Serra da Freita – a trip with Fujilm X – Pro2

Taking advantage of a bank holiday, I have recently visited the Serra da Freita region, in northern Portugal. This has been in my “to-do” list for quite some time, as the area, albeit small, is rich in cultural, geological, and landscape heritage. The rugged terrain, made of granite, quartzite, and schist, has been settled by Man since pre-historic times; today, many of the isolated and picturesque small villages are deserted, or only have a small number of (old) inhabitants. People have left for better jobs in the coastal cities.

Despite this, the local municipalities are making strong efforts to renew the region, based on its core attractions: local culture, natural & historical heritage, trekking, gastronomy, are key elements that concur for a unique experience

I planned my visit around two of the main attractions in the area: Passadiços do Paiva and Arouca Geopark. You can learn more about them here: http://aroucageopark.pt/en/

The Paiva river is one of the least polluted in Europe, and now it can be appreciated at close range by walking along the Passadiços, a wooden walkway 8km long that is quite popular. It is part of the Arouca Geopark, a network of a dozen or so spots that provide a unique insight into the early (Palaeozoic) history of our planet.

The surrounding countryside and landscape are a feast to the senses, with the sounds, smells, and large mountain vistas that are visible at each turn of the twisting roads. The road network is more than adequate, and traffic is scarce. Sometimes, after another turn, a small village, no more than a dot in the landscape, appears similarly out of nowhere. Such was the case, for example, of Manhouce, a small rural village that in recent years has become famous thanks to some local traditional music. Just seeing the corn cobs drying in the sun along the road, the granite – built houses, feels like going back in time.

I experienced some of the most beautiful landscapes of my life in front of the Frecha da Mizarela, the highest waterfall in Portugal. To fully capture the scenery, I decided to shoot several frames, to be later stitched. That day would end at the top of Serra da Gralheira, basked in the golden light of the sunset.

In terms of photographic gear, for this trip I wanted to keep simple, so I only carried one camera with one prime lens, i.e. the Fujifilm X-Pro 2 and 23 f/2 lens. This is a high quality and small package, that I carried in my backpack, together with food, drinks, and travel tripod.

In front of Mizarela waterfall
In front of Mizarela waterfall
Giant trilobites in Canelas museum
Giant trilobites in Canelas museum
Passadicos do Paiva
Passadicos do Paiva
Monastery Sao Cristovao Lafoes
Monastery Sao Cristovao Lafoes
Local produce
Local produce
Local company
Local company
In the forest
In the forest
From above
From above
Sunset
Sunset

 

London – some black and white photography

I recently went to London for some well deserved vacation time with the family. It is a fantastic city, full of photo opportunities and truly a melting pot of cultures. When I go back to places that I know well, which is the case, I tend to keep it simple in terms of photo gear; in this case, one camera plus one lens, a 35mm f/1.4.

Being London, the weather was often overcast, but with some clearing of skies towards the end of the day. I wanted to concentrate on the margins of the Thames, with the new booming architecture mixing in with the old, plus the new establishments along the river. Plenty of interesting points, offering new views over some classic locations.

With this plan in mind, I made most of my photos with the plan to ending with some interesting black and white images. I am continuously amazed by the power of the available computer tools to extract the most of the files. Of course, simply converting a colour file to black and white is no magic recipe for an interesting photo; if the elements for interest are not there, they will not appear out of the blue.

In some of the photos, the combination between clouds, sky, buildings and light turned out to be very good, and I am pleased with the results I got in the end. Below are some of the photos of the trip.

Reflected
Reflected
Parliement
Parliament – with the famous tower and clock under wraps, I opted for a different view.
Park sunset
Park sunset – good light at the end of the day.
Tidy
Tidy – traditional river activity with modern background.
Scale
Scale – using bridges to provide some depth and dynamism.
Eye panorama
Eye panorama – can not avoid the Eye, really. It’s a great ride too.
Greenwich panorama
Greenwich panorama
Shard
Shard

 

Kuala Lumpur – photos from a short visit

I recently visited Kuala Lumpur on a business trip. As with all my trips, I always carry a small camera to take some travel photos. Particularly when it is the first time that I visit a particular place, as was the case. It is a 12 hour+ travelling time from Portugal, where I live, so when I landed at around 3pm local time, with a 7 hour time difference, I was pretty knackered!

