I was born in Lisbon in 1966, and I am a geologist. My main interests as a photographer are Landscapes, Travel, and People. I have been fortunate enough to work in different places and contacted diverse cultures. I am also fortunate to live in a small, but beautiful country, Portugal.
This is a simple post, just to share some photos I took last week, when spending a few days in Longueira, in the SW Alentejo coastal region. End of September is synonym with tranquility: vacation time is over, school has started, so the crowds are gone. More than that, there is something special about the light in late September; the sun is lower in the sky, the air is crisper, and one can tell that Autumn is around the corner. It is a wonderful time to visit the area, and walk along the beaches and coastal paths.
It rained during one of the days, bringing the much needed water to the dry land. The following afternoon I took a walk just before sunset, visiting the area between Almograve beach and the fishing harbor of Lapa de Pombas. The weather was great, with nice golden light and clouds in the sky. I am always surprised at the amount of interesting subjects that can be found in this small area, from the more general vistas over the cliffs and the ocean, to the fishing boats, and even the local cats.
The following morning I woke up before sunrise for another walk, this time near Longueira. I often go out for a walk early in the day, it is a peaceful time to enjoy nature. The fields around the village have been planted with sweet potatoes, a local famous product; it is now time to gather the harvest, and the workers arrive before sunrise. Looking east, the first light of the sun seems to turn the sky on fire. This type of light lasts only for a few seconds, so I keep shooting as the scene changes.
As mentioned initially, these are just some photos taken close to Longueira and Almograve, within walking distance of my house. I am fortunate to be able to spend time in this region, which is blessed by natural beauty and tranquility,
About 1 km north of Cabo da Roca lies what the Michelin Guide has considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Ursa. The name means “female bear” in Portuguese, and supposedly comes from the shape of one of the local sea stacks. Even though I live about a 40 minute drive away, I have not been to Ursa for many years. The area has become a tourist magnet, with countless buses stopping at Cabo da Roca, which is part of the Cascais – Sintra touring route. There are countless interesting places to visit in the region, with Cabo da Roca being the westernmost point in continental Europe.
Still, the place is indeed beautiful, so I planned for a visit when the tide would be low, just before sunset. Quite often such plans are challenged by the typical fog that covers the region of Sintra, but such is part of its charm. For this visit a few days ago, the sky was a nice clear blue, which is actually not very interesting for photography, but as photographers we have to adapt to any conditions. It was also nice to have my daughter for company, so I considered myself lucky. While I had my 2 cameras and 2 lenses, she carried her smartphone; sign of the times.
Stopping at Cabo da Roca is mandatory, and I took the opportunity to make a panorama of the amazing view over the mountains and sea.
From there, we made our way to the beginning of the trail to Ursa; for the first few hundred meters, the path is generally flat, following along the plateau. After reaching the edge of the cliffs, it steepens considerably, and due care is necessary. Do not rush, because the view over Ursa is really nice. Given that the access is difficult, this beach is never crowded, and such was the case on this afternoon. Still, there were people around, many taking photos, and also enjoying the sunshine and the surf. I walked around for a while, exploring the area and looking for interesting compositions. The famous sea stacks are the obvious subjects, but other smaller details are also worth your attention. Like the dark vertical volcanic lodes that have intruded into the surrounding rocks, during the opening of the Atlantic ocean.
As the tide was going down, other parts of the beach became accessible, so I headed into its southern part and made a few more photos. The sunset was approaching, so the light was quite good. I used my 10 stop neutral density filter to smooth the water, and to really make the rock formations stand out; one added benefit was to also make the people disappear in the long exposure. The conspicuous lighter sea stacks make a good contrast with the surrounding darker and orange rocks.
Looking around, I noticed a cormorant perched on a rock, silhouetted against the sun.
I wanted to be back on the top of the cliff to watch the sunset, so after a couple of hours, it was time to head back. Again, it is impossible not to stop and make a few more photos. Especially as the light was getting really good, changing fast from golden into softer mauve tones.
