In the first week of December we had a few bank holidays in Portugal, so I drove south to spend some days in Longueira, on the Alentejo coast. During the weekend, depression Dora hit the country, with heavy rain and strong winds. Even under such conditions, there is always the chance to go out and take some photos. That is what I did during a Saturday afternoon, near the Cabo Sardão area.
From my house it is only a short drive to the lighthouse of Cabo Sardão. The weather was changing quickly, with heavy showers alternating with sun spells. I know the area quite well, so I decided I would walk along the coastal trail for a round trip of about 8 km, or a couple of hours. I simply grabbed the Fujifilm X100V and the tripod, plus a raincoat of course.
The coastal trail that passes through Cabo Sardão is part of the Rota Vicentina. From this point, it is about 20 km until the next village to the south, Zambujeira do Mar. The coastal region here is characterized by short vegetation and rocky Palaeozoic cliffs with many tectonic folds. A true natural haven, part of a protected area. Now and then the clouds would break, and a golden light would illuminate the cliffs and the sea. It was simply a question of sitting down and enjoying the quiet surroundings, with the land being buffeted by strong winds and crashing waves.
It was a wonderful walk, graced with great but elusive light.
The following are just some photos that I took during a morning walk in the village of Odemira, a coastal and interior municipality of southwest Portugal, in the Alentejo province. I had to go to Odemira to buy some groceries, but even in such occasions I always bring my small camera with me, the excellent Fujifilm X100V.
Along the drive between Longueira and Odemira, there is a familiar farm house by the side of the road, that I have photographed before. This particular morning was no exception, because the land was green and the sky a crispy blue with fluffy white clouds. The sun had risen about one hour before, so the light was still good.
The terrain was soaked with rain, but I walked up to the farm house for a more close up photo. Actually, there is a natural spring nearby where I go to fill up several containers of water for drinking.
I took the opportunity of simply strolling through the streets in Odemira. Clearly, Covid – 19 is ever-present, even thought people try to go on with their lives. Local cafés and shops are open, but business is slow. Odemira is the largest municipality in Portugal in terms of area, and has a small population; thus, social distancing is already practiced under normal circumstances. Still, people are very worried, because a large part of the inhabitants are old. Hopefully 2021 will be a better year.
With the ongoing Covid – 19 situation, and the concurrent confinements, I am lucky enough to still be able to go out occasionally and walk along some of the many trails near Odemira. These trails are part of the Rota Vicentina network, and over the past couple of years I have walked several of them and have written about the experience here in the blog.
In 2020 I had planned to explore the trails a bit further, in other municipalities of the southwest coast; unfortunately, the restrictions have curtailed the plan, so I have been circunscribed to the municipality of Odemira, where I have a house. Thus, it is still possible to travel and drive inside the municipality’s boundaries. As a result, I have been repeating several walks that I did in 2019, and this time I want to write about the trail around the village of São Martinho das Amoreiras. The first time I did this trail I wrote about it here:
When revisiting a familiar place it is difficult not to take photos from the same spots and of the same subjects. This second time doing the trail, the weather was far from being sunny, like in the first time. Early December, the weather forecast included heavy showers, which could provide a different feel and experience in the areas we were going to cross. The landscape is dominated by gently rolling hills and rural farms and small villages. There are green pastures and fruit orchards, that provide for the local economy.
Of particular relevance are the Arbutus (medronho), olive oil, and honey. The Arbutus is particularly attractive this time of the year, as the small trees are blooming and have plenty of the red fruits. Unfortunately, there are many abandoned and ruined farm houses along the way; as the older people pass away, there are no young ones to follow up this rural lifestyle.
Given the large amount of recent rain, the landscape was different from one year ago, and there were more animals grazing in the field. Everything looked fresher, which was nice, following very dry Spring and Summer periods.
After lunch (quick picnic), the weather really closed in, with lots of rain. We decided to cut the walk short, after 9 km (of a total 13 km), because these interior roads are not very safe under such conditions, especially in the dark. While resting a little bit in São Martinho, I noticed some nice Autumn colours in the trees, and took a few shots.
On the way back the rain stopped, allowing us to enjoy the leisurely drive through a winding road that provided excellent spots from which to photograph the countryside.
For this walk I used Fuji X-T3 and X-H1 cameras, fitted with the Fujinon 16mm f/1.4 and 90mm f/2 lenses. These were more than adequate to get the shots I found along the way. Light conditions for photography were changing quickly, with alternating dark and light patches on the landscape. Contrejour was common, and I exposed to preserve the highlights. Shooting RAW was a safeguard against such challenge, ensuring files were maleable enough to obtain a good result.
Vila Nova de Milfontes is a wonderful place to visit the entire year. Considered by many as the jewel of the southwest Alentejo coast, the village hugs the northern bank of the Mira river, where it joins the Atlantic. It is famous for its pristine and picturesque beaches, which are part of a Nature Reserve. I have already written here many times about Milfontes, showing numerous photos taken during the 4 seasons of the year.
