October 2017 - a look back at September

October 01, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

October 2017 - a look back at September 

It’s been a busy month for us here in Spain with a number of family members and friends coming to visit but I’ve still managed to get out and about a few times for some photography, and even started a new project that I’ll talk about a bit later.

We’ve finally started to feel some relief on the temperature and humidity, although that’s only really been in the last half of the month and, now that the season is coming to a close, there are less people about which does make the landscape photography a bit easier.

Photography this month has been, mostly, split between mountains and seascapes, although I did make a couple of visits to Amadorio reservoir, once for a sunrise and once for a sunset (not on the same day though).

My first photo trip of September was a hike up onto Cabezon del Oro mountain. I headed out in the later part of the afternoon with the intention of hiking partway up the summit trail. There was a good forecast for some cloud and I was hoping for some nice images along the way. It was still pretty hot and humid at the time so I knew I was going to get pretty tired so I wasn’t going to push  too far up the trail, but I did want to ‘break some new ground’.

Partway along the trail there is a ‘cross roads’ of four trails right by a large rock which is actually the end of one of the big ridges. When I got to this point I noticed that there was some nice light on the scene, even though it was still about 2 hours before sunset, so I decided to take a break from walking and get a shot of it:

Then it was time to take the right hand turn at the crossroads and start to trek uphill a bit more. I decided to hike up for about an hour, maybe a bit longer, and check out potential compositions as I went. The plan would then be to stop off on the way back to take any shots that I thought might work well.

I reached a point on the trail that I decided would be my turnaround point. I paused for a rest and a drink of water and was briefly joined by some trail runners who carried on up the trail (far too energetic for me). There was some quite impressive clouds forming towards the west and I was hopeful we might get some nice skies as the sun dropped lower. Time to start working my way back.

Shortly after I started back down there was a marked change in the atmosphere of the place. All sounds ceased and even the breeze seemed to disappear. It was quite an odd feeling and then I looked up and saw clouds rolling down over the ridge line that was just above me. It was really very beautiful and I quickly set up to capture the scene:

I reached a point that I had identified on the way up as a potential composition and I was delighted to see the dramatic sky that I was hoping for. It was still about 45 minutes before official sunset, although I knew that the sun would drop behind the mountains 10 to 15 minutes before that. 

As the sun went behind a bank of cloud the sky lit up with some beautiful rays and I was able to get a shot of them:

The rays were really impressive and I quickly moved a bit further down the trail to get a wider vantage point so I could shoot a panorama. It was a bit tricky to get set up because there was nowhere other than the trail (which is on a steep slope) to set up and the trail itself wasn’t very wide.

I eventually got the tripod level and managed to capture 8 vertical frames that I later stitched in Lightroom. I originally had it in colour but ultimately decided that it really suited black and white a lot more.

While I was checking this I saw the colours in the sky shift more to the orange and the clouds over the distant mountain became even darker. I decided to zoom in and try to capture that drama in a more ‘intimate’ shot and I quite like the result:

The sun was getting much lower and it was soon going to disappear behind the mountain. I really wanted to get one more shot and I moved further down the trail, trying to find a composition that would take advantage of the scenery, and of the dramatic sky.

In the end I pretty much ran out of time and I had to either make something work or lose the chance so I picked a spot, set up and managed one final image before the sun went behind the mountains. I like the image but can’t help but feel there was a better composition to be had if I’d only left myself a bit more time:


It was then time to start heading back down the trail. I still had about an hours hike to get back to the car.

My next trip was to a little spot on the coast called Llop Mari, which is still in El Campello. This is somewhere I have shot before but I do believed in working a good location. In this case I was looking a a different vantage point, just to the north of the cove of Llop Mari where it joins the next section of beach (Playa Amerador).

I had been there a few days earlier to check it out and found there were some lovely rocks and then the long curve of the cove edge. At this time of year I felt this could make for a really nice dawn composition with the sun rising on the horizon.

Llop Mari is about a 25 minute walk from home and is accessed along a private road. I could have driven part of the way there but I actually prefer to walk it.

On arrival I set up in my chosen spot and decided to see if I could get two different images from essentially the same spot.

My first one was a vertical format image taken about 15 minutes before sunrise. The exposure time was just over half a second so there is some blurring in the waves, but they are not completely smooth. I quite liked the effect with the subtle pre-sunrise colours.

