Dawn at Almograve beach

The advantage of being very familiar with one place is that planning for a photographic visit becomes easier. The terrain is known, as well as the best viewpoints and logistics (access, car parks and walking paths). The flip coin to this familiarity is, of course, the challenge of imagining new compositions for well known places and subjects. In the beginning of October I found myself near Almograve beach, in the southwest Alentejo coast of Portugal.

I have known this beach since my childhood, and have been photographing it for three decades by now. Thus, coming up with “new interpretations on an old subject” is not easy. But I enjoy a good challenge, and so I woke up one morning really early, and went to the beach for a photo walk. The conditions were promising: low tide, some clouds and many interesting sand patterns. I started from the southern end of the beach, and slowly made my way towards the northern end.

Nature keeps changing things, and this year the beach has seen an abnormally high amount of sand, so that during low tide, a larger than usual area is exposed. This makes for some new interesting photo opportunities, using rocky outcrops and sand patterns as foreground elements. Shortly after arriving, I made a few photos showing the overall view of the beach, with the first light of day softly bathing the cliffs.

View to the north.
Southern cliffs receiving first light.

Walking along the beach, I had no trouble finding some interesting sand patterns and rocks. In particular, there are black schist rocks crisscrossed with white quartz veins, that are common in the geology of this area. Sometimes it was a challenge to keep the tripod stable, because the sand was water logged and quite soft.

Buried outcrop.
Low tide sand patterns.
Small pool.

In the intertidal areas, the movement of the water has created small sand dunes. For someone like me, familiar with this beach, it was odd to see so much sand; I kept trying to find some particular rock that used to be exposed, and now must be buried under all the sand.

Wavy sand.
Tidal pool.

I spent more than one hour photographing in the beach, so by the time I went back to the car, the sun had crested the sand dunes in the east, illuminating the landscape. The soft purplish and pink colors of dawn were replaced by the golden tonalities of the low sunshine.

Here comes the sun.
Yellow and blue.

These photos were all made with my Fujifilm X-T3 camera and Fujinon 14mm f/2.8 lens, a perfect combination for this coastline landscape, where there are several linear elements that can help to lead the eye into the scene.

New trail season

In the last few years I have become an enthusiast of the Rota Vicentina trail, a network of walking (and cycling) paths in the coastal region of southwest Portugal. Many of my articles here describe and address some of the trails that I have walked in the past. During the last couple of years, the challenges posed by Covid-19 were in part mitigated by being able to still visit the region and walk along its trails, enjoying the contact with Nature in complete safety.

The trail season in the Southwest has officially started in September, when the weather normally becomes milder, with the approach of Autumn. In early October there is a national holiday in Portugal, so there was an opportunity for my wife and I to spend a few days in our house in Longueira. Of course we allocated one day to do one of our favourite trails, the one of Nossa Senhora das Neves, in the interior of the Odemira municipality. We have done this trail several times before, as described here:

We like this trail for several reasons: it crosses a beautiful countryside, where the traditional ways of rural and farm living are still present; it is possible to see very large and old cork oak trees, dotting the landscape; there are many other species of typical and local fruit trees (quince, arbutus, olive); and of course there is the magnificent view from the top of the hill where the small chapel was built.

Even after walking this trail a couple of times before, I aimed at coming away with some different photographs. This can be a challenge, as inevitably one tends to stop in the same places: the isolated farm house, the large cork oak tree, and so on and so forth. The weather was sunny and relatively warm, with some isolated puffy clouds in the sky.

I tried to make some photos thinking about how they would come out in black and white, as I feel this would better describe the feel of the place. I was simply carrying my Fujifilm X-Pro3 camera and 35mm lens, so my mind set was really minimalistic. Below are some of the photos that I am happy with.

One of the largest cork oak trees.
Old tree.
Rural landscape.
House on the hill.
Along the way.
Tree and cloud.

I am looking forward to this next season of walking some of these beautiful trails in the Southwest.