During a recent weekend trip to the southwest Portuguese coast, I had the chance to photograph in the Cabo Sardão area. This is one of my often photographed locations, so it is a challenge to come out with something new, or a different approach. In this occasion, I have planned to tackle two different obiectives. The first one was to photograph the white stork species that lives in the area: this is a unique species of stork, because it nests in the coastal cliffs, and will be the subject for a future essay.
The second objective was to make a few panoramas by shooting a series of photos for later stitching in the computer. There are many sweeping coastal vistas in the area, and sometimes a wide angle lens is not wide enough to encompass the entire scene. For creating panoramas I have been using Panorama Factory, a software that does the job very well.
The first image is a set of 3 photos taken with my Fujinon 16mm f/1.4. The image shows the coast at low tide a short distance away from the Cabo Sardão lighthouse. The hour was close to sunset, so the scene was illuminated with golden light.
Next is the classic view of the precipitous cliffs with the lighthouse in the top. This is an assemby of 6 photos, as above taken with the 16mm lens, spanning a large angle of view; larger than what would have been achievable with only a single shot from my wide angle lens.
For the third and final image I waited for the full Moon to rise beside the lighthouse. Again, it would have been difficult to get the image with a single shot. This is an assembly of 9 photos taken with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom. I like the result because the lighthouse is also lit, as the Sun had just set behind me.
This was an excellent occasion to dust off my panorama abilities, but honestly, these days it is really easy to achieve good results with just a bit of care in the field. For these photos I used a tripod, but this was dictated by the low ISO and concurrent slow shutter speeds. The key concern is to have sufficient overlap between the successive shots, so the software can stitch them correctly.
current health crisis, many governments have implemented states of emergency,
where confining people to their houses to break the infection chain was
required. In Portugal that state of emergency lasted for 6 weeks, from
mid-March to end of April. Thanks to this, we had success in curtailing the
spreading of the infection and are since 4th of May slowly reopening
some economic activities.
March, just before the lockdown was put in place, I managed to make a short
trip to my house in the southwest coast, in Longueira. I wrote about it in this
months, and with the lifting of restrictions, I was able to return with my wife
to Longueira for a weekend. The local municipality, Odemira, has only 5
reported cases as I write this. This is not strange, because Odemira is the
largest municipality in area, and the one with the lowest population density.
This is a trait common to the entire province of Alentejo, where social
distancing is already the norm, due to the large distances between villages.
It was good
to go back and travel a bit in the area; all the restaurants and small cafes
are still close (they will reopen 0n May 18th), and there was hardly
anyone on the streets. But at least it
was possible to enjoy this “new freedom” while admiring the views in Milfontes,
Almograve, and Cabo Sardão, for example. After being at home for 2 months, it
was great to be out in one of my favorite places.
I took my photo backpack with me, ready to go on a photo walk, should the
opportunity present itself. That was the case one afternoon, where I spent a
few hours near Cabo Sardão. I have photographed this area so many times, it has
become a challenge to obtain different photographs. This afternoon, the weather
was quite unstable, with many showers and the occasional sunshine spell. I
parked the car at the end of a dirt track, near the cliffs, and just admired
the view and the feel of the place. I was thankful for my family being healthy
and felt blessed for being able to be back here, enjoying the salty wind in my
face and the crashing of the waves below. I could not think of a better place
minutes of simply “being there”, I started walking along the coastal trail,
paying close attention to potential photographic subjects and elements. We are
in the middle of Spring now, so there are many flowers around, some of them
quite small, others clinging to the rock fissures, all buffeted by the strong
winds. These winds keep shaping the consolidated and rusty colored sand dunes
into small canyons and plateaus, where rounded pebbles have found their resting
place. The surrounding landscape seems to strike a balance between the erosional
forces of the sea, wind and rain, and the resilience of the rock cliffs.
In my pursuit of finding new angles for familiar subjects, I often ended up lying flat on the ground photographing small flowers, sometimes isolated, other times as foregrounds for the receding cliffs and sea. I have also tried several long exposures, with the idea of conveying this feeling of perpetual change, showing the relationship between the natural elements of water, wind, and rock formations. During the afternoon there were a few showers, but even then, they helped to keep the atmosphere clear and bright. I kept shooting until sunset time, simply enjoying being out in such beautiful surroundings. Hopefully, this health crisis will pass sooner than later, and we will emerge from it stronger and better human beings.
Here in Portugal, as in many other countries, we are under a “state of emergency” to combat the pandemic. This means that all non essential personnel was sent home. Some manage to keep working from home, and all schooling is also home based. People can only go out for specific reasons: work, groceries, pharmacy, and local walks. Always keeping a safe distance and avoiding gatherings. So far, after 1 month, the results are encouraging.