Milfontes is indeed full of interesting places that take on a different feel according to the season and the light. I was there recently in end November, and had the chance to make more photos during a break in the rainy weather. The Autumn light adds a different character to the landscape, augmented by the stormy clouds. A good general view of the village, estuary, and river can be appreciated from the bridge.
From the bridge, it is possible to make good photos, using both wide angle and telephoto lenses. The river slowly makes its way to the sea, and the distant mountains provide a nice background. The small fishing and recreation boats rest along the pier.
One other great location is further down the main road, in the small promontory where a small lighthouse is located. From there, it is possible to see the village and the surrounding beaches. On this particular evening, the light and the clouds were quite nice.
I never tire of Milfontes, especially off-season, where it is possible to enjoy the place without all the hustle and bustle of the summer. These photos were taken with two Fujinon lenses, 16mm f/1.4 and 90mm f/2.
Here in Portugal in the last 3 or 4 weeks there has been a lot of rain and some stormy weather, which is excellent to mitigate against the draught. The Covid-19 restrictions are still in place, but it is possible to travel outside of curfew hours. In the beginning of December there are a few public holidays, so I took the opportunity to spend a couple of weekends in Longueira, a small village near the southwestern Alentejo coast.
The weather was indeed rainy, which was not very inviting to go out and take photos, but that is what I did one afternoon. Bad weather is often a good opportunity to make different and interesting images. The sky was filled with clouds coming in from the south, and promising more rain. I decided to take a short walk around the village, along local dirt roads that cross rural fields and some farms. The brooding and menacing clouds would add some drama to my images. A few examples are given below.
My little walk took about 1 hour, and by the time I got home it was dark and raining a lot. Still, I managed to make a few interesting photos, featuring the dramatic sky as key element. So, next time it is raining, get out of the house and try to take some different photos. All the photos were taken using the Fujifilm X-T3 camera and Fujinon 16mm f/1.4 lens, a good option for rainy weather, as both feature weather resistance.
I don´t write about photographic gear very often in my blog, since I prefer to showcase my photos and associated experiences. It is my opinion that current cameras and lenses across several formats are more than capable to deliver excellent images. It is up to the photographer to go out, find inspiration, and produce memorable photos. As those who read my blog know, in the past 4 months or so I have been trying out the Fujifilm X100V, using it in the type of occasion where I prefer to carry only one simple but high-quality camera.
Such instances have
included walking several trail paths in the Rota Vicentina in southwest
Portugal; simple landscape photo sessions; and general vacation photography. My
previous impressions can be found in the following links:
The Fujifilm X100V is the fifth version of an iconic camera line that first saw the light of day in 2010. So this year marks an important milestone for the little camera. In fact, one could argue that the success of the original X100 was the first significant step in the launch of Fujifilm’s X-mount system one year later. I have used several of the X100 cameras throughout the years, and the “V” still carries all of the original charm, marrying it with the modern technology and know-how of the company. There are not many camera lines that are able to maintain such strong personality traits after 10 years – this is almost an eternity in the digital age.
In order to round off this series of articles about my experiences with this camera, I have used it again recently to make some landscape photos on two occasions. Both during a weekend that I spent in the Alentejo coast, near Almograve. I merely used the camera and a tripod, can not get any simpler than that really.
On the first outing I went to the area near Cabo Sardão lighthouse, to photograph during the sunset time. The weather was cloudy, with menacing and broody skies. This made for some nice photos of the sea, cliffs, and lighthouse. For some of them I used the built-in neutral density filter; 4 stops is very useful to achieve long exposures.
As you can see, the weather was looking dire, but I kept shooting, as the clouds and the light were changing every minute. The interplay between the sea and the sky provided interesting compositions.
The second outing occurred the following morning, in the small village of Longueira. Again, I simply grabbed the camera and the tripod and went out of the house before sunrise. Trying to find different and still interesting subjects after photographing a place for so many years is a challenge. However, every sunrise (or sunset) is different, and places change with the seasons. In the Autumn, often there are clouds in the sky that are illuminated by low angle sunlight, displaying warm colours. The fields are ploughed and freshly vibrant from the morning dew.
In conclusion, the X100V is, for me, the best version so far of this line of cameras from Fujifilm. Small, easy to operate, great lens and sensor, robust, and delivers high image quality. The final photo illustrates that in the confined world we live in today, it is still possible to imagine.
Located at the estuary of the river Mira, Vila Nova de Milfontes is blessed with a beautiful natural setting. Here, the quiet river water reaches the Atlantic surrounded by tree-covered cliffs and golden sand beaches. No wonder that in the last 30 years or so it has become one of the most popular summer vacation destinations. In 2020 the summer was quieter than usual, due to Covid-19, but still there were some people around. Now, at the end of October, Milfontes has returned to the usual tranquility of the other 9 months of the year.
One very early morning (or rather late night?) I picked up my photo backpack and tripod and headed over to the village to make some night and sunrise photos. There are several interesting monuments and places that portray a different feel at night, and I wanted to capture that. The old church, the XVI century fort overlooking the estuary, and some architectural details, all make interesting subjects. Another highlight is the monument that commemorates the first airplane voyage between Portugal and Macau; on the 2nd of April of 1924, Brito Paes and Sarmento Beires took off from Milfontes in a risky endeavour. Two planes and 16,380 km later, they reached their destination on the 23rd of June.
