Weather Improves, Reservoirs, Rivers and Mountain Scenes

January 27, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Weather Improves, Reservoirs, Rivers and Mountain Scenes 

Following the, frankly horrible, weather conditions last week this week has been a major improvement. While it's still a bit chilly out of the sun we've seen a lot more light and a lot less rain.

The first signs of the weather improving came on Sunday evening. It hadn't rained for a while and as I looked out of the window I could see some really nice cloud formations. I took a few snapshots off the balcony, nothing very exciting but just an excuse to shoot something, and then I noticed a change in the light. As the sun was dropping down behind the buildings it was also breaking through the cloud. With the shape of the cloud this could be interesting.

I had almost no time, I grabbed a jacket, stuck some shoes on and almost ran down to the beach. No time to mess around with a tripod. I tweaked the ISO up a bit so I could get a better shutter speed, picked a composition with included the lifeguard tower, adjusted a bit to allow for the fact that I knew I would have to correct the verticals after the event (the penalty for using a wide angle lens), and managed to grab one decent shot before the light faded and the magic was over:

With the improvement in the weather I decided to head out on Monday afternoon to check out conditions back at Amadorio reservoir. I had been there less than a week before but, in that week, there had been a massive amount of rain and even snow in some local areas, so I was interested to see what had changed.

I timed my excursion so that I could do a circuit of the reservoir on foot (about an 8 kilometre or 5 mile walk) and be roughly at the far end of the area as the sun was getting down towards the top of the surrounding hills.

I parked the car and walked across the top of the dam. On the Eastern side I stopped at a vantage point just off the path to check out the view. There was some snow visible on the mountains in the distance, there was also some nice clouds and, as the water was very still and I had the sun almost behind me, some nice reflections. 

I decided to get a shot that showed the snowy mountains but also had some reflections in the water. I tried several compositions, the challenge being to get a shot without too much foliage in the way. In the end I went for this vertical shot that I think works pretty well:

One of the nice things about winter is that the sun is lower in the sky, even some time before sunset. The low sun that was almost behind me, was creating some really nice reflections in the still water and, because there was some nice clouds in the sky, this made for an interesting view. I moved around a bit to get a clearer view without some trees in the way and composed a 9 shot panoramic image of as much of the scene as I could get, including the dam on the far right of the frame:

I thought this was going to make for a nice image but I also wondered if there was a composition that made more of a feature of the dam and it's reflections. I shot another series of three vertical images that I stitched into a 16:9 view that I thinks works really well:

 A quick check of the time and I realised I had to get a move on. I had a good 45 minutes walk to get to where I wanted my final shots to be and I needed to pick up the pace.

What I wanted to do was check out the northern most part of this area where the river bed joins the reservoir. Six weeks previously I had been there and the river bed was completely dry. I had actually walked down into the middle of the river bed to check for potential compositions while standing amongst dry and brittle bushes and grass.

What a change to this scene when I got there. The river was now in full flow and rushing beneath the road bridge. This was what I had been hoping for and I walked around for a while deciding how I would shoot it. I decided on my composition, I had to make a choice to focus on the river and the bridge and ignore the mountains in the background, there was simply no composition that would let me get both. A long exposure seemed to be the way to go and I used a 10 stop ND filter to achieve a 15 second exposure to nicely blur the water, while the now very low sun painted some nice light on the scene:

With this shot in the bag I started the walk around the western side of the reservoir as the light slowly faded. As some of this is on the road I ideally wanted to complete this section and get onto the walking trails before it got too dark. All in all a pleasant afternoon. I knew I had some interesting shots captured and I'd had a nice bit of exercise as well.

On Wednesday the weather was also very nice, Mostly blue skies (although that's not normally the best for landscape photography) and fairly warm. I decided to head up onto Cabecon del Oro mountain for an afternoon hike and see what opportunities I could find. 

Because I was heading to a bit higher altitude, and because the weather on the mountain can be unpredictable, I went prepared. I had a nice warm fleece with me, a shell jacket that would help to keep me warm if the wind was cold, and keep me dry if it rained, and a hat and some gloves. I ended up spending the entire walk in my tee-shirt because it was lovely and warm. Still, better safe than sorry.

The recent heavy rains had caused a few mud slides that had left mud and rocks across some of the main paths. The paths on the lower half of the mountain are wide enough for vehicular access, and there are some isolated houses (I assume fincas) up there that people presumably drive to, although I wouldn't fancy it in anything other than a 4x4. While I was there I came across a couple of crews working to clear these areas and even had to get one of them to stop so I could inch my way past.

I took a bit of a diversion off the paths at one point, heading into a wooded area and picking my way through some quite lush long grass and around some prickly bushes until I found a spot that was bathed in some very nice light from the fairly low sun. A very low point of view and using the trees to break up the sun a bit and prevent flare produced this image:

Moving back out onto the trails I headed off down one that I hadn't explored before.

When I'm doing these walks I spend a lot of time looking around for opportunities. Sometimes these are to be filed away for another time, when the light is better, but sometimes the light is good right now and I'll see what kind of shot I can get.

In this case I spotted a bush on the edge of the trail with some bright orange and red leaves. I liked the splash of colour and started to view different angles. Finally I saw a view that had the bush in the foreground, one of the stone walls that retain the terraces leading away and some trees and a hill a little higher up. The composition was good and, as a bonus, the scene was being nicely lit from the side so the time was good to shoot it. This was the shot that resulted: 

A little more exploration and I came to a side path that wound up a little hill (this is a little hill on the side of a mountain by the way). I followed it up and discovered a large and quite imposing tree that leaned in over a flat area but with a view out to one of the large ridges on the side of the higher part of the mountain. Using the tree to partially block out the sun meant I could get a nice sun star effect without problems with lens flare and with some really nice shadows to lead in to the scene. There was, however, a lot of contrast and I ended up shooting three exposures to maintain detail in the highlights, shadows and mid tones and merging them later in Lightroom:

A slightly different part of this hill top let me get a view out over the distant valleys with the sun as a burst in the sky and a tuft of grass in the foreground. This was another three exposure shot to deal with the contrast but, in this case, there was nothing blocking the sun to avoid lens flare. So I took another series of shots with my thumb blocking out the sun and used layer masks in Photoshop to remove the unsightly flare from the foreground. A bit fiddly but overall I think it was worth the effort:

As sunset approached I knew we weren't going to get anything great. The clouds were leaving the sky and there was a lot of haze developing over the mountains where the sun would be due to set. I decided that I would explore for a few more minutes and then start heading back.

As I rounded a bend in the trail I discovered a lovely view down into a valley. There were trees on both sides of the valley wall, some nice shapes in the landscape, and some abandoned buildings that I thought looked quite interesting. 

As the sun was dropping I felt there might be a nice play of light and shadow on the scene and, from this high vantage point, I could shoot with a longer focal length and exclude any boring sky.

So, I set up and waited. The sun dropped lower and then the light that I was hoping for happened. I took a few shots as the light moved across the scene and waited until it disappeared altogether. I would choose one of these images later at home based on which one had the best combination of light and shadow, and this was my choice:

And then I started the walk back as the sun dropped lower and lower. I was right about the sunset, nothing too spectacular, but I was happy that I had managed to get some interesting shots aided by the lower winter sun. This type of thing will be harder to do in the summer when the sun gets that much higher and when sunset is so much later.

That's it for this week. I hope you have enjoyed the read and the images. If so a like or a share is always appreciated and please do feel free to leave any comments.

Have a great weekend and week.



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