It was then a matter of waiting until the sun put in an appearance to get my second image. 

I switched back to horizontal orientation and re-composed. I wanted to catch the action of the waves breaking in the foreground with the un out on the horizon.

As I was waiting a small group of people turned up and stood out on the end of the headland. At first I was disappointed as I thought they would ruin the image for me but, the more I looked, I realised they actually added something.

Once the sun was up I started shooting. Catching the perfect wave action often requires shooting quite a lot of images and then selecting the best one later. In this case I found one that I thought was just about a perfect match for what I wanted:

My third and fourth trips took me to Amadorio reservoir, a favourite location because it’s not too far away and because it offers a lot of different opportunities for images.

First it was a dawn shoot.

I must admit that, on this occasion, I didn’t have much of a plan. I had really decided to go on the spur of the moment and I just decided to head down to the waters edge, at the base of a small hill, and then try to find a composition.

I got there while it was still fairly dark and I did my initial exploring with the aid of my trusty head torch but it was starting to get light before I discovered what I was looking for. There were a couple of small fallen trees right on the waters edge (they may actually be all part of the same tree), and I thought they would make a nice composition. There are actually quite a lot of these fallen trees about. The water level was low here for so long (several years I believe) that these small trees started to grow quite a long way down the banks of the reservoir. When we had the heavy rains over the winter the water level rose substantially and a lot of these trees were uprooted and gradually came to rest on the banks.

I had a bit of time before the light would be right, I had to wait for the sun to clear a hill off to one side in order to get some light on the foreground, so I spent a few minutes just enjoying the peace of the scene and generally looking around. 

That’s when I noticed what was developing behind me on the top of the hill. A small group of trees  was catching some beautiful light and they were set against a sky that was developing some gorgeous colours.

I decided I had time to get a shot and I set up with a longer lens to get this image:

Then it was back to my original composition. 

I switched to a wide angle lens so that I could get in really close to the trees and exaggerate the size of them compared to the rest of the scene. Tripod half in the water to get the angle I wanted I composed the shot. The sky was really nice and I hoped it would hold while I waited for the light on the foreground. Finally the sun broke through and I got the shot:

Then (well the next day) it was an evening shoot.

I went up there a bit early to have a walk around, check out some potential compositions and then, as the sun started to get lower, I would try to get some shots.

When I arrived there were some really nice clouds in the sky. It was a bit breezy so probably not a day to try to get reflections, but it was looking promising for a nice sunset. I spent a couple of hours walking around different areas and found a couple of compositions. A short break and then I would start to set up to get some shots.

It was as I was making my way towards my first location that I realised the clouds were going to cause me some problems. Basically the wind was pushing them off to the south which was leaving clearer skies in the cereal direction of the sunset. Great for light but not so good for the compositions I had planned.

As I reached my first location and set up I could see that the clouds were clearing from one side of my chosen frame. I had intended to make this shot just as the sun dipped t the edge of the mountains but, by the time that happened, I suspected the sky in that direction would be completely clear (and boring).

So, I decided to take the shot a bit earlier. A 10 stop ND filter enabled me to get an exposure time of 62 seconds at f/16. There was a small, and completely stripped, tree trunk laying partway in the water and some nice reeds a little way out.

I like the image although I still think it would have been better if I could have waited but it just wouldn't have worked without the clouds:

By the time the sun started to set properly the clouds were all off in completely the wrong direction. I could have headed for home at that point but there was still some nice colour in the sky and I wanted to see if there were any other possibilities. 

I then spotted some kind of grass growing on top of a rocky hill that was getting some nice colours in the sky behind it. A quick change to a longer lens and I managed this image:

A little bit of recomposing and a wider focal length and I took another shot that showed a bit more of the surrounding scenery and some lovely light on the rocks:

None of these are award winners but I still like them and I was glad I had gone out for the evening.

Back to the coast for the next shoot and it was an early morning.

I’ve learned from experience that weather forecasts, in particular clouds forecasts, are not to be trusted. On this particular morning there was no cloud forecast but I was up and about so I decided to head out and see what I could get.

I wandered up to the end of the main town beach in El Campello and onto the section called Punta del Riu. This is a rocky beach and, as well as the small pebbles making up most of it, there are some larger rocks just off the edge.

