A night to day transition in Milfontes

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 old church around the corner
Chimneys
Brave pilots

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.

Famous lookout at night

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.

Floating
The lifeguard building

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!

First light over the river
15 minutes

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.

Breaking light over the distant mountains
Changing light and clouds

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!

On fire

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.

Perspective under the walkway
Fishing boat
Mira estuary

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.

Warming up
Junior

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.

Castle
Shadow

Between mountain and river – Troviscais walking trail

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.

Along the trail after Troviscais
Abandoned house
Wide angle close up
Telephoto close up – Autumn has arrived
Mira river long exposure
Mira river long exposure
Mira river oyster beds
Mira river long exposure
Abandoned
Window in Troviscais
Door in Troviscais
Door knob in Troviscais

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.

Some black and white photos

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.

Skeleton.
On the road.
Primary school, Monte da Estrada village.
Earth and sky.
Door and cloud.

Dawn in Almograve with the Fujifilm X100V

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.

Dawn in Almograve beach.
Rock.
Passage.
Moon and rocks at dawn, Almograve.

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.

Rock and Moon.

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.

On the trail with the Fujifilm X100V

As promised, what follows is a brief write-up of my experience using this camera on one of the Rota Vicentina trails. This is a network of many walking trails that exists in southwest Portugal, with a total of around 750km. The one I am writing about today is one I have previously done in December 2019 (details in the link below).

https://blog.paulobizarro.com/?m=201912

My wife and I enjoyed this trek so much last year, that this year we decided to do it again. With the Covid-19 pandemic still ongoing, we take any opportunity we can to go out and enjoy Nature in this region. So this year, in the beginning of October, we went again for this hike, which provides some great views from the top of the hills, plus some wonderful contact with local farmlands and old ways of rural life.

The weather was wonderful, with plenty of sunshine and puffy white clouds. This time, I only took the little Fuji X100V, tucked away in a small shoulder bag, with a spare battery and polarizer filter. Last year I went with more gear (2 cameras and 2 lenses), so this time around I wanted to see what different types of photos I would come back with. With a 23mm lens on APSC format, the X100V is an excellent camera for occasional shooting, be it landscapes, reportage, or documenting.

This trek is notorious for the very old cork oak trees that can be found along the way. I had some fun time playing around with various compositions and using the polarizer to enhance colours, sky, and clouds. I also tried a few black and white versions from the Raw files.

Old farm house and cork oak tree.
Cork oak tree.
Cork oak tree.
Cork oak tree in black and white.

The well know Arbutus trees are starting to bear fruits which, when ripe, are delicious. They are important for the local economy, as a source for the famous spirited medronho aguardente.

Arbutus tree on the trail.

About half way along the trek, the road climbs towards the top of a hill, where the tiny chapel of Nossa Senhora das Neves can be found. This is a wonderful place to have some rest and enjoy the 360 degrees scenic views.

Panorama view from atop the mountain. Near Our Lady of Snow chapel.
Chapel in the distance.

It is also a very good spot to have a picnic lunch. After this, the rest of the trail winds up and down the hills, before descending to the valley. I ended up using the polarizer a lot and liked the results.

Distant view.
Crossing ways.
Man and cork oak tree along the trail.
Fields.
Door and cloud.

I was quite happy with the images I made, and again confirmed that the X100V is a powerful little companion for such occasions. I will keep using it a lot on the trail.

Sunset walk with the Fujifilm X100V

I recently wrote about the latest iteration of the X100 series of cameras in the article below.

I have been using the camera whenever the opportunity arises, in short walks, or even on long trails. One of these recent short walks in the beach near my house, Carcavelos. Since June I have been working under a mixed regime, one week in the office, one week at home. Thanks SARS-COV-2… anyway, one of these afternoons, after work, I went for a sunset stroll on the beach. The little Fuji X100V is a perfect companion for such occasions, so I took it along.

The weather forecast included some rain showers and clouds, courtesy of storm Alex, so things were looking promising in terms of potential photographic interest. Looking through the window, there were indeed some clouds, but also occasional sunshine. Upon arriving at the beach, the weather was great, with golden light that with time turned to the typical post-sunset blue hour. I simply walked along the surf, making some photos here and there.

Golden beach.
The loner.
Sand, sea, and sky.

There were several surf schools operating at the time, and they always signal their position with flags. One of the attractions of the X100V is the fast f/2.0 lens, so I tried a close shot of one flag with the lens wide open, so the background would melt away. It’s nice to have these options in a small camera. This camera is small but quite responsive, so this type of unplanned photography on the go is easy to do. The fact that the X100V looks like some old film camera also helps in being unobstrusive when among people.

Surf school.

I stayed in the beach until after sunset, as the sky started to show magnificent colours. I did not have a tripod with me, so I had to raise the ISO more than I am used to, but even so, the quality of the RAW files was quite good. At the end of the day, it was an enjoyable and relaxing walk, and I was able to make some interesting photos with this nice Fujifilm camera.

