During one of my recent photographic outings, I found an abandoned farm house on the top of a hill. I wrote about this area in one of my previous posts:
Even though I made colour photos at the time, I already anticipated that some of them could turn out good in black and white as well. So later on I decided to convert them to black and white, to confirm that impression. I thought the old and battered house would make an interesting subject in black and white, due to the character of the landscape and the quality of the late afternoon (side)light. I performed the conversion in Lightroom and Silver Effex, using simple profiles and merely adding a red filter to darken the deep blue sky. In turn, this would add more presence to the clouds, enhancing the depth of the images.
Either in colour or black and white, I think both interpretations reflect how I have experienced the area during this late Autumn afternoon. In my mind, these black and white versions provide a more dramatic and stark interpretation of the landscape.
This small essay describes another wonderful trail that is part of the Rota Vicentina network in southwest Portugal. This time, I have walked route 17, a circular path that starts near the village of Carrascalinho, which is located close to the small towns of Maria Vinagre and Rogil. The walk is of moderate difficulty, mainly because it is 14 km long and crosses a hilly countryside that buttresses part of the Algarve mountain range. The following figure shows the location map.
This route is already inside the Algarve province, which is normally associated with sunny weather and golden beaches. Here in the western coast, the beaches are sunny, but the influence of the Atlantic ocean is stronger, with stronger winds. It was my first time walking this route, and what attracted me was that its path goes through the interior of the region, touching the mountain range of the Algarve. This is probably one of the most less-populated areas of Portugal, where some remnants of the Mediterranean flora still resists against the onslaught of the intensive eucalyptus growth. There are large areas of cork oak trees, pine trees, heather, and arbutus. Some of these cultivations are essential to the local economy, to produce the famous honey (from heather and arbutus) and the arbutus brandy. As usual, I carry a minimum amount of photo gear. This time I decided to take along only the Fujifilm X-Pro3 with the 35mm lens. A standard lens is a good choice for general photography.
The initial part of the route crosses some farmland, followed by a large pine tree forest.
After a few kilometres, the terrain becomes more rugged, as it approaches the mountains. The weather is very nice, with a slight breeze and a deep blue sky. Along the way, it is possible to spot some Autumn colour, and even a spider waiting for its next meal.
The arbutus shrubs become more abundant, and this time of the year the fruits are ripe, displaying their typical orange and red colours. This fruit is very important for the local farmers, especially for making brandy, which fetches high prices.
The highest point along the way affords a panoramic view over the entire region. To the west, there lies the ocean, whereas the rest of the view is dominated by the rugged mountains that are covered in green. This is a nice spot to rest and have a picnic lunch.
From this high vantage point, the rest of the trail starts to descend, crossing a few isolated settlements and farms. The silence is pervasive, being only disturbed by the wind and the occasional bird song. Thus far, I have not seen any other person.
This part of the walk is easy, and soon our starting point is visible again. This was another wonderful route, that crosses a beautiful region that is often disregarded in favour of the more popular coastal area. Even though it lies a mere stone throw’s away from it.
Autumn is a wonderful season for being out in the field. As nature transitions between Summer and Winter, the days get shorter, the air is crisper and the colors are richer. As I mentioned in my previous article, in early November I spent some days in the Alentejo coast, taking the opportunity to make a few photo walks. The coastal region of Odemira’s municipality is beautiful, but so is the interior area. So, one afternoon I drove a bit to the interior, along the road between Odemira and Sabóia.
It is surprising how the character of the landscape changes abruptly from the coast to the interior; just a few kilometres inland, the terrain is characterized by rolling hills, with some deep valleys, where large trees are abundant. There are the typical cork oak trees, dotting the hills, but along the river Mira valley, ash trees and elm trees predominate. And during Autumn, they add an extra layer of color to the landscape.
The road follows the course of the Mira river, so it is easy to find a parking spot and then walk down to the valley. For this walk, I selected a part of the river that bends around a hill, atop which there is an abandoned farm house. Unfortunately, these are quite common in the area, as making a living from agriculture is increasingly difficult. Below is a simple map from this area, which is crossed by one of the trail routes from the Rota Vicentina.
After arriving, I walked down to the valley, but unfortunately the river was dry. As usual, the Summer was scarce in rain, and the Santa Clara-a-Velha dam, just a few kilometres up river, captures most of the water. This water is used for irrigation and domestic uses, so not much is left to run its free course. I walked along the dry river bed for a while, making a few photos of the bare trees.
Leaving the valley, I climbed to the top of the hill. From here, there was an excellent view over the landscape, plus the abandoned farm house that I had spotted from the road. The sun was going down fast, and the light was acquiring a rich golden quality. I made several photos using both my wide-angle and short telephoto lenses, so that I could frame the dramatic landscape, or isolate interesting details.
I walked back to the valley, because I wanted to make a few more photos of the surrounding trees and hills, and I wanted to catch the golden light that would not last very much. The shade was quickly spreading, so I had to work fast. I was running around between locations, as I only had a few minutes left of this high quality light.
These photos are from a walk along the coastline south of Cabo Sardão, in the Alentejo province of Portugal. I spent a few days in the area in early November, and took the opportunity to take some photo walks. On this particular day, the weather was poor, with heavy clouds and strong winds coming in from the ocean. Nevertheless, I packed my gear and drove to the Cabo Sardão lighthouse, for a sunset walk along the coastal trail.
There are several accessible viewpoints, but especially in windy days, it is important to be careful when approaching the edge of the cliffs. I wanted to portray the stormy conditions on that afternoon, with the elements incessantly pounding these very old rocks. The rocks themselves can be interesting subjects in a photo, because they are all folded and twisted, as a result of the tectonic forces that have uplifted and compressed them around 300 million years ago. I ended up using my neutral density filter to achieve longer exposure times, enhancing the special character of the seascape. I made good use of my wide angle lens (Fujinon 14mm f/2.8), which is perfect for these seascapes.
Given the weather conditions, there was not much color around, but occasionally a small break in the cloud cover would allow a sliver of warmer tone to be visible, adding a bit of life to the scene.
Right on cue with the sunset, the light came on in the lighthouse, providing a beacon in such bad weather. I stayed for a little while longer, making several photos of the building, and then drove back home. I really enjoy walking and photographing in this area, even with poor weather it has a unique character.