Despite the forecast saying 0% cloud there was some. Not a great deal but enough to add some interest to the sky.

As I arrived on location about 30 minutes before sunrise there was some nice colours in the sky but the scene was pretty dark.

I used a wide angle lens (10mm) and fitted a 2 stop ND hard graduated filter to darken the sky and balance the exposure with the foreground. A test shot at f/11 and ISO 6400 gave me good exposure at 2 seconds so it should work out well for f/11, ISO 100 and 2 minutes (see my tip for correctly exposing long exposures).

Four minutes later (I used the in camera long exposure noise reduction so it took another 2 minute image with the shutter closed to subtract any hot spots and noise), and I had an image that I was already pleased with. In fact, this image was chosen by the editors at redbubble.com to be featured on their home page for a while.

I waited around, there might be some extra images to get as the light and conditions change.

About 10 minutes before sunrise the clouds starting to really catch fire. The really wide angle was no longer suitable as I needed to make a bit more of a feature of the clouds. I went to 18mm and re-composed to include fewer rocks. f/11 for 3 seconds produced quite a nice image:

As the sun came up the cloud actually started to reduce, particularly higher in the sky. I changed focal length to 15mm re-composed again, cutting out all but one rock, and went to f/16 to see if I could get a bit of a sun star (I thought it was unlikely as there was a bit of cloud in front of it). As the sky was now a lot brighter I also changed the ND graduated filter to a 3 stop.

The final image of the morning was this one:

Where next? Back to the mountain of course. 

This was another afternoon and evening but, instead of heading towards the summit I took another trail that leads to an area called Racó de Seva.

This walk took me along the western side of the mountain and then between the main northern peak and a tall ridge.

On the way up, about 45 minutes after setting out from the car, I came to a spot that was looking interesting in the late afternoon light. 

Because the ridge would soon be blocking out a lot of the sun this was the optimum time to shoot this scene, even though it was about 2 hours before sunset. 

I like the trees on the side of the ridge that were catching the light and also the way that the big cliff seemed to loom over the scene:

Once I had this shot in the bag I carried on to the highest point on Racó de Seva which gave some stunning views back along the valley between the mountain and the ridge. It was about an hour before sunset and, again, because of the sun about to be blocked by the ridge, this was the best time to shoot.

The image was really focused on the dramatic presence of the main part of the mountain and the trees on the slopes:

Once this was done I started back down, I wanted to get to a particular vantage point that I had checked out on the way up in time for the last light on the scene. I had to hurry a bit, fortunately it was down hill all the way and I made it in about 45 minutes.

The scene was perched on a hill on the side of the mountain looking up towards the same cliff and ridge line that I had just been to. I wanted to catch the low light on the sides of the mountain, on the shapes in the slopes and on the more distant hills which are covered in trees.

Once I was set up I added a circular polarising filter and just waited for the light to be at it’s best. I could have hoped for some nicer clouds but otherwise I was pretty pleased with this image:

While I had been shooting this scene I was keeping an eye on the actual sunset which was, pretty much, 90 degrees to my left. The sky was getting some really nice colours but the scene was far too bright. However, once the sun dipped below the mountain, an interesting scene presented itself. 

The mountains and ridges, which are at different distances, created some interesting laters with the backdrop of a very red and fiery sky.

I removed the polarising filter and and zoomed in to 50mm to get a tighter shot. I knew as I was composing the image that this was going to end up as a wide crop and so I composed it accordingly.

I waited a bit longer after this, just to see if anything even more interesting happened in the sky, but this really was the best of it and so I made my way back down to the car and then home.

Now we come to the shoot that was, I think, my favourite of the month. This was because I got my favourite image of the month from it.

I headed up to El Banyets early in the morning. Well, I say early, to be honest, sunrise was at about 07:50 so it wasn’t like I had to get up at 4 AM. In fact I left home at about 06:50 and walked up to the site which is just at the far side of the marina in El Campello. 

When I arrived I thought I had the place completely to myself but then I saw there was someone fishing there as well. Actually, when I first arrived, I saw the fishing rods and then the fisherman who was having a sleep in the shelter of the rocks. Perhaps he had been there all night, I have no idea.

I knew as soon as I got there that this was going to be good. The sky was nice, cloud and colour even well before sunrise. Also, there was some really nice waves breaking over the rocks.