Gone for the day.
Trio.

Next time I will write about my experience with it when hiking on a trail along the Vicentina route in southwest Portugal.

A morning walk with the Fujinon XF 90mm f/2 lens

When considering the subject of “landscape lenses”, normally the consensus converges towards lenses with a wide angle of view, that is, below the typical 50mm standard lens. Of course, such lenses are very useful for providing “depth” (foreground to background relationship) and including the grand vistas often associated with landscape photography.

But many interesting landscape photos can be made with normal and telephoto lenses. The latter can provide a very different photo, by isolating or drawing the attention of the viewer to a particular detail in the scene. This article provides some examples that I made during a short early morning walk in Carcavelos beach, near my house. It is a location I visit many times, which poses the challenge of trying to obtain different photos from the ones I took before.

I used the Fujinon XF 90mm f/2 lens, which is labeled as a portrait lens. On this occasion, I wanted to see what type of photos I could make on the beach, looking around for interesting subjects. There is a large fort on the eastern end of the beach, and normally there are many surfers that arrive very early. So I simply mounted the lens on the camera, grabbed the tripod, and went out.

The first shots I took were simply playing around with the shape of the lens’ aperture: rounded wide open, polygonal stopped down.

Dream
Dream – 2

As expected, there were already many surfers in the water, plus some others doing their warm up. I made a few shots of them, using long exposures to capture the ambiance.

Warm up

The next photos show the fort in the distance, and the pontoon up close. The tighter angle of view from the lens provides a different result from using a wider angle lens.

The light
Into the blue

I had a great time simply walking along the beach, enjoying the pre-dawn light, the changing colours, and the breaking waves.

Apparition
Vigilant
Wave
Wave – 2
Wave – 3
Into the water

As for the lens itself, it is no surprise that it delivers excellent results, and it is another high quality tool in my landscape kit. Delivers sharpness, great colour, and contrast.

Between Moons in the southwest

Every landscape photographer knows that one of the best times to include the Moon in landscape photos is one day before the full Moon. On that day, the Moon rises around the same time as the Sun sets; this results in a nice light balance during golden to blue hour transition, because as our satellite rises, the landscape is still illuminated by the fading light of the sunset. As a bonus, the following morning the Moon will set around sunrise time, again providing an excellent opportunity for a good light balance. On the day of the actual full Moon, it rises after sunset, which means the landscape will be darker.

During my recent vacation time in the southwest coast of Alentejo, Portugal, I had the opportunity to photograph during the full Moon, so I made plans to choose a nice setting for such. Being familiar with the area, I chose to photograph the Moon rise in Odemira, and the Moon set in Milfontes. In Odemira I set up near the local windmill, which in itself is an interesting subject. By being located in an elevated area, I would see the Moon rising over the surrounding hills. Then, in the ensuing morning I would go to Milfontes to photograph the Moon setting over the river Mira estuary. I have already shared some photos taken during such sessions in my previous essay.

All the best plans can be laid to waste if weather does not cooperate. Fortunately, I was lucky, as the weather cooperated. I drove to Odemira about one hour before sunset, to take some photos of this nice village. The winding road twists and turns as it descends towards the Mira valley, with some good view points along the way.

Odemira windmill
Odemira windmill

I spent several minutes photographing the windmill and the village during the sunset. It is a nice spot that affords a 360 degree view, from the village proper to the rising heights towards the South, that culminate in the Monchique mountain at 900m of altitude.

Odemira dusk
Odemira windmill – the wind blows through the cones
Looking South, with the Monchique mountain in the background

Once I saw the Moon rising over the hills in the East, I started photographing it, with the camera firmly mounted on the tripod. I was glad to have a telephoto zoom with me, to provide compositional flexibility from my fixed location. Light levels go down very quickly, so keeping an eye on the exposure histogram is very important. Also relevant is to avoid exposure times that would blur the Moon, which actually moves quickly in the viewfinder!

Moon rise – first peak
Moon rise

During this period, I kept an eye on what was happening behind me, as dusk was coming over the village. I made some interesting photos of the windmill and the day-to-night transition.

Transition
Moon rise

After this good photo session, I called it a day and drove back home for dinner. Next step: wake up before sunrise to photograph the Moon setting in Milfontes. The following morning the coastal area was partially covered in fog. I wanted to photograph from the bridge over the river, as it provides an excellent view of the estuary and the village. Fortunately, the area over the river was not completely covered in fog, and the setting Moon was visible. I set up my camera on the tripod in record time, and started to shoot.

Milfontes Moon set
Milfontes Moon set
Milfontes Moon set

Towards the East, the river was still under the foggy shade of the mountains, enhancing the quietness of the place at this early hour.

Dawn coming
Dawn over the river

After such a good outing, I returned home for a well deserved breakfast. No matter how many times I photograph in this region, I never get tired of it. There is always something new, due to the changing light and the time of the year. Following the Moon in about a 12 hour period was a great way of showing the character of this singular region, from the interior to the coast.

