Parades, Towers and Sunrise on Dune Covered Beaches

May 20, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Parades, Towers and Sunrise on Dune Covered Beaches 

I think we can say that summer has arrived. We’ve had warm temperatures, verging on hot, all week. The long trousers have been packed away now for the next few months and shorts are the standard dress.

It’s been a diverse week with quite a few things going on. We had to do a trip up to Denia towards the end of the week to see our new accountant and we had a bit of a look round the town and the port while we were there. No photos from this trip but it may be a place to revisit another time for a better look around.

Also, towards the end of the week, a huge dredger has turned up off the beach here in El Campello and they are in the process of starting to repair the damage that was caused by the winter storms. We’re not sure how long that’s going to take but I guess they will probably want it finished in the next week or so before the season starts properly.

Last weekend was our wedding anniversary and El Campello put on a celebration. OK, so the celebration was nothing to do with our wedding anniversary but rather it was the Celebración del Mig Any de Moros y Cristianos. This appears to mark the half year point between the big Moors and Christians celebrations and was a good enough reason for some noise and some parades.

We headed into town on Sunday and watched one of the parades. It’s not as big an event as the main celebration but there was still quite a lot of people out marching, several bands and even some people in full costumes:

As this parade was not as busy it was possible to move around the route and photograph it in different areas. This meant a lot more opportunities than doing the big parades in October where you are pretty much restricted to one spot.

This week I also achieved something I have been wanting to do for a while now. I climbed up to the old Tower of the Barranc d’Aigües that sits on the hill of the Reixes in the north of El Campello. 


I had been struggling to find the route up there but, this week, I came across some new information that gave me some clues. I drove up to the area called Poblets, parked the car and started the climb.

It’s not a particularly big climb. The actual ascent is only about 115 metres to the apex of the hill above the tower (where the picture above was taken) as the start point is well above sea level. The high point of the hill is at about 201 metres.

Now, having said that, it’s not an easy climb as the path is not well marked (or indeed marked at all in many places) and it can be hard to find the way. There are a few places that look like trails but then they come to dead ends. 

After a while I made it to the apex and then had to try to find the trail down to the tower. I paused partway to take another shot that gives some idea of the views from up there:

After a while I made it down to the tower itself which is pretty much a ruin and has, sadly, been graffitied on one side. It’s still quite impressive to see and I did take one more shot of it while I was here:

To be honest I was scouting the location out for either a sunrise or sunset shoot however some considerations need to be made regarding the difficulty of finding the trail in the dark. While I’m sure it’s possible I do feel slightly concerned about the possibility of going wrong and possibly falling and hurting myself if I try this route in full dark. So, my current plan is to wait until winter when the sunrise moves further around and then aim to get to the trails at first light. This should allow enough time to get to a good vantage point for some nice side lit shots of the tower and scene while allowing me to make the climb in slightly brighter conditions, and therefore with a bit more safety.

And so… to the final shoot of the week. 

I was looking for the right conditions to head down to the Arenales del Sol near to Elche. This is a beach that is backed by some lovely sand dunes. In order to protect the dunes the access to the beach is via some wooden bridges or walkways that run through the dunes.

For Wednesday conditions were looking promising. The weather forecast was for 70 to 80% cloud cover at around sunrise and this should have made for some interesting skies.

An alarm was duly set and I rose on Wednesday morning with enough time for the 35 minute drive to get me there some 30 to 40 minutes before sunrise. 

As I headed out I started to note that the sky looked a lot clearer than I expected. In fact there was very little cloud and I knew this could mean that I would have real trouble getting any decent shots in this location. Nevertheless, I was up and in the car so I carried on.

On arriving on location I headed out onto the bridges and checked the conditions. There was some cloud out on the horizon in the general direction of where the sun was due to rise. It didn't extend very high in the sky but it was already picking up some nice colour and there was enough light already appearing on the foreground to create some interest.

As it approached 25 minutes before sunrise I set up for a shot looking down the short section of the bridge that leads to the near end of the beach. I needed to add a 2 stop ND hard graduated filter to balance the exposure but the result was quite nice:

I really wanted to get some shots looking more to the north, this is where the long and winding section of bridge is, and there was some cloud in the sky that would add a bit of interest, especially with the colours really coming in as we got within 15 minutes of the sun coming up. 

As sunrise approached the clouds were clearing even more. There was still some cloud in the general direction of the rising sun and this was the only area where the sky was of any interest. I hadn't planned to do a shot into the rising sun here but I decided it was worth a try. 

I moved onto the short section of bridge that I had started out on for the first shot. The contrast in the scene was now huge. I changed the 2 stop ND hard grad for the 3 stop but I was still getting a blown out sky and a very dark foreground.

I decided to shoot 6 exposures, The first 3 would be for merging to cope with the contrast. These would be exposed for the brightest part of the sky, the mid-tones and the shadows respectively. The other 3 would be identical compositions and exposures but shot with my thumb blocking out the sun so that I could avoid lens flare from shooting straight into the sun.

If you want to you can read my technique for avoiding lens flare HERE 

I could have stacked the ND filters but I felt merging the exposures would give me better control of the light, in particular the sky. This was the final result:

After the sun came up I looked around for a final shot. Moving a bit further north along the walkway I came to a section where the sun was just breaking across the top of the dunes on my right and picking out the tops of the rails on the bridge and the distant mountains. 

I decided to minimise the amount of sky as there was now very little cloud to make it interesting and, although I wasn't sure this composition would work when I checked it in camera, I am now quite pleased with the way it came out:

I left shortly after this to head home for a well deserved breakfast and coffee. Despite the inaccurate weather forecast I was sure I had some nice images and I was glad I’d made the effort.

So, that’s about it for this week. Next week I may consider a return to El Hondo nature reserve, I’m thinking that some wildlife photography may be worth while and I may also consider scouting it for a dawn shoot.

Other than that I’m not sure on my photographic plan for next week but I’ll let you know in the next post.

Until then… Have a great week


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