I didn’t rush to set up. I took plenty of time choosing my composition and considering how best to shoot the image. I wanted to wait until the sky was quite a bit brighter so that I could get a fast enough shutter speed to really capture the water breaking and running on the rocks.

The composition I had chosen used a channel in the rocks as the foreground interest which then leads the eye out to the waves breaking over the rocks and then on to the pretty coloured sky. Often this channel is so protected that the water is completely still but, because of the strong waves, the water was being forced up the channel and creating quite a nice effect.

The cloud actually blocked the sun from showing through as it rose but this wasn’t a problem, I didn’t really need the sun in the shot.

I used a 2 stop ND hard graduated filter to balance the light and an aperture of f/11 to get an exposure time of 0.6 seconds:

At this point I was convinced I had the best image for this composition but I decided to see if there was anything else that might work.

The fisherman was stationed over to my left in an area where a curved channel with a small central ‘island’ breaks up the rocks. The waves coming through there looked quite interesting so I moved over and set up.

Shortly after I moved into position a phenomena that I have noticed here before began to occur. Shortly after the sun comes up there is a marked increase in the size and frequency of the waves. This can be quite dramatic and, in this case the waves began crashing higher and higher on the rocks, each new wave coming in quickly behind the last one.

The fisherman and I looked at each other briefly and, as one, moved our bags and other items safely out of the way while, in my case, I kept a close look to make sure my camera and tripod was not about to be swamped.

Because the waves were breaking so quickly I needed a faster shutter speed to catch them, otherwise the whole scene was just a mass of blurred white foam. Fortunately f/11 allowed me to get 1/20 second which was just about perfect. 

The sight was impressive, as was the sound. A long continues booming sound as the waves beat on the rocks with occasionally loud cracks as the water closed air pockets underneath some of the rocks.

I took several shots, it was impossible to predict exactly when the best time would be so I just shot plenty and then decided to choose the best one later.

And then it was all over. The waves settled back into a more normal size and rhythm and I was left wonderful if I had managed to capture the magic of the moment.

I think I did and it’s my favourite image of the month:

My last two shoots of the month were also seascapes and were also close to home.

For the penultimate shoot I wandered out one morning towards the southern end of the beach and set up my tripod near to the stone breakwater there. To be honest I wasn’t too hopeful as there wasn’t much cloud in the sky and, as a rule, I don’t have much success with seascapes and clear skies. Still, I was there so why not.

I tried a couple of long exposure images, 30 seconds or so, but I really didn’t like the way they were coming out. I waited a bit until it got brighter and went for a slightly faster exposure of 1 second which produced a pleasant image:

As the sun started to rise I started to get a feel for another image that might work. I would need a longer focal length to get the breaking waves further out on the breakwater, and the rising sun itself, a bit larger in the frame. I also felt that this was an image that would work best as a wide letterbox style, thus avoiding having a lot of boring sky or uninteresting foreground.

I made sure my tripod was level and zoomed in on my 18-105 lens to 105mm. The idea was to shoot 2 overlapping horizontal format images and then merge them later in Lightroom to create a small panorama. 

I think it worked:

And now we come onto the final shoot of the month and this is also the time to come back to that new project that I mentioned at the beginning of the post.

In addition to my monthly blog, and my monthly tips, I’ve decided to have a go at shooting some videos. These are not intended to be tutorials. I just thought it would be an idea to take you along on some of my shoots. Let you see the surroundings and what I’m doing about shooting them.

So… On the final shoot of this month I also shot some video.

The first thing to say is that this is all new to me. I’ve shot underwater video before but this vlog type video is something completely different. 

I’m shooting the video on an unfamiliar camera and also trying to make sure that I keep my focus on the photography.

So my first video is a bit rough. There are some parts of it where the focus doesn’t seem to have worked quite right. I’m not sure if that’s because of the low light or if it was user error (I suspect user error). I’m also very aware that I need to work on levelling the shots a bit more, particularly when I’m trying to show you what the scene is like.

Nevertheless, I thought I’d share it anyway and, if you think it shows promise and you’d like to see more, then please subscribe to my Youtube channel I'm aiming to produce a new video about once a week.

The two images that I took on this shoot are:


I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. As always I appreciate any likes or shares you would care to give me. Also as always I welcome any comments.

I’ll be back for my monthly tip tip post in a couple of weeks and don’t forget to look out for more videos




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