Fujifilm X100V – initial photos

I have just returned from a few days of vacation in southwest Alentejo, during which I had the opportunity to use a friend’s Fujifilm X100V camera. This is the fifth generation of an iconic camera, and it introduces two major changes to previous models: a redesigned lens (to improve the performance at close focus distances, while wide open) and an upwards tilting screen. At least, these are the major modifications that have made me curious to try the camera. Oh, and of course the camera now is weather resistant, provided you add the adapter plus filter set.

The camera maintains the overall nice retro design from past iterations, and feels robust in use, which are both good things. I made several photo sessions during my days off in the region, including Odemira, Milfontes, Almograve, and Longueira. I tested the close focus performance, which is indeed very good, but to be honest this is something I have never used much with previous versions. What is very nice to have is the tilting screen, which facilitates low angle shots significantly; it is something I am used to in my other cameras, so I am glad it was added.

My first shots were taken during a short walk at the end of the evening near the village of Longueira: rural scenes, an old tractor, and the local windmill were used as test subjects.

Tractor
Tractor wheel close up – excellent performance and gradual fall off in the background

Fuji have also updated the ND filter to 4 stops, which may come in handy in some instances. I had to engage it for the shot below, as shooting against the light easily surpassed the camera’s top shutter speed.

Windmill close up, shot at f/2 with ND filter engaged

During the following days I had occasion of making more close up photos of several subjects, and they all came out very good. Seems like the new lens is indeed more capable in this type of situation.

Old wall close up
Grass close up at f/4

I also used the camera during a session dedicated to photograph the Moon rise and Moon set in Odemira and Milfontes, respectively. One day before the Full Moon, our satellite rises around sunset time; the following morning it sets close to sunrise time. This is a very good chance to make some interesting photos. In Odemira I walked up one of the hills to set up near the local windmill, but I made a quick diversion to photograph an old abandoned farm house.

Ruined house in Odemira, B&W conversion
Rusty bucket, Odemira
Windmill in Odemira
Windmill in Odemira

Wind blowers against sunset

As soon as the Moon started to rise behind the distant hills, I was busy making several photos of the surrounding landscape.

Moon rise in Odemira
Odemira dusk
Moon rise in Odemira

The little camera worked flawlessly and without skipping a beat. The following morning I woke up very early to drive to Milfontes to photograph the Moon setting over the Mira estuary. This is such a beautiful and peaceful location, I never get tired of returning to it.

Mira dawn and Moon set
Mira dawn

During the following days I have continued to use the camera as a documenting companion to my holidays. I took more photos in Almograve and Cabo Sardão.

Flag and waves, Almograve beach
Strolling, Cabo Sardão
Going home, Cabo Sardão

This was an excellent chance to try this new camera, which looks to me as a good upgrade from previous versions: the tilting screen is important to me, and the new lens performance at close up is good to have as well. Overall, the new X100V is a very worthy successor in a line of cameras that has helped establish Fujifilm’s reputation in the digital imaging age.

Interior waters of Odemira

I am writing this short essay as a follow-up to my latest post “Rural summer dawn”. In the latter I wrote about a simple morning walk near my house to photograph the surrounding landscape covered in fog. Fog can add interest to a familar area, which was the case. However, it can also last for a while, which is not good if you want to go to the beach.

Being familiar with the local weather conditions, namely that coastal fog can last for a whole day, I suggested to the family a trip to the interior, to visit two fluvial beaches: Santa Clara a Velha and Pego das Pias. I also wrote about those two places before:

https://blog.paulobizarro.com/?m=201911

So, after preparing a picnic lunch, we drove to the first place, the 50 year old dam of Santa Clara a Velha, in the river Mira. Sure enough, a few kilometres into the interior, the fog was gone and we were greeted by bright sunshine. The large lake of Santa Clara is a wonderful and refreshing place to spend the day, and that is what we did. I made a few photos, none memorable, but I do like this one where I used the polarizer to enhance the vivid colours of the sky and water.

Santa Clara a Velha dam

In the middle of the afternoon we drove the short distance to Pego das Pias pools, another nice location for a swim. The Pego das Pias is a geomorphological feature carved over thousands of years by the Torgal creek, a tributary of the Mira river. The water has created a narrow gap in the hard rocks, much like a canyon. In the summer, the water level is low, but the evidences of flash floods are conspicuous.

Pego das Pias pools

The location is very scenic, with the quiet pools surrounded by the rocky canyon and many trees that provide plenty of shade. Several large blocks can be seen along the creek, reminders of the force of the water under flash flood conditions. I trekked along the margin upstream, to explore the area a bit more. The views from above are worth the effort, with plenty of green ferns and the famous “pias” – circular smooth depressions carved by the eroding waters.

Pego das Pias pools looking downstream
Water and ferns
Ferns
Dry creek bed
Boulders

Thanks to the coastal fog, we visited these two wonderful and quiet locations, which I can highly recommend. I look forward to coming to Pego das Pias after some heavy rainfall, it should be interesting.