These are some photos I took recently in the town of Odemira, in South Portugal’s Alentejo province. The name of the town comes from combining “Oued” (from the Arabic Wadi) and “Mira” (name of the river). This town is located about 20 km from the coast, inside the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina. As such, it is very close to some of the best beaches in Portugal, but it has a rural and interior feel to it.
Unfortunately, as many interior towns and villages, the younger population has migrated to the large centers, in search of better opportunities. This leaves behind an aging population, plus some houses going to ruins. But Odemira still preserves a charm and character of its own, with the gentle rolling hills, and a life style that takes its own leisurely pace. There are also some local industries and associations that try to preserve old ways of life and traditions, in areas such as tapestry, pottery, and farming.
In this occasion, I visited the town in the morning, just walking the streets and going to the local market (I actually wanted to buy some fruits and vegetables!). The Sony A7II and ZEISS C Sonnar f1.5 50mm ZM lens continue to impress me very favourably as a documentary and travelling photographic tool. It is really liberating just using the basic photographic controls: set aperture priority, choose the aperture according to the shot (lens ring), focus manually (lens ring), and shoot.
The Southwest Portugal coast is a haven for hikers, naturalists, and of course, photographers. This coast is full of well-preserved beaches, reached only by dirt roads or foot. So, there are many places where it is possible to be almost completely alone, even in the summer.
In the winter, isolation is fully guaranteed, so I took the opportunity of a recent visit to go out and take some shots in the afternoon. Winter is one of my preferred photographic seasons, as the sun is really low, making for great light in the landscape. Plus, the skies are commonly filled with dramatic cloud formations. One just has to avoid the rain, and keep warm!
In this occasion, I took my Canon 6D and 16-35 f4 lens, plus tripod and filters. I was hoping to come away with some interesting beach shots, with the vast expanses of sand in the low tide, complemented by the sea and clouds. I kept shooting until after dark, it was that nice!
The Southwest Portugal coast is part of a Natural Park area (Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina). It stretches along the coast roughly between the towns of Sines and Sagres, and it is home of many species of fauna and flora (some of them unique to the area). I am fortunate to be able to visit the area a few times a year, especially the coastline between Almograve beach and Cabo Sardão. This cape is a rocky spur that juts into the sea, and a lighthouse provides a beacon for passing ships.
The region is notable for its rough seas, high cliffs, and small coves, and it provides numerous opportunities for landscape and travel photographers. One can also trek along the marked trails, and familiarize with the region at a more leisurely pace. I can assure you it is worth it! Below are some photos taken recently, in the last couple of months.
Not far from the coast, it is possible to visit the towns of Odemira and Santa Clara-a-Velha, where a dam in the Mira river provides a refreshing opportunity. Here, one is surrounded by the peacefulness of the fields, and hardly a car drives past you on the road. Worth noting are the traditional rural houses, and the friendly local people.
This is a type of photography that I like very much to do. It is not easy, as it requires the photographer to be out in the field at ungodly hours, but… why not make the most of today’s camera technology to capture the beauty in our sky? The other difficulty for most people seems to be to actually find a dark enough place to see the stars and constellations!
But, if you happen to be in a such a place at or near new moon (when the sky is darker), then it is not difficult obtain good results. You will need a good tripod, a wide angle lens, and a cable release.
For star trails, I typically I set my camera in Manual mode, ISO 1600, aperture around f2 or f2.8 (depending on the lens), and shutter speed around 30 seconds. Then I just shoot in Continuous drive with the cable release in lock mode. In this way, most cameras will keep on shooting for as long as you wish, or for as long as the batteries last.
It also advantageous to shoot a couple of dark frames, before and after the sequence, so you can use them in programmes like Starstax (highly recommended) to process for dark frame/noise subtraction.
Another option is simply shoot isolated frames of the Milky Way, say ISO 1600 or 3200, f2.8 and around 20 – 30 seconds. Exposure times will depend on the focal length; the longer the focal length, the shorter the exposure time must be to avoid trailing in the stars. It is also possible to shoot multiple images and later on align and process them in programmes like DeepSky Stacker; these will align the images and produce a single one, the advantage being that with several images, one can boost the S/N ratio. There are some excellent guides available on the WWW, one of my favourites is http://starcircleacademy.com/quick-tips/
Below are some examples I took in Southwest Portugal.