Of course, one of the things that I miss is going out and making photos, so I thought about planning a few outings within a reasonable walking distance of my house. I live very close to the beach in Carcavelos, one of the most popular ones on the coast near Lisbon. It is a place I regularly visit to photograph all year round, especially at sunrise. But, as part of the current measures, all beaches and walkways have been closed. My first planned outing was to Carcavelos beach, but this time I would have to choose a different viewpoint; I normally would go to the beach proper at low tide to make photos, which was impossible now. The path that exists along the beach front is also closed.
I then decided to try and scout a few places and viewpoints on the sea side of the road, especially over the rocky outcrops that exist along the coastline. These are quite safe to walk on, and before sunrise, I was sure of not finding anyone else, so all was fine. With this plan in mind, I left the house about 1 hour before sunrise, with my photo backpack and small tripod.
Weather was good, with a few clouds and the Moon still high. My first stop was near a cross that exists by the side of the road, on a dangerous curve of the road, where many accidents used to happen in the past. Today, a traffic radar and lights moderate driver’s speed. I managed to make a photo of the cross with the Moon in the background, under the predawn light. I actually made a few more photos around this location, some long exposures of the sea and waves hitting the shore. Some of the rocks resembled ramparts and castles in my imagination.
After getting some interesting photos in this spot, I walked back towards the beach. I decided to try a few shots and compositions from various places, including the nearby rocks descending into the sea, the fort in the distance, and the interesting sky. It was around 7 am by then, and even this early, normally Carcavelos is already busy with surfers and joggers (I usually jog in the beach). Since the beach is closed, there was an eerie feeling over the area. Below are some of the photos that have resulted from this session. As you can see, the light was changing fast, and I had to work quickly. The colours were transitioning between the blues typical of pre-sunrise, to the warmer pinks and yellows of sunrise.
In the coming weeks, my idea is to continue to explore these beaches around my house, from a less conventional perspective. Always abiding to the safety measures, of course. As an hobbyist landscape photographer, I am used to be out of the house when most people are sleeping, so from this angle, things have not changed (much).
Finding myself on vacation in Longueira, 10 km south of Milfontes, I managed to convince my wife to enter 2020 on the beach, while admiring the fireworks display planned for midnight. This was a challenge, because it meant leaving the warm house and venturing into a cold night. In the end, it payed off with a nice show over the river Mira estuary.
I wanted to make some photos, of course, so I packed my camera and lens (Fujifilm XH-1 and 16-55 f/2.8 lens), plus the tripod. I had a fully charged battery in the camera, and another one in my pocket, just in case. I was going to use longer than usual exposure times, between 2 seconds and 20 seconds, experimenting a bit. Photographing fireworks is always a trial and error exercise; registering one or more bursts can result in interesting results.
We chose to go to the south side of the river, opposite the fireworks launching area. This side of the river would be less crowded, and we would be able to see some good reflections on the water. After arriving, I set up the gear on the tripod, and did a few test shots; the view towards Milfontes is actually quite nice from this river bank: the old castle and houses were illuminated, with the light reflected on the water.
At midnight, on time, the fireworks started, and lasted for 10 minutes. That kept me busy changing exposure times and focal lengths, trying to register different bursts and colours. I managed to do so, and was happy with the results I got.
Going back to the same place as the seasons change can be rewarding and an interesting experience. In the last few years I have driven across this farmhouse many times, normally on my way to Santa Clara a Velha damn, near Odemira, in the Alentejo province of Portugal. The land inside this farm is cultivated for cattle feed and has some excellent examples of the typical cork oak tree dotting the landscape.
There are several interesting compositions and framings, but the one that has attracted me the most in this place is placing a tree in the foreground, and the house at the top of the hill in the background. The two can then be connected visually by the farmland in the middle, which makes for a natural link between them.
I have now photographed this place in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. This small project has happened subconsciously, and only recently have I realized that I had collected a seasonal portfolio of this location. What changes the most in the land, whilst the tree and the house remain as more fixed elements in the landscape. During Springtime, the land is lush with greenery and flowers, which wane and dry out in golden hues come the Summertime. During Autumn and Winter, the fields are cultivated again, thus initiating a new cycle.
I like how these changes mark the passage of time, while the old trees are almost like guardians of the land, witnessing the endless seasonal cycle of life. Seasons come and go, but some things never change, which is comforting. So, give it a try, and run your own small project like this one, documenting the seasonality of a landscape or other theme that attracts you. Results and images are bound to be interesting and rewarding.
I often go out in small photo walks with just one lens and no particular objective in mind. Since I prefer to use prime lenses, the one I decide to take in such outings is usually a focal length that I am used to. For this occasion it was the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4, which provides a normal angle of view.
Having recently spent a weekend in the Alentejo coast near Almograve, I simply carried one camera and one lens with me. I managed to take a short walk in a very familiar area, between the beach of Almograve and the fishing harbor of Lapa de Pombas, about 2 km long along the top of the cliffs. I wanted to take advantage of the low tide at sunset, to explore the small rocky inlets and pebbly beaches that can be found along these two locations.
