A storm is coming

After a very dry winter, finally we are having some rain in Portugal in April. Still not enough to mitigate the drought, but rain nevertheless. During one of my recent walks in the Alentejo coast, between Cabo Sardão and Zambujeira-do-Mar, I ended up photographing some seascapes during the sunset. The afternoon had been very windy, with heavy clouds accumulating in the distance. As the day was ending, the light kept changing very quickly, and the first showers could be seen in the distance.

I mounted my camera on the tripod, and made several photos using the lenses I had with me: the older and trusty Fujinon 14mm wide-angle and the more recent Fujinon 70-300mm zoom. The former was used to frame the coastal cliffs against the sea and dramatic sky, whereas the latter was used to photograph the distant ominous clouds near the horizon.

Natural elements.
Ominous sky.
Into the sea and sky.

The clouds were covering the sun, but as sunset approached, a thin sliver of clear sky appeared, illuminated by warm colors. This made a very nice contrast with the darker bands of sea and sky that were framing it.

Approaching storm.
Blue and orange.
Light from above.

Watching this show was a wonderful experience, and I was glad I had decided to visit the area; bad weather often makes for good light and interesting photos. My final frame was of the Cabo Sardão lighthouse as its light was turned on.

Lighthouse.

The white storks are back to the Southwest

The southwest coast of Portugal is home to a unique species of storks, which are one of the icons of the region. I first wrote about them almost two years ago, in a small essay that can be found in the link below.

The arrival of Spring brings with it the return of these birds to their nests set atop the numerous sea stacks along the coastal cliffs. One of the best areas to observe this species is the stretch of littoral between the villages of Cavaleiro and Zambujeira-do-Mar. I walked this trail a couple of weeks ago, and was able to photograph the white storks in their nests. I used the Fujifilm X-T3 camera and Fujinon 70-300mm zoom.

Two years ago the maximum focal length I had was 200mm, which was a bit limited. So, this time I wanted a little more reach, and the 70-300mm zoom (which was released in the interim) proved to be quite adequate. Of course, the Fujifilm 100-400mm zoom would have been even better, at the cost of extra weight and bulk, not to mention expense. I found the 70-300mm lens to be easy to handhold, and the image stabilization was also very useful. I was in the field for a few hours in the late afternoon, shooting until sunset in various places.

The wind was very strong, which required extra care when approaching the edge of the cliffs. The strong wind also demanded that, when using 300mm, I often had to lie on the ground to improve stability and avoid camera shake, which was a higher risk when the lens barrel was fully extended.

I also made several seascape photos of the area, which is beautiful in itself. In the set below, there are several frames taken with the Fujifilm 14mm f/2.8 lens, a high quality wide – angle lens that I have owned for several years. The geology along the cliffs makes for spectacular shapes and rock textures.

Folded rocks and small bay.
Coastal view.
White storks’ nests.
Tectonic forces.
Delicate bouquet.
White stork.
Rock textures.
Scenic view of coastal region.
White stork in its nest.
Coastal scenery.
Upstairs, downstairs.
White stork.
Coastal cliffs at sunset.
Curved shapes.
Hanging block.
Sea stacks.
Sea stacks.
Sea, rocks, and mountains.
Cove.
Coastal nests.
Earth, sea, and sky.

On the trail in route 7 of Rota Vicentina, near Odemira

This circular route is one of my favorites in the Rota Vicentina, and I have written about it several times before (see link below as an example).

A few days ago I spent some time in the region, and I took the opportunity to walk this trail again. Revisiting familiar places is always a challenge when it comes fresh ideas for photos, but I have tried to do so. I decided this time to walk the route in the afternoon, as my previous walks had been in the morning. As such, I was hoping to benefit from some late afternoon light over the local rural landscape. One other difference was that I am currently testing a new lens, the Fujinon 70-300mm. This lens allowed me to isolate some elements in the landscape, such as old houses and the large cork oak trees that are typical of the area. With me, I also had the 14mm wide-angle lens, which was useful to frame the large trees and the hilly landscape.

The weather was nice, already with a touch of Spring in the air. Rain has been very scarce this Winter, but some recent rainfall revitalized the crops that local farmers had cultivated. This turned the hilly landscape into patches of browns and greens. For me, one of the highlights of this trail are the very large cork oak trees that dominate the landscape. Also the view from the Nossa Senhora das Neves chapel, at the top of the hill, is always a must.