And there was also time to see the light being turned on in the Cabo da Roca lighthouse, framed against the early night. What a great way to end this nice afternoon.
This is a short piece about a photo walk I did this morning, near my house in Carcavelos. Since it was the day before being full, the moon would set a few minutes before sunrise. This is always a good opportunity to photograph the moon as part of the landscape, with some early natural light in the sky. It permits a better balance between the moon’s brightness and the rest of the composition. Furthermore, the moon is closer to Earth than normal, by about 27,000 km, which makes it a little bit brighter than normal – a so-called “super moon”. In practice, and with the naked eye, the difference is barely noticeable, so forget the social media hype; it is worth it to go out and photograph even when the moon is not “super”. Oh, and “blue moons” are more common than people think.
I left the house about 1 hour before sunrise, with the plan to head for the coast, near the beach of Carcavelos. My plan was to photograph our satellite as it descended towards the ocean in the horizon. I was hoping for clear skies, and I was happy to see that there were only a few wispy clouds; also, the usual fog bank coming from the Serra de Sintra was further away than normal, which was good news.
For these photos, I used the Fujifilm X-T4 camera, Fujinon 56mm f/1.2 lens (I wanted a short telephoto lens) and tripod. During the first few shots, the sky was still dark, creating a large brightness contrast with the moon; even with a negative exposure compensation of 5 stops, it was a challenge to try and preserve some detail on the moon. Still, I made some interesting photos, by including passing cars.
As the eastern horizon started to slowly brighten, so the light began to change very quickly, entering the blue hour period.
Even though I was paying attention to the moon, on my back the light was becoming increasingly golden, and the clouds were reflecting this light, with pink and orange colours. I was in the middle of the transition between night and day.
Turning my camera back to the west, I framed the moon between some rocks, adding interest and context to the composition. The moon and the surrounding clouds were now also reflecting this golden light. I was feeling lucky, because the clouds were adding interest in the sky, but they were not obscuring the moon.
As I said, it was fortunate that the fog bank was really far away, so I could follow the moon almost until it disappeared in the distant horizon. Once the moon was gone, I packed up and went back home for a well deserved breakfast. I always enjoy these photo walks very much.
Note – the title of this article is my homage, with an obvious twist, to one of my favourite albums, that turns 50 this year.
It is often said that photographing regularly in the same place, or area, can result in boring and repetitive photos. For sure it has happened to me several times, with the resulting frustration. Such is the case of the SW Alentejo and Vicentina Coast Natural Park, where I have been photographing regularly for 30 years. One of my favorite locations is around Cabo Sardão, near the village of Cavaleiro; whenever I can I go there, even if it is only to walk and admire the landscape. The dramatic interaction between the tall rocky cliffs and the constant pummeling of the waves below, give rise to a wonderful natural show.
Adding to the beauty of the area is another factor, which is its geology, composed of folded and compressed strata that is 300 million years old. It is this geology that has controlled the formation of the landscape; in the numerous secluded beaches and small bays, it is possible to see the results of the unimaginable tectonic forces that have shaped the region. Today, even a non-geologist is amazed by the tightly folded layers of different colors that outcrop along the littoral. And all these aspects can be seen in a small area like the one indicated in the map below.
When I go to this area, I usually end up near location A, in the top of the cliff. From here, it is possible to look south and see the tall scarps jutting into the ocean. You can also walk along the sandy path to the north, where there are beaches of difficult access. It is possible to go down into them, especially during low tide, when they are more exposed; but be prepared to negotiate some tricky passages and hang on to a few ropes that have been fixed by the local fishermen.
Thus, try to plan your visit during the golden hour and low tide, for the best conditions. I was lucky to get some nice clouds in the sky for added interest. During my visit, I carried two cameras and two lenses, a wide-angle and a short telephoto. And the obligatory tripod and 10-stop neutral density filter for some nice long exposures.
The next two photos show location B, where I decided to go the following day, also at the end of the day, to benefit from the low-tide. There is a trail that descends the cliff face and allows access to the beach. The folded nature of the rocks is quite distinct.
