only one 23mm lens for my Fujifilm camera, complemented by the tripod and Lee Big Stopper filter. I am a big fan of long exposures, especially with such nice waves and clouds. As a bonus, the tide was low, so there were plenty of available rocks to use as interesting foreground subjects. The low tide exposes some interesting geologic features, such as long volcanic dykes that run parallel to the coast. Their lighter colour makes an interesting contrast with the predominant black schist.
I simply walked along the beach photographing the rocks, pools, and the beautiful scenery.
When sunset arrived, the colours were incredible, with red and orange streaks permeating the clouds. This light only lasts for a few minutes, so I was very busy just shooting. The beach has a very flat and nearly horizontal profile, which results in good reflections from the sunset colours on the thin film of water. I walked back home after dark and bracing against the cold, but it was well worth it.
This is part 2 of my latest essay, which is about a visit to the region of Tomar and Dornes in Central Portugal. Part 1 can be found here:
The History of Tomar is a very old one, dating back to pre – Roman times. The city was conquered by the Moors in 716, until re-conquered by King Afonso Henriques in 1147. Such was accomplished with the help of the Knights of the Order of the Temple. As a reward, King Afonso granted the ruling of the region to Gualdim Pais, a Templar knight. It was Gualdim Pais that in 1160 started the building of the famous Convent of Christ, which combines a religious structure with a fortification. It was the role of the Templars to defend the region from the attacks of the Moors coming from the South. With time, the Order grew in stature, and Tomar was chosen as its headquarters.
From Dornes to Tomar is a short drive. Upon approaching the city, it is possible to see the convent on the top of the hill, appreciating its defensive position. It is an important monument, classified as a World Heritage site. Its construction spanned many years, between the centuries XII and XVIII. The complex includes various structures, all of significant historical and heritage importance. The core of the whole complex is the Charola Templaria, a rare example of a circular temple, that was used by the Knights as a praying location, or inner sanctum. It is quite impressive to enter the Charola and admire all the works of art and the symbology that fills the place. The central part of the temple is organized according to an octagonal plan, surrounded by a corridor that has 16 faces. Walking around the room, it is possible to admire the many paintings and sculptures that depict episodes from the life of Jesus.
One other important monument is the Manueline church, built between 1510 and 1513. This church was literally erected against the western facade of the Charola, and features one of the highlights of the visit, the famous Manueline Window. The Manueline architectural style appeared during the age of the Portuguese Discoveries, and its name comes from King Manuel I. The window combines various motifs, from religious to maritime ones; it has been described as a “poem written in stone”.
The window is quite impressive in its artistic expression, and I spend some time photographing some of the details.
There are many more places and structures to visit in the complex, such as several cloisters and the cistern.
The day had started in Dornes, with a very cold and foggy morning near the river Zêzere, plus a nice walk along a trail. Visiting the Convent of Christ was a great way to finish a very full day in the land of the Templars.