The Mutrah souk in Muscat is one of the mandatory places to go for visitors. It is a very traditional place, with various shops lining the narrow alleyways. It is actually quite small, but still one can feel “lost” inside, due to the narrowness of the streets, and the ambience inside: traditional fares like incense and spices are available, as well as all other types of products. Be sure to visit one of the juice stands for a really good natural fruit juice, or the more traditional teas and samosas.
Less known to visitors are the streets located just a stone throw’s away from the more commercial streets; in here it is possible to find busy men unloading merchandise for their shops, and traditionally decorated wood and steel doors. Away from the hustle and bustle of the commercial activity, I was able to concentrate on capturing some of the “flavour” of the souk, the details that often go unnoticed.
In this regard, the Sony A7II and Zeiss C Sonnar f1.5 50mm lens are a wonderful combination, for this more contemplative type of photography. Having visited this place so many times before, this time I wanted to obtain some different results, other than the more “normal” shots inside the souk proper.
These are some photos I took recently in the town of Odemira, in South Portugal’s Alentejo province. The name of the town comes from combining “Oued” (from the Arabic Wadi) and “Mira” (name of the river). This town is located about 20 km from the coast, inside the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina. As such, it is very close to some of the best beaches in Portugal, but it has a rural and interior feel to it.
Unfortunately, as many interior towns and villages, the younger population has migrated to the large centers, in search of better opportunities. This leaves behind an aging population, plus some houses going to ruins. But Odemira still preserves a charm and character of its own, with the gentle rolling hills, and a life style that takes its own leisurely pace. There are also some local industries and associations that try to preserve old ways of life and traditions, in areas such as tapestry, pottery, and farming.
In this occasion, I visited the town in the morning, just walking the streets and going to the local market (I actually wanted to buy some fruits and vegetables!). The Sony A7II and ZEISS C Sonnar f1.5 50mm ZM lens continue to impress me very favourably as a documentary and travelling photographic tool. It is really liberating just using the basic photographic controls: set aperture priority, choose the aperture according to the shot (lens ring), focus manually (lens ring), and shoot.
The Grand Mosque in Muscat (Oman) is one of the “must see” spots of the city. The best times to photograph are at dawn and dusk, but these do not overlap with public visiting hours (8 – 11 am). So, when the light is more interesting, you are limited to take photos from the outside; this is still interesting, and makes for some nice photographs.
To photograph the interior of the Mosque, as well as its environs (gardens and surrounding complex), it is better to arrive at 8 am, to still have some interesting light (during winter), and avoid the crowds. Inside the Mosque, there is a pathway that you must follow, but still, some interesting photos can be taken. Also worth documenting are the various archways (which provide interesting viewpoints) and the several styles of ceramic tiles. It makes for a very interesting learning and photographic experience. A wide angle lens, or wide angle zoom, is recommended to photograph the Mosque.
At the end of the day, you can then relax and unwind in the beach front of the city, even trying your luck at football!
Any trip to Muscat is incomplete without a visit to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. This is one of the (many) highlights of Muscat, and even more so if you enjoy photography. Having lived in Muscat for a few years, whenever I return, I always try to include a short incursion to the area, to photograph the mosque around sunset time. Of course it is possible to visit the mosque interior and surrounding grounds, which are very beautiful too. This time around, I did not had the time to do so.
This is the time when the lights in the dome and the minarets come on, which make a nice combination with the remaining natural light. The gardens and the mountain make for a scenic foreground and background, respectively. Using a small travel tripod makes it easy to shoot the longer exposures required.
I also include some photos from other small trips I was able to make during this visit, from the areas around Mutrah Corniche, and the beaches of Barr Al Jissah hotel complex.
Lisbon, my hometown, is the (other) city of seven hills. It is a city full of life, with plenty of interesting things to do and see, to keep even the most resilient person busy for a whole day. For the keen photographer, there is much to see and absorb, while strolling up and down one of those aforementioned hills.
Every now and then I take the opportunity to walk, sort of in an errand way, around the old quarters of the city, climbing the hills, chasing the light. It is said that the quality of light in Lisbon is second to none, and indeed it is quite a sight to see the sunlight reflected in the Tagus River, and in the houses that hug the Castle. In one of my last strolls, I took a few panoramas, one towards the Castle, and another one towards the South, to include the river and the bridge. These views are best appreciated around sunset time, when the golden light envelops the city.
These are simple panoramas, quite easy to make. It is best to have a tripod, but today’s software are quite forgiving, and can correct for misalignments. I have been using Panorama Factory for many years, and still like it a lot.
The Southwest Portugal coast is part of a Natural Park area (Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina). It stretches along the coast roughly between the towns of Sines and Sagres, and it is home of many species of fauna and flora (some of them unique to the area). I am fortunate to be able to visit the area a few times a year, especially the coastline between Almograve beach and Cabo Sardão. This cape is a rocky spur that juts into the sea, and a lighthouse provides a beacon for passing ships.
The region is notable for its rough seas, high cliffs, and small coves, and it provides numerous opportunities for landscape and travel photographers. One can also trek along the marked trails, and familiarize with the region at a more leisurely pace. I can assure you it is worth it! Below are some photos taken recently, in the last couple of months.
Not far from the coast, it is possible to visit the towns of Odemira and Santa Clara-a-Velha, where a dam in the Mira river provides a refreshing opportunity. Here, one is surrounded by the peacefulness of the fields, and hardly a car drives past you on the road. Worth noting are the traditional rural houses, and the friendly local people.