Fast forward 24 hours and I am back at Cabo Sardão, walking along the trail that will lead me to the beach at the base of the cliffs and location B. I had walked down there a couple of years back, but the tide was high at the time, so actually going to the beach was new to me. Which leads us to the old adage that even in familiar places, it is possible to find new things to visit and photograph. The path reaches a small valley where a narrow creek runs through; following its course, it is easy to arrive at the beach.
I spent the rest of the late afternoon, until sunset, exploring the area. The geology is spectacular, but as I said before, you don’t need to be a geologist to admire all the incredible details and surrounding landscape. Being on the beach and looking up the cliffs, will leave you speechless. Because the tide was so low, I was able to walk along the rocks a considerable distance, which was nice.
After this wonderful visit to this new location, I am certain I will come back many times, as there are so many things to explore.
I have recently spent a few days in my house in Longueira, that I normally use as a base to explore and photograph this coastal region. Today I am sharing some photos of the local landscape, which is dominated by rural fields. The first ones are from a couple of trees that are isolated in the middle of the landscape. I had gone for a late afternoon stroll, with my camera and lens, in this instance a short 56mm telephoto lens in Fuji’s X system APS-C format. I selected this focal length based on my previous knowledge of the subjects; I wanted to isolate the trees, while including some of the wispy clouds above. I decided to convert some of the Raf files to black and white, using an Acros preset with the red filter enabled.
The following day I woke early for my morning jog, and when returning home I noticed a farmer in his tractor, working in the sweet potato fields by the side of the road. I quickly went home and grabbed my camera, this time with a 35mm lens, and made a few photos as the first light of the day illuminated the landscape. Similarly to the tree photos above, I also converted these Raf files to black and white using the same Acros plus red filter recipe.
Close by there is also an interesting abandoned farm house, that looked interesting under the early morning light, with the clouds above it. I made a few photos of it before returning home on time for breakfast. Quite often, it pays to get out of bed before sunrise, as unexpected photo opportunities might present themselves.
About one week ago I was in the village of Longueira, in the Alentejo coast. I had planned a photo session of the night sky during the new moon phase, when the sky is at its darkest. I chose a coastal location, at Foz dos Ouriços, near Almograve. Even though there are slightly darker places in the region towards the interior, the coast here is still dark, featuring a Bortle class 4.
In terms of gear, I brought with me for this session the Fujifilm X-T3 camera and Fujinon 16mm f/1.4 lens, plus the tripod. I like to do star trails, using exposures of 30 sec. at f/2 and ISO 1600. From my experience, these settings work quite well. After focusing the lens manually on a bright star, it is simply a matter of setting the intervalometer in the camera, fire the shutter, lie down, relax, and admire the sky.
The first framing was towards the northwest, to include part of the beach below and the sea. The total time in the final image was 45 minutes. I use Sequator to stack the exposures (star trail option), it is a nice and simple software.
For the second trail, I selected a framing towards the north, to obtain the classic view of the concentric star trails around Polaris. For this framing I chose 120 exposures of 30 seconds each, resulting in a total time of 1 hour. In both cases I also shot a couple of dark frames, to help with noise reduction during the stacking process.
Following the star trails, I made a few photos of the Milky Way, also for later stacking in Sequator. Given that I did not want the stars to trail, I used exposures of 15 seconds, and shot 20 images in total. After stacking in Sequator (with the accumulation option), the result for the 20 images showed a nice Milky Way, but the land part of the composition had trailed; this was expected, because I had a total time of 5 minutes. The best way to avoid this is to mount the camera on a dedicated tracker, but I do not own one.
After a few extra runs in Sequator, I decided on an image stacking 4 exposures, which gives a total time of 1 minute. This still gives nice detail in the Milky Way, while reducing the land trailing.
If you can, summer in the northern hemisphere is an excellent time to be out at night and photograph the sky. With modern cameras and software, it is quite easy to obtain good results.