Walking down the street to the river, I made photos of all these subjects, which at night display a different charater.
The little square in front of the castle provides one of the most popular views over the river and the sea. At night, the illumination was provided by the artificial lights, which turned out quite nice on the water and the lifeguard building below.
There was a low tide, so I walked down to the beach and made several photos of the boats and the landscape. Due to the low light levels, exposure times were quite long, resulting in subject movement on the boats and some good colour and detail in the cloudy sky.
The first light of dawn was appearing in the East. The clouds, sky, and fishing boats provided some really nice compositions. I was quite busy making a lot of photos during this period. Including a 15 minute exposure!
During this transition between night and day, the light was changing very fast, so every minute the landscape was presenting different aspects. These were typical blue hour light conditions, where landscape photographers need to work fast to catch the light at its best.
Looking over my shoulder I noticed the clouds in the sky turning into a fiery orange. This only lasted for a few seconds, but I managed to make a few photos. What a fantastic light that was!
Once the Sun broke through, the area became bathed with golden light and long shadows. Since the tide was low, I was able to walk under the coastal walkway. I made a few more photos, including the walkway itself, and the moored boats.
Once the Sun was shining over the area, several cats appeared to warm up. These are normally taken care for by the nice lady that ferries people across the river.
Before I went back home for a well deserved breakfast, I took a few more photos of the castle on the top of the cliff. The light was great, and this is one of the obligatory compositions.
Starting about two years ago, my wife and I have been walking along the circular trails of the Rota Vicentina inside the municipality of Odemira, Alentejo province. These trails are a wonderful way of getting to know the coastal and rural areas of the region, away from the more touristic places. This is a beautiful region located between the mountain and the sea, a singular Alentejo, as the local advertisement says.
With all the Covid-19 problems, and with the certain future lockdowns in Portugal, we have recently taken the opportunity to repeat some of these trails. Such is the case with this one, which takes us from the interior village of Troviscais to the river Mira, and back. We did this walk two years ago in November, and I wrote about it in detail here.
This time around the weather was sunny and crisp, following the passage of storm Barbara. Everything seemed fresher, and the colours more vivid, which was nice. Similar to the previous time, I simply carried a wide angle lens and a telephoto lens, respectively the Fujinon 16mm f/1.4 and the Fujinon 90mm f/2. Due to my familiarity with the trail, I had in mind making some different photos compared to the last time, especially using the close focus distance in both lenses. I also made some long exposures using my Lee Big Stopper ND filter.
Walking this trail again was a wonderful experience; we crossed rural fields with cork oak trees, up and down gentle hills, with the highlight being the couple of km along the river margin.
Black and white photography is as old as photography itself. With the advent of digital photography, it is increasingly easy to produce black and white images using various types of software. In my opinion what makes a good black and white photograph still has to do with light and subject. Sometimes colour can be a distraction, so by eliminating it, we can focus the attention on textural details, shapes, moods, and feelings.
On one of my recent trails in the Rota Vicentina of southwest Portugal, I made a series of photos of the rural landscape. You can read about it here:
The weather was very nice, with plenty of sunshine and white clouds. Some of the cork oak trees are very old in this region, and they make for interesting shapes against the sky and surrounding landscape. Some of the houses were also interesting, with the typical strong blue and white colours of the Alentejo province. In several photos, I used a polarizer to enhance the richness of the colours even more.
Even though I was quite happy with the colour photos I made on that trip, I thought that some of them might also work in black and white. So, when working on the Raw files, I tried several types of conversions. There are many ways to convert from colour to black and white, but I wanted to keep things simple. In this case, I used the Fujifilm presets inside Lightroom, deciding on either the Acros or Monochrome presets, with a touch of red filter to darken the sky and enhance contrast.
Following are some photographs that I converted and am happy with. Next time you are out photographing, keep an eye for interesting subjects that might be suitable for good black and white images.
You can tell from my recent posts that I have been using this camera a lot. From occasional and general type of shooting to trekking, this camera is a powerful photographic tool. Today, I want to share another experience, this time using the camera for landscape photography in the southwest coast of Alentejo, Portugal. More precisely, during dawn in Almograve beach.
My wife thinks I am crazy, but I like to wake up before dawn to catch the best light on the landscape. Or, in this instance, the seascape. This time, I simply grabbed my tripod and X100V and went off to the nearby beach of Almograve. Arriving in the dark, I set up the camera and tripod and started experimenting with long exposures. I often use a Lee Big Stopper ND filter, but this time I wanted to try the in-camera 4 stop ND filter and see what type of images I would get. The previous version of the camera had a 3 stop ND filter; 1 stop more ends up making a significant difference for this application of long exposure photography.
Below are some examples of the long exposures I was able to shoot, some of them up to 4 minutes long.
As you can see, the soft light of pre-dawn was wonderful, with changing pink and purple hues in the sky. The longer exposures also imparted the sea with an ethereal quality.
In closing, I can say that the images look great, and the new 4 stop in-camera ND filter opens up a lot of possibilities for long exposure photography.