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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Towards the East, the river was still under the foggy shade of the mountains, enhancing the quietness of the place at this early hour.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
With the current ongoing pandemic, it is challenging and difficult to make any plans regarding travel or holidays, due to limitations, restrictions, and uncertainties. Thankfully, I often have the chance of taking some days off in my small house in Longueira, in the Alentejo coast. This is a region that I like very much, far away from the crowds; this year even during the Summer it is quieter than usual, due to the lack of foreign tourists.
A couple of weeks ago I spent a weekend there with the family, simply resting and going to the beach, enjoying some quality time. Of course I always take my photo backpack, ready for unplanned opportunities. This essay is about such an opportunity, that presented itself, and that I took advantage of.
One morning I noticed that there was a lot of fog over the area. This was just before sunrise, so I grabbed the camera and lens and went out just to see if I could make some interesting shots. This is a coastal region, and foggy mornings are somewhat common. I went out and walked around a nearby ruined house, which was surrounded by a herd of sheep. I noticed the soft light from the rising Sun, the dew drops on spider webs, and proceeded to make a few photos.
I continued to explore the area, and noticed some nice flowers and spider webs covered in dew. Thanks to the tilting screen of the camera, I was able to frame the subjects easily, from low on the ground.
After a while, the countryside was bathed by the sunlight, and the fog started to lift.
I started to walk back home, but made one more stop, to photograph the well preserved windmill. I was attracted by the typical blue that is used in the Alentejo province, contrasting with the white. The red rooster at the top was a nice finishing touch. I also noticed a classic cardinal point indicator atop one of the houses and took a photo of its silhouette.
This was no doubt a great start to this day. Later on, I would be taking the family to Santa a Clara a Velha dam and Pego das Pias fluvial pools, but that is a subject for another essay.
crisis has taken away simple things that we took for granted, but with the slow
reopening life seems to be gradually returning to “normal”. In the previous
essay I described my first photographic landscape session after the confinement
period. Since then, I was able to go out again for an early morning walk in the
area around Cabo Sardao, in the southwest Portugal coast.
I have been
there so many times over the years I probably lost count, but I always enjoy
returning. The place is beautiful, and it is a privilege to be there,
especially at sunrise and sunset. The best light for landscape photography is
precisely around those times of the day, which in May requires waking up very
early. This can be a challenge, but after being confined for so long, I suppose
I will stop complaining about that! So, I woke up at 5 am, grabbed my camera
and lens plus tripod, and drove the short distance between my house and Cabo
For this early
morning walk, I simply carried one camera and one lens, plus the tripod. The
lens I had with me was the 35 mm one, which on an APSC camera like mine
provides the angle of view of a classic 50 mm on so called full frame cameras.
Even though I normally photograph in this location with a wide-angle lens, I
can also use the 35 mm lens effectively, challenging myself to get a different
sort of compositions and images.
was very quiet and peaceful, with clear skies and no wind. The light from the
lighthouse was still on, as the sunrise was still several minutes away. I made
some photos of the cliffs, the lighthouse, the sea, simply enjoying the place.
I noticed that the storks had already returned to their nests, so I need to go
back with a longer lens; this is a unique species of stork, that lives on the
sea cliffs, and will provide a different type of photographic challenge for me.
I stayed there until after sunrise, simply enjoying Nature, and returned home for a well-deserved breakfast.
current health crisis, many governments have implemented states of emergency,
where confining people to their houses to break the infection chain was
required. In Portugal that state of emergency lasted for 6 weeks, from
mid-March to end of April. Thanks to this, we had success in curtailing the
spreading of the infection and are since 4th of May slowly reopening
some economic activities.
March, just before the lockdown was put in place, I managed to make a short
trip to my house in the southwest coast, in Longueira. I wrote about it in this
months, and with the lifting of restrictions, I was able to return with my wife
to Longueira for a weekend. The local municipality, Odemira, has only 5
reported cases as I write this. This is not strange, because Odemira is the
largest municipality in area, and the one with the lowest population density.
This is a trait common to the entire province of Alentejo, where social
distancing is already the norm, due to the large distances between villages.
It was good
to go back and travel a bit in the area; all the restaurants and small cafes
are still close (they will reopen 0n May 18th), and there was hardly
anyone on the streets. But at least it
was possible to enjoy this “new freedom” while admiring the views in Milfontes,
Almograve, and Cabo Sardão, for example. After being at home for 2 months, it
was great to be out in one of my favorite places.
I took my photo backpack with me, ready to go on a photo walk, should the
opportunity present itself. That was the case one afternoon, where I spent a
few hours near Cabo Sardão. I have photographed this area so many times, it has
become a challenge to obtain different photographs. This afternoon, the weather
was quite unstable, with many showers and the occasional sunshine spell. I
parked the car at the end of a dirt track, near the cliffs, and just admired
the view and the feel of the place. I was thankful for my family being healthy
and felt blessed for being able to be back here, enjoying the salty wind in my
face and the crashing of the waves below. I could not think of a better place
minutes of simply “being there”, I started walking along the coastal trail,
paying close attention to potential photographic subjects and elements. We are
in the middle of Spring now, so there are many flowers around, some of them
quite small, others clinging to the rock fissures, all buffeted by the strong
winds. These winds keep shaping the consolidated and rusty colored sand dunes
into small canyons and plateaus, where rounded pebbles have found their resting
place. The surrounding landscape seems to strike a balance between the erosional
forces of the sea, wind and rain, and the resilience of the rock cliffs.
In my pursuit of finding new angles for familiar subjects, I often ended up lying flat on the ground photographing small flowers, sometimes isolated, other times as foregrounds for the receding cliffs and sea. I have also tried several long exposures, with the idea of conveying this feeling of perpetual change, showing the relationship between the natural elements of water, wind, and rock formations. During the afternoon there were a few showers, but even then, they helped to keep the atmosphere clear and bright. I kept shooting until sunset time, simply enjoying being out in such beautiful surroundings. Hopefully, this health crisis will pass sooner than later, and we will emerge from it stronger and better human beings.