I like to photograph the Moon one day before it is full, because it rises a few minutes before sunset. During that small amount of time, there is still some natural daylight that permits to photograph the Moon in a nice way. After the sun sets, and with the increasing darkness, it is more difficult to photograph the Moon over the landscape and avoid it becoming overexposed.
One location where I sometimes go to take such photos is Cabo Sardão, in the Alentejo coast. As the Moon rises in the sky, it crosses behind the lighthouse, making for interesting compositions. I arrived about 1 hour before sunset, and took a few photos of the area. I had only brought my telephoto lens, a Fujinon 70-300mm, plus a tripod. The warm light was basking the cliff rocks in great golden tones.
This coastal area is well known for the white storks, that come here to nest. At the end of July, they have gone away, leaving the nests empty. I found one nest where a lonely feather had remained; others are now occupied by seagulls.
Soon the Moon appeared above the horizon, and I took some initial photos. A few moments later, the lighthouse keeper turned on the light, and I shot a series of frames for later assembly into a panorama.
I continued to shoot, changing my position frequently, so I could frame the Moon behind the building. I wanted to play with the concept of having both lights in the same picture.
I also wanted a photo where the beam of the lighthouse would be (apparently) hitting the Moon. This was more challenging, and required a precise timing, as the light would be spinning around. After a few tries, I got the image I wanted.
I made a few more shots and then called it a day, or rather, called it a night? It was another enjoyable photo session, in this beautiful region.
The number of third – party lenses for Fujifilm’s X mount has been increasing in the last few years, and Voigtlaender has already introduced several of them, including this fast 35mm lens, which provides a standard/normal angle of view for the APSC format. As many other Voigtlaender lenses available for other mounts (e.g. VM for Leica M), this is actually made by Cosina. This is similar to other famous names in photographic lenses; for example, many Zeiss lenses are also made by Cosina (think Loxia for Sony E and ZM for Leica M). The bottom line is that all of them are manual focus only and made to very high standards.
To try out the lens, I mounted it on my Fujifilm X-T4 and went to one of my favourite places in Portugal’s SW coast, near Almograve and Cavaleiro villages. This is not a lens test, as I am no expert. I have simply used the lens under various circumstances, checking the results for aspects like bokeh, transition between in-focus and out-of-focus zones, flaring, contrast, colours, etc. Even though it is a very fast lens (f/1.2), it is quite small, thanks to the APSC format and lack of AF and IS motors. Regarding the details on how to manually focus the lens, all the assists in the X-T4 worked without problems; you can use magnification, split prism, microprism, and peak highlight. Given that my subjects were static, I was in not hurry, so I mostly used magnification.
I have organized this article by topics, so lets start with the first one.
Bokeh and focus transition
From some of the comments and samples that I had researched prior to my experience with the lens, I already knew a few things about it. The photos I got confirmed that the lens, when used wide-open (say between f/1.2 – f/2), is not clinically sharp, and shows some “glow” around the edges of the focused subject. This combination delivers a unique look, which I think is adequate for portraits. I have seen this look in other lenses that I used before, like the Zeiss C Sonnar 50mm f/1,5 ZM and the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2. Basically, the optical aberrations of the lens are under-corrected when used wide-open and near wide-open. As the aperture is stopped down, this “glow” effect goes away and sharpness increases. It is almost like you get two lenses in one.
I have shot Raw and processed the files via two steps: the first one was using Iridient to convert RAF to DNG, and then using Lightroom (LR) on those (I have an old LR version that does not recognize the Raf files from my cameras). Processing in LR is my usual one, starting with Provia “film choice”, followed by simple adjustments to the basic parameters. I really like the rich but natural colours from the lens, plus the excellent contrast.
Below we can the first example I shot, a marker of the Fishermen’s Trail in the Vicentina Route, near Cabo Sardão. Timing was the onset of the golden hour before sunset. This is a focus distance that might represents a close portrait; the background shrub is very close to the wood marker. It is also worth mentioning that the aperture features a 12-bladed diaphragm, and that as we stop down, its shape becomes well defined. I like the transition between the focused and non-focused areas.