Map of route 7 of the Rota Vicentina.

The first half of the walk crosses rural farmlands, with crops of wheat, large cork oak trees, and some abandoned old farm houses. Some plants are in bloom, adding color to the landscape. The sense of tranquility and isolation is strong.

Monte da Estrada village, at the beginning of the trail.
Framed house.
Rockrose flower.
Old farm house.
Heather in bloom. Source of delicious honey.
Pink flowers.

After a few kilometers, the Nossa Senhora das Neves chapel, located in the top of a high hill, becomes visible from the valley below. Soon, the path starts to climb steeply, but the view from the top is well worth the effort. Next to a curve, a farmer drives by in a tractor. It was the only person I have crossed with during my walk.

The small chapel at the top.
Along the way.
Nossa Senhora das Neves belvedere. A good place to rest and enjoy the view.
Hilly landscape, with the chapel in the distance.

I put the 70-300mm lens to good use, zooming in into some distant elements. It is also good for some close-ups o flowers along the way.

Looking down.
White flowers.

The rest of the walk continues to cross farmland, and I photograph a few more houses and interesting trees along the way. The sunset light imparts a different character to the landscape, precisely what I had hoped for.

Spring crops.
Twisted bark.

Just before arriving back at Monte da Estrada, there is a nice cultivated area with scattered cork oak trees, and I spent some time photographing it. I try different compositions, such as isolating the trees in the landscape, or moving up close to better show the characteristic rough and twisted tree trunks.

Rural landscape at the end of the day.
Cork oak tree.
Down to earth.
Cork oak tree in silhouette.
End of the trail.
Lone cork oak tree.
Old house.

I had walked this trail last October, when the fields were all brown and dry. A few months later, it was nice to go back and see the change, with the landscape covered in large part by the green of the cultivated fields. I am sure I will go back to this route in the future, every time it offers something different.

The small fishing harbor of Entrada da Barca, Alentejo coast.

Along the southwest coast of Alentejo, in Portugal, there are several small fishing harbors that are still used today by local fishermen. The livelihood of this region is still based on two main activities: farming and fishing. These harbors provide shelter for the small boats that venture in the coastal areas when the weather conditions permit. On a recent sunny afternoon I visited the Entrada da Barca harbor, which is located close to the town of Zambujeira do Mar.

This is a very picturesque location, with nice views from the top of the cliffs. After making a few photos, I walked all the way down to the water, exploring the little bay. There were a few boats in the water, plus other ones on the concrete landing. I had with me a new lens, the Fujinon 70-300mm f/4 – f/5.6 zoom, which I wanted to try out. My preference when photographing in the area is for wide – angle and standard lenses, but a telephoto zoom is also very useful to photograph details and subjects that are far away. After this initial tryout, my conclusion is that the lens is very good and will be a valuable addition to my kit.

General overview of the fishing harbor of Entrada da Barca.
Fishing boat.

I walked along the concrete pier that was built to protect the harbor from the sea. Once you reach the end of it, you can appreciate the transition between the sheltered area and the open water. I admire the fishermen that regularly go out into the ocean in these tiny boats.

Getting ready.
Going out.

After a while I left the harbor and walked along the coastal path, which climbs the northern face of the small bay. This path belongs to the Rota Vicentina trail section that connects the towns of Zambujeira do Mar and Almograve, about 20 km away. The weather was clear and sunset time was approaching, bathing the coastal cliffs with a golden light. It is interesting to see the succession of small coves formed by the erosion of the rocks.

Looking south towards Zambujeira do Mar.

Walking along the trail, I chose a few spots that provided views over the coast, set up the tripod, and took a few more photos. The silence was only disturbed by the seagulls and the waves below. I use the telephoto zoom to photograph the distant bird nests, and also some of the cliffs, to highlight the layered nature of the rocks.

Seagulls.
Seagull.
Coastal cliffs.
Looking north along the coastal trail.
The harbor at sunset.

At the end of the day, enjoying the sunset, I was happy with this small walk in the area, where there are so many interesting aspects to explore. If you want, you can even stay longer and have a nice dinner in the typical restaurants near the harbor, where you can taste the fresh fish that was probably captured in the waters below.