Almograve is a starting point for one of the legs of the Vicentina trail that links to Cabo Sardão first, and then to Zambujeira do Mar. So it is very popular with trekkers, but they do not spend much time exploring this stretch of coast, which is a pity. Within this 2 km, if one descends to the sea, it is possible to find many interesting subjects, from the more generic landscapes, to more detailed aspects of rock textures and geologic features.
Normally, a normal lens is not the first choice when shooting landscapes, coming after the typical recommendation to use a wide angle lens instead. And that is fine, as I personally find that any lens from wide angles to telephotos can be used successfully for this genre. But I also think that a normal lens can facilitate a more natural angle of view on the landscape, without the exaggeration of distance between foreground and background (wide angle), or the magnified/compressed relationship resulting from a telephoto.
Along the way, there are several narrow sandy trails that are used by fishermen to go down to the sea level. Some of these are easier to negotiate then others, so due care is required. But the effort is well worth it, because once down near the sea, the cliffs are often made up of spectacular folded rock formations. These are a testimony to the the massive tectonic forces that have shaped the Earth, in this case during the Palaeozoic Era, hundreds of million years ago.
I spent the time until sunset carefully composing interesting frames of numerous subjects, such as craggy vertical rock surfaces, veined by mineral fractures; folded rocks; isolated plants clinging to the scarce soil. During and after sunset, I concentrated on the colorful clouds and water reflections, plus some rocky silhouettes. It is surprising the richness of subjects that can be found in this small area.
I find the small Fujinon lens perfect for such photo walks, providing a highly versatile tool for experimenting around. I found myself playing with depth of field when photographing a close up of a small shrub, with the cliffs behind. It is really simple to change the aperture on the dedicated lens ring, and this ends up providing a more tactile connection with the lens. The lens has high quality optics and provides an excellent starting point during processing of the RAW files later on. I only applied normal white balance, color and contrast adjustments, and the images came out really well.
What to do on a Sunday afternoon on a rainy day? Get out of the house and take a photo walk – even if you end up in a place you have visited many times before! This is what I did recently during a weekend in my quiet little house in Longueira, Alentejo coast. After lunch and some lazying around with my cat Jonas, I decided to pick up my photo backpack and head out to the coast. The weather was not very inviting, but I am always optimistic and hoped for some respite and clearings close to sunset.
I often head out without any pre-determined goal, ending up being rewarded with some nice surprises and good photos. So why not this time too? I decided to make it simple and only packed my 2 cameras (Fujifilm X-T2 and X-H1) and 2 lenses (16 f/1.4 and 90 f/2) – this is normally my go to kit for landscapes and exploring around. The wide angle suits the way I “see” landscapes, and the telephoto allows me to isolate details in the cliffs and some nature close-ups. Added a small tripod and a few filters for long exposures, and I was all set.
I parked the car at the small fishing harbour of Lapa de Pombas, and started my walk from the sign post indicating the Vicentina Trail, towards the South. Regardless of how many times I am in this area, I always enjoy being close to the sand dunes, the sea, the cliffs, in summary, unspoiled Nature. I snap a few shots here and there, looking for new angles in familiar subjects. As we are in mid-October, the days are already noticeable shorter, with sunset around 7 pm. The cloud cover starts to dissipate, and some clearings start to appear. This allows me to take a few shots of the low angle light hitting the cliffs and the fossilized sand dunes, with their erosional patterns and textures.
In one of the locations, the sand dunes are covered by craggier rock formations that have been eroded into sharp corners, so it is necessary to pay attention while walking. The rustier colour of the land perfectly complements the blue azure of the sea and the white foamy waves. Several sea gulls float around carried by the soft breeze.
The last time I walked this part of the trail was earlier this year, in January (https://blog.paulobizarro.com/?p=693). At the time, I wanted to make some photos for my May exhibit (https://blog.paulobizarro.com/?p=752), notably a photo from a rock arch that is located along the way. Then, I only had a 23mm wide angle lens, and even though the photo turned out fine, I wanted to come back and use a wider angle. The best place to frame the arch is right at the edge of the cliff, so the room to maneuver is not much. Of course a zoom lens would have worked too, but I prefer primes.
Keeping an eye on the light conditions, I noticed the Sun would probably come out soon, as it was descending towards a narrow clearing between the clouds – I literally scrambled down the sand covered rocks of the cliff, set up the tripod and proceeded to make several shots, both with and without a long exposure setting. I had to work quickly, because the Sun was indeed playing hide and seek with the cloud cover. For a couple of minutes, it burst through, illuminating the cliffs and sea, which was perfect. I was confident I had managed to get some interesting photos.
As a bonus, as I was climbing back to return to the trail, I noticed a small snake basking in the sunshine. I approached carefully and used my 90 mm lens to make some close ups; later on I found out that it belongs to the Rhinechis scalaris species, which is common in Portugal.
On the way back to the car, I simply enjoyed the walk along the trail, making a few more photos of the sunset and the coast line. This is simply a magical place, and after the Summer bustle, even better to visit and enjoy.
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.
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.
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.