Of course to take photos outside of business hours involves waking up early and staying out late, and walk, and shoot a lot, on the street. Let me tell you that KL in late October means rainy season, high humidity, strong showers, and nice temperature (around 30 Celsius). The good news is that there are plenty of photographic opportunities even if you don’t have much free time; the bad news is that during my visit, the atmosphere was hazy due to fires in Indonesia, so I hardly saw the sun.

Anyway, the best way to know a new place is to simple walk around, so that is what I did. Friendly people everywhere, street food stalls with a lot of tasty foods, modern shopping malls and interesting architecture (both old and new), there are many things to see and visit.

To tackle all of this, I took a highly competent little camera with me, the Canon Powershot G7X. It packs a lot of power and image quality potential, with a relatively large (for a compact that is) 1 inch sensor, a bright 24-100mm lens, and a touch screen. I spent all the time in aperture priority mode, auto-iso, and touch focus on screen. The image stabilization helped immensely when the light levels were low. All in all, a great little camera for travel. Of course I shoot RAW all the time, to get the most bits from my bucks.

In the end, after 5 days in KL, I came away with some photos that I am happy with, and that is the most important thing.

Tasty food
Tasty food
High end
High end
Towers
Towers
Heavy rain
Heavy rain
Old & new
Old & new
Old & new
Old & new
At night
At night
At night
At night
Rapid KL
Rapid KL
Resting
Resting
Reflections
Reflections
In a nutshell
In a nutshell

Sony RX10 goes to Abu Dhabi

I recently went to Abu Dhabi on a business trip, to attend a conference. As always, I wanted to take a “small travel” camera with me. Recently, I had been looking with increasing interest at the Sony RX10. Actually, I had been looking at this camera since it was introduced in 2013, but the original high asking price cooled off my interest. With the price going down with time, I ended up getting one; after all, it is hard to resist the package: Zeiss 24-200mm f2.8 lens, 1 inch Sony sensor, good ergonomics, image stabilization, plus the other bits and bobs.

So when the time came to choose a camera to take with me to Abu Dhabi, the choice was obvious. I carried the camera plus a 13 inch laptop in a shoulder bag, no problem. I know Abu Dhabi well, but being on non-leisure trip means getting up early and staying up late, to make the best of the light. I was also travelling without a tripod this time, even my small travel one, so I was totally relying on upping the ISO and image stabilization. I went out mostly to photograph along the Corniche, close to the hotel where I was staying. The skyline in getting more impressive by the day, and makes for interesting photographs at sunrise and sunset.

The camera performed as expected. Zooming the lens is indeed slow, but after a while one gets the hang of it, and anticipating the focal length required makes up for it. Auto focus worked well, even in night scenes I always managed to find something to focus on, quickly and reliably. The ISO performance from the camera is acceptable, considering the size of the sensor. I was typically shooting in aperture priority mode and auto ISO up to 1600. This managed all the situations I encountered.

Now, at ISO values 800 and 1600, the image starts to degrade if you examine your images at 100% on screen. Careful sharpening and noise reduction can help up to a certain point, and the images end up being acceptable for most uses. In the end, I was able to take the photos, and it is marvellous how much technology has progressed.

I would say that the RX10 is a camera that will serve many photographers well, and that delivers high quality images if you understand its operational limits. It even allows you to step out a little bit from those limits and take photos that otherwise would not be possible, while maintaining a certain file integrity and quality. In the end, as a general purpose fixed zoom lens camera, it more than delivers.

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ISO 1600 and f2.8
ISO 1600 and f2.8, not bad

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