The Fujifilm X-Pro3 – a (re)statement

It is very rare for me to write in any detail about photographic gear, for several reasons. The main ones being that in recent years, cameras and lenses are so good, and the choice is so much, that there are plenty of options for everybody who enjoys photography as a hobby. For the last 3 years, I have been using the Fujifilm X system, because it provides many right things that I find important for my photography. My first experience with the system happened around 2013, so it is not new to me.

The X-Pro series has always been a very special statement from Fujifilm, with its unique “old school rangefinder appeal” design: optical viewfinder in the corner (which is hybrid, meaning it can be used as an electronic one also), several buttons and dials for direct control, and robust construction, just to name a few. The camera was a success, and two more versions have followed, the most recent one being the X-Pro3. At the core, they all remain similar in their design as a tactile camera that is a pleasure to use. Coupled with some of the available small prime lenses, such as the 16mm f/2.8, 23mm f/2, 35mm f/2, and 50mm f/2, it is a camera that just begs to be used.

Classy camera (photos from https://www.dpreview.com/reviews/fujifilm-x-pro3-review).

I have been using the camera for a while, mainly around my neighborhood, given the ongoing Covid-19 confinement in Portugal. Sill, I live near Carcavelos beach, which provides excellent opportunities for interesting photos. Thus, the other day I picked up the camera with the 50mm f/2 lens, plus the tripod, and went to the beach. The weather was good, late afternoon with some sun and clouds. As usual, there were many surfers and some people simply enjoying a seaside stroll.

Cross.
The fort of Carcavelos.
Black and white version. Acros Red film simulation.

I used the tripod for most of the photos, because that is a habit of mine. It helps me to concentrate on the composition. The other aspect of the camera that I like is the way the screen operates; when not in use, it is hidden from view, and it may seem that is even missing. The screen is there, but it needs to be tilted down to be used, and that is the only option available. For the way I shoot, this is brilliant: when shooting handheld I do not need to see the screen, and when using the tripod, I merely fold the screen down. When the main screen is closed, Fujifilm added another extra classy detail, in the shape of a small screen that can mimic the slot where in film cameras people would place the little square with the film type reminder.

Walking near the sea, with the camera on the tripod, I simply kept shooting when I saw an interesting scene. Even with the (small) tripod near me, the camera and lens did not caught any attention from other people. I already had that experience when using the X100 (another retro design camera); people think I am using an older film camera. The focal length I had with me, 50mm, works out nicely to keep some distance between my and my subject, but not too much.

Carcavelos beach.
Strolling.
Surf time.
Surfers.
Waiting.
Beach and sky.

In the next few days, and with the rumors that the confinement rules will start to be lifted, I intend to use the camera a bit more. But so far, my opinion is that the camera continues to marry a brilliant design with a lot of technology, resulting in a mature camera that is quintessential Fuji. A design that (re)states its commitment to photography and photographers.

Fujifilm X100V – my experience

I don´t write about photographic gear very often in my blog, since I prefer to showcase my photos and associated experiences. It is my opinion that current cameras and lenses across several formats are more than capable to deliver excellent images. It is up to the photographer to go out, find inspiration, and produce memorable photos. As those who read my blog know, in the past 4 months or so I have been trying out the Fujifilm X100V, using it in the type of occasion where I prefer to carry only one simple but high-quality camera.

Such instances have included walking several trail paths in the Rota Vicentina in southwest Portugal; simple landscape photo sessions; and general vacation photography. My previous impressions can be found in the following links:

The Fujifilm X100V is the fifth version of an iconic camera line that first saw the light of day in 2010. So this year marks an important milestone for the little camera. In fact, one could argue that the success of the original X100 was the first significant step in the launch of Fujifilm’s X-mount system one year later. I have used several of the X100 cameras throughout the years, and the “V” still carries all of the original charm, marrying it with the modern technology and know-how of the company. There are not many camera lines that are able to maintain such strong personality traits after 10 years – this is almost an eternity in the digital age.

In order to round off this series of articles about my experiences with this camera, I have used it again recently to make some landscape photos on two occasions. Both during a weekend that I spent in the Alentejo coast, near Almograve. I merely used the camera and a tripod, can not get any simpler than that really.

