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.
Located between the villages of São Luís and Odemira, right in the heart of the municipality, the Pego das Pias is a well kept secret of the region. It is a fluvial beach along the Torgal creek (a tributary of the river Mira) of great natural beauty, far away from any human influence. The first time I heard about this place, was when I made the Troviscais trail:
To reach the Pego das Pias, the best way is to park the car near the bridge over the Torgal creek, along the national road 120, between São Luís and Odemira. From there, it is just a short 2 km trek on a dirt road. If you are lucky, and depending on the season, you will be able to spot some of the biodiversity of the region, well documented in periodic sign posts. The flora is the typical of the region, with abundant oak trees, cork trees, and ash trees. This dirt road follows alongside the creek bed, which is very dry. The area normally suffers from droughts, but lately this problem has become more acute. Hopefully the next few months will see some rain fall, to mitigate this issue.
In late October, the autumnal colors are visible. When I visited it was mid-afternoon, so the valley was already under the shade. This made for a nice and cooler walk, as the temperatures are still relatively high for the season. Some people were camping nearby, and even taking a swim in the cool water. The braver ones among you can climb to the top of the gorge and dive into the water below.
Throughout geologic times, the Torgal creek has incised a narrow valley into hard quartzitic ridges, thus creating a narrow gap, after which the waters are retained in a small lake. The name “Pias” comes from the small cavities that have been excavated by the water swirling and eroding into the rock. It is a testament to the time that it took for these formations to appear. There are also local legends that tell stories about the it, and add to the magical nature of the place.
For instance, it is said that a local farmer had a daughter that fell gravely ill; her father then promised to give an ox and some gold to a saint if he cured her. She was indeed cured but the farmer did not kept his promise. Has a result, the daughter fell under a spell when she drank the water at Pego das Pias. One other story talks about older times, when the Moors were running away from the Christians and hid a large treasure in the waters of Pego das Pias; which has not been found yet…
It is easy to imagine such tales when looking down upon the quiet waters and the surrounding rock formations, seemingly full of mysteries. Right in the middle of the lake, there is a large boulder, like a giant rising from the water. Further up the creek, the gorge twists and turns, as it goes uphill. I will need to come back when I have more time and explore the rest of this beautiful area. This time around, I only took one camera and one lens (Fuji X-H1 and 35mm f/1.4), which proved to be adequate. But I want to come back with a wider angle lens.
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.