The second scene features a football pitch in the foreground and the Cabo Sardão lighthouse in the background. I have focused on the letters in the bench, which were around 2 or 3 m away from my position. It could represent a half-body to full body portrait, for example.
Finally, my third scene was shot in the coastal dunes near Almograve, at sunrise. I chose the nice flowers blooming around. What we see is the lens behaving similarly to the scenes above.
The second aspect I want to mention is flare. Given the lens is under-corrected by design (when used wide-open, and I think similar to what Cosina does with their “Classic” line of VM lenses), I was actually expecting a worse result than the one I obtained.
I used the same area with the flowers as above, and shot against the rising sun. One photo with the sun in the upper left corner, almost outside of the frame; and another photo with the sun right in the frame, shining directly on the lens. In both cases I see that the flower is still clear, with no loss of contrast. This is a very good result, and I will have no issues with shooting against the sun. It is important to mention that flare depends on how clean the lens (or filter) is; any particle of dust or any smudge will increase the likelihood of inducing lens flare. I had the lens hood mounted as well. This would be a good time to mention that I saw no chromatic aberrations also, which is good.
The third characteristic of the lens I wanted to check is its capability of producing nice sun stars. For that, I went to Odemira for a very early photo session.
Below are two examples shot at f/8 in Odemira, where very nice stars can be seen on the street lamps.
Finally, I leave you with a few more image samples taken during my time with this lens. In conclusion, for my typical use cases, I find this lens to be excellent: small, light, robust, easy to use, and with very high (and unique in some aspects) image quality. I do not mind that wide open the lens shows “glow” and less than razor sharpness, because when I take portraits, I am not after forensic detail. For landscapes and general photography, at f/2.8 and above, the lens provides more “modern look” results. One of the things I enjoyed when I was using the Sony E system several years ago was the Zeiss Loxia range of lenses; they were small and very high quality too. I am glad to see that Cosina/Voigtlaender are investing on a similar approach for Fujifilm X. And I hope they release a nice wide-angle landscape lens next.
The following photos were taken during a recent visit to one of my favorite beaches in the SW Alentejo coast in Portugal, Brejo Largo. I usually visit this beach several times every year, and I have written about it many times before. Located between the villages of Almograve and Vila Nova de Milfontes, this beach is still very quiet, thanks to the absence of a black top road. Summer is not my preferred time of the year to photograph it, because the sky is usually cloudless, but on this occasion I decided to carry my photo backpack with me; the reason being a low tide at sunset.
After spending a wonderful day at the beach, I grabbed my backpack and tripod, and walked along the shoreface. The tide was so low that it was possible to access by foot several other beaches to the south. The geology in tis area is spectacular, with the cliff faces displaying dark Paleozoic schists that are vertical and folded. Numerous quartz veins cut the rock and in places the water runoff creates a strong red and orange iron oxide mineralization.
For this visit I had with me my Fujifilm X-T3 camera and Fujinon 16mm f/1.4 wide angle lens, which I knew was adequate for this beach. This lens also has some useful close focus abilities, that allow concentrating in a few interesting details of the rocks. I leave you with a collection of the photos I made that afternoon.
We have all seen the news about the ravaging forest fires in Canada, and the resulting enormous associated volume of smoke particles. Propelled by winds, these clouds of smoke have travelled all the way to Europe, arriving in continental Portugal at the end of June. At the time, I was spending a few days in the SW coast of Alentejo, and I had the opportunity to photograph the sunset under these special conditions. Because the light of the sun had to cross this thick dust layer, its color became more intense, while the sky acquired a greyish-purple hue. After a few days, the skies cleared, but this phenomenon remains a strong reminder of the consequences of larger periods of heat and drought that affect our planet.
Walking along a nearby rural road, I took several photos using my 70-300mm telephoto lens, as I wanted the sun to be relatively large in the frame.