The Vinalopó, the Monastery and El Hondo

January 13, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

The Vinalopó, the Monastery and El Hondo 

It's been a lovely week here, a bit chilly in the evenings and early mornings but generally pretty sunny and nice.

Now that the Christmas and New year festivities are over my thoughts turned to exploration once again and there has been a couple of trips this week, one on my own and one when Tracy came with me.

The first trip was one I did on my own and it was a return to Novelda.

Once again I parked at the sight of the castle, and the church of the Monastery of Santa María Magdalena, and headed out for a late afternoon walk.

The church etc where I parked the car is on the top of a hill but I was heading down into the Vinalopó valley to see what opportunities there were along the river. The journey down is easy but I knew the journey back up would be a lot harder as it means climbing back up a steep hill to the car park. Oh well, it's good exercise.

I found a path that led alongside the river and followed it for a while. Unfortunately it headed away from the water for a while and I didn't think I was going to find anything interesting. After  exploring a bit further however, then the path and the river came back together and I found an interesting looking spot with a couple of potential compositions.

The light wasn't quite right yet so I explored a little more and found another couple of potential locations a little further around and heading back towards the hill where the car was parked.

Down in the valley I knew that the light would be at its best around an hour before sunset. Any later than that and the sun would be behind the surrounding hills and mountains and the valley would not get any light at all.

I went back to my first spot and set up. I had decided on a long exposure to smooth out the moving water so I used a 10 stop ND filter to reduce the amount of light getting into the lens.

My first composition here used some stepping stones across the river and the path leading towards the hill and the distinctive looking church. The ND filter allowed me to get a 15 second exposure at f/11 which created an effect on the water that I quite liked:

Moving just a short distance away I had another shot in mind. This time it was a vertical composition with the river and some rocks in the foreground and the church in the background. This time I went to f/16 for 25 seconds to get a bit more blur in the water and in the cloud:

I quickly made my way across the stepping stones and up the path to a spot that was a little to one side of the river where there were some interesting pruned back trees creating an interesting line towards the church. This time, with no water to consider, I left the ND filter off and shot at f/11 for 1/60 second:

I didn't have long left in the valley as the sun was getting lower and I quickly moved around to my final spot near a bend in the river. 

I wanted to do an even longer exposure here so the ND filter went back on. I experimented with one at 52 seconds (at f/16) and, as it started to get a little bit darker I went to f/22 and shot one at 104 seconds. When I checked them later I decided that I really liked the effect that the 104 second shot had on the cloud but that the 52 second shot was better for everything else. So I combined the two images using layer masks in Photoshop and this was the final result which is my favourite shot of the day:

The light down in the valley was no longer very interesting but, if I got to a higher vantage point, I might find something else of interest. 

I climbed up a path that led further up the valley walls, on the opposite side of the river, and walked along what is part of the wine trails. Shortly before sunset I came to a vineyard with some flowers growing just outside. A helpful sign told me that the grapes here were the Cabernet Sauvignon variety.

The sun was dropping towards the mountains in the distance and I looked around to see if there was an interesting shot to be head. I ended up shooting directly towards the sun with the vineyard and the flowers in the foreground. It was a very high contrast scene so I shot 5 exposures ranging from 1/8 second to 1/2000 second so I could merge them later. 

I had no idea if this was going to be a good image or not. When I processed it later I decided that, even though it had some lens flare and even though the composition was a bit cluttered, I actually quite liked it. Whether I feel the same about it in a few months remains to be seen but. for now, here it is:


Our second trip of the week was to El Hondo nature reserve (also called El Fondo) near to Elche. This is about a 45 minute drive away and we went along with the intention of checking the place out, taking a few pictures and generally having a walk around.

The nature reserve sits in an area that is very flat, at odds with most of the region that is pretty mountainous although there are mountains visible in the distance, and is made up of a number of shallow lagoons with paths around and, in some cases, wooden bridges over, the water.

Of course, this place is mostly about the plants and animals but I couldn't resist some landscape shots of such a pretty scene, like this one with reeds and reflections in the shallow water of one of the lagoons and even a coot swimming in amongst it all:

Of course there is plenty of wildlife around and, even though this isn't my speciality, I had to try to get a few shots of some of the birds, like this little chap wading through shallow water near to one of the hides placed around for bird watchers and photographers to use:

 and this one, which I've been able to identify as a Black Winged Stilt that I managed to capture from the same hide:

Of course I also had an eye for the scenery and, although it was closer to the middle of the day than I would normally choose to shoot landscapes, the light was pretty good due to the lower winter sun.

This shot was taken near to the bridges that cross the main lagoon and I really like the reed hanging over the water and creating a distorted reflection:

and the bridge itself was worthy of a capture. The sky wasn't all that interesting but I wanted to capture the extent of the bridge and the reeds and light in the water in the foreground. So I took a fairly wide angle shot that let me fit it all in with the intention of cropping down to a 16:9 format later that would remove some of the less interesting sky. After doing that I really like the way this shot came out:

and finally, as we were heading back toward the car I manage to get a shot of a little bird perched on some reeds. T

And then it was time to head for home. I will definitely be coming back here again, both to see if I can get in early in the morning for a dawn shoot, and also to come with the big lens and see if I can get some more nice wildlife shots.

The final event of this week, and the most important one by far, was Tracy's (my wife) birthday so we popped out for a picnic in the mountains for lunch and then had a very nice meal out with Tracy's mum in the evening at one of our favourite restaurants called La Cova.

A very pleasant week all round.

Next week is forecast to be cold here. Not snow and ice (we hope) but certainly much colder than normal. I'll report back on that in next weeks post. 

Until then, have a great week


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