On the first outing I went to the area near Cabo Sardão lighthouse, to photograph during the sunset time. The weather was cloudy, with menacing and broody skies. This made for some nice photos of the sea, cliffs, and lighthouse. For some of them I used the built-in neutral density filter; 4 stops is very useful to achieve long exposures.

Stormy sunset
Cliffs at sunset
Precipice
Approaching storm
Menacing clouds

As you can see, the weather was looking dire, but I kept shooting, as the clouds and the light were changing every minute. The interplay between the sea and the sky provided interesting compositions.

Moving on
Lights on
Cloudscape
Water world

The second outing occurred the following morning, in the small village of Longueira. Again, I simply grabbed the camera and the tripod and went out of the house before sunrise. Trying to find different and still interesting subjects after photographing a place for so many years is a challenge. However, every sunrise (or sunset) is different, and places change with the seasons. In the Autumn, often there are clouds in the sky that are illuminated by low angle sunlight, displaying warm colours. The fields are ploughed and freshly vibrant from the morning dew.

Coloured wedge
Rising sun over football field
First light
The tree
Fields of green

In conclusion, the X100V is, for me, the best version so far of this line of cameras from Fujifilm. Small, easy to operate, great lens and sensor, robust, and delivers high image quality. The final photo illustrates that in the confined world we live in today, it is still possible to imagine.

Confined

Dawn in Almograve with the Fujifilm X100V

You can tell from my recent posts that I have been using this camera a lot. From occasional and general type of shooting to trekking, this camera is a powerful photographic tool. Today, I want to share another experience, this time using the camera for landscape photography in the southwest coast of Alentejo, Portugal. More precisely, during dawn in Almograve beach.

My wife thinks I am crazy, but I like to wake up before dawn to catch the best light on the landscape. Or, in this instance, the seascape. This time, I simply grabbed my tripod and X100V and went off to the nearby beach of Almograve. Arriving in the dark, I set up the camera and tripod and started experimenting with long exposures. I often use a Lee Big Stopper ND filter, but this time I wanted to try the in-camera 4 stop ND filter and see what type of images I would get. The previous version of the camera had a 3 stop ND filter; 1 stop more ends up making a significant difference for this application of long exposure photography.

Below are some examples of the long exposures I was able to shoot, some of them up to 4 minutes long.

Dawn in Almograve beach.
Rock.
Passage.
Moon and rocks at dawn, Almograve.

As you can see, the soft light of pre-dawn was wonderful, with changing pink and purple hues in the sky. The longer exposures also imparted the sea with an ethereal quality.

Rock and Moon.

In closing, I can say that the images look great, and the new 4 stop in-camera ND filter opens up a lot of possibilities for long exposure photography.

On the trail with the Fujifilm X100V

As promised, what follows is a brief write-up of my experience using this camera on one of the Rota Vicentina trails. This is a network of many walking trails that exists in southwest Portugal, with a total of around 750km. The one I am writing about today is one I have previously done in December 2019 (details in the link below).

https://blog.paulobizarro.com/?m=201912

My wife and I enjoyed this trek so much last year, that this year we decided to do it again. With the Covid-19 pandemic still ongoing, we take any opportunity we can to go out and enjoy Nature in this region. So this year, in the beginning of October, we went again for this hike, which provides some great views from the top of the hills, plus some wonderful contact with local farmlands and old ways of rural life.

The weather was wonderful, with plenty of sunshine and puffy white clouds. This time, I only took the little Fuji X100V, tucked away in a small shoulder bag, with a spare battery and polarizer filter. Last year I went with more gear (2 cameras and 2 lenses), so this time around I wanted to see what different types of photos I would come back with. With a 23mm lens on APSC format, the X100V is an excellent camera for occasional shooting, be it landscapes, reportage, or documenting.

This trek is notorious for the very old cork oak trees that can be found along the way. I had some fun time playing around with various compositions and using the polarizer to enhance colours, sky, and clouds. I also tried a few black and white versions from the Raw files.

Old farm house and cork oak tree.
Cork oak tree.
Cork oak tree.
Cork oak tree in black and white.

The well know Arbutus trees are starting to bear fruits which, when ripe, are delicious. They are important for the local economy, as a source for the famous spirited medronho aguardente.

Arbutus tree on the trail.

About half way along the trek, the road climbs towards the top of a hill, where the tiny chapel of Nossa Senhora das Neves can be found. This is a wonderful place to have some rest and enjoy the 360 degrees scenic views.

Panorama view from atop the mountain. Near Our Lady of Snow chapel.
Chapel in the distance.

It is also a very good spot to have a picnic lunch. After this, the rest of the trail winds up and down the hills, before descending to the valley. I ended up using the polarizer a lot and liked the results.

Distant view.
Crossing ways.
Man and cork oak tree along the trail.
Fields.
Door and cloud.

I was quite happy with the images I made, and again confirmed that the X100V is a powerful little companion for such occasions. I will keep using it a lot on the trail.

Sunset walk with the Fujifilm X100V

I recently wrote about the latest iteration of the X100 series of cameras in the article below.

I have been using the camera whenever the opportunity arises, in short walks, or even on long trails. One of these recent short walks in the beach near my house, Carcavelos. Since June I have been working under a mixed regime, one week in the office, one week at home. Thanks SARS-COV-2… anyway, one of these afternoons, after work, I went for a sunset stroll on the beach. The little Fuji X100V is a perfect companion for such occasions, so I took it along.

The weather forecast included some rain showers and clouds, courtesy of storm Alex, so things were looking promising in terms of potential photographic interest. Looking through the window, there were indeed some clouds, but also occasional sunshine. Upon arriving at the beach, the weather was great, with golden light that with time turned to the typical post-sunset blue hour. I simply walked along the surf, making some photos here and there.

Golden beach.
The loner.
Sand, sea, and sky.

There were several surf schools operating at the time, and they always signal their position with flags. One of the attractions of the X100V is the fast f/2.0 lens, so I tried a close shot of one flag with the lens wide open, so the background would melt away. It’s nice to have these options in a small camera. This camera is small but quite responsive, so this type of unplanned photography on the go is easy to do. The fact that the X100V looks like some old film camera also helps in being unobstrusive when among people.

Surf school.

I stayed in the beach until after sunset, as the sky started to show magnificent colours. I did not have a tripod with me, so I had to raise the ISO more than I am used to, but even so, the quality of the RAW files was quite good. At the end of the day, it was an enjoyable and relaxing walk, and I was able to make some interesting photos with this nice Fujifilm camera.

Gone for the day.
Trio.

Next time I will write about my experience with it when hiking on a trail along the Vicentina route in southwest Portugal.

A morning walk with the Fujinon XF 90mm f/2 lens

When considering the subject of “landscape lenses”, normally the consensus converges towards lenses with a wide angle of view, that is, below the typical 50mm standard lens. Of course, such lenses are very useful for providing “depth” (foreground to background relationship) and including the grand vistas often associated with landscape photography.

But many interesting landscape photos can be made with normal and telephoto lenses. The latter can provide a very different photo, by isolating or drawing the attention of the viewer to a particular detail in the scene. This article provides some examples that I made during a short early morning walk in Carcavelos beach, near my house. It is a location I visit many times, which poses the challenge of trying to obtain different photos from the ones I took before.

I used the Fujinon XF 90mm f/2 lens, which is labeled as a portrait lens. On this occasion, I wanted to see what type of photos I could make on the beach, looking around for interesting subjects. There is a large fort on the eastern end of the beach, and normally there are many surfers that arrive very early. So I simply mounted the lens on the camera, grabbed the tripod, and went out.

The first shots I took were simply playing around with the shape of the lens’ aperture: rounded wide open, polygonal stopped down.

Dream
Dream – 2

As expected, there were already many surfers in the water, plus some others doing their warm up. I made a few shots of them, using long exposures to capture the ambiance.

Warm up

The next photos show the fort in the distance, and the pontoon up close. The tighter angle of view from the lens provides a different result from using a wider angle lens.

The light
Into the blue

I had a great time simply walking along the beach, enjoying the pre-dawn light, the changing colours, and the breaking waves.

Apparition
Vigilant
Wave
Wave – 2
Wave – 3
Into the water

As for the lens itself, it is no surprise that it delivers excellent results, and it is another high quality tool in my landscape kit. Delivers sharpness, great colour, and contrast.