Orxeta, Guadalest and El Hondo

June 09, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Orxeta, Guadalest and El Hondo

This weeks photography has been about three very different shoots. Different locations, different weather and very different styles.

An afternoon shoot in cloudy conditions, with the threat of rain, in the mountains to the north of Orxeta.

A morning hike around the reservoir at Guadalest with blue skies, sunshine and very little in the way of cloud.

A beautiful and tranquil dawn shoot at the lakes of El Hondo nature reserve.


On Monday afternoon I decided to head up to the northern end of Orxeta and to explore on a marked hiking trail (called the PR-CV353). The afternoon was very cloudy, with a threat of rain. I was hoping that I might get some nice dramatic looking light conditions, even if I wasn’t shooting at the best time of day.

There is a small car park on the outskirts of the village and the trail headed off towards the nearby mountains. It first dipped down into the Sella valley, the Sella being the river that feeds into the Amadorio reservoir, before climbing again up into the nearby hills.

Not far into the walk I came across a group of trees at the side of the trail and a great view of a small but dramatically shaped peak a little way into the distance. This is a peak I have seen, and even photographed, before from a distance but this was a completely different view. I have not been able to find a name for this peak. It is surrounded on three sides by much larger and taller mountains (The Sierra Aitana, Sierra Amadorio and Puig Campana).

I decided to try a long exposure shot to get some movement in the heavy clouds and I ended up shooting a total of seven 20 second images (20 seconds being the longest exposure I could get with a 10 stop filter at f/16) which I knew I could then average in photoshop to get the equivalent of a 140 second exposure. The only problem was that the wind was quite strong and all of the leaves and branches, and the grass, was moving in the wind and would come out blurry. So I did one additional shot without the filter at 1/60 second that I could use for the foreground:

You can read my technique for extending long exposures in Photoshop HERE 

At one point the trail crossed the tiny stream that is the river Sella via a small wooden bridge. I considered a shot but the light on the scene was flat and uninteresting so I moved on.

I then started a fairly stiff climb up the winding path. After a while I came out on a cross path with a few options. I chose, this time at least, to head up a small path that had some steps cut into it. This proved to be quite a steep climb and the steps were only available in a few places. Despite the heavy cloud it was very warm and humid but I eventually reached a spot that had some beautiful views out over the rugged landscape and a really nice view of that unnamed peak.

I set up and waited as the clouds moved across the sky. After a while I got a nice pattern of light and shadow on both the landscape and the peak and this was the result:

While I was in the spot I decided to also get a closer shot of the peak. A longer focal length and then it was just a case of waiting for the right patterns of light and shadow again:

It had taken me the best part of an hour to climb up this far from my first shot with the trees, it was going to take me an hour to walk back (it was more downhill on the way back but although that means it should be easier it also means it’s much more tricky as the risk of slipping and falling is much greater on the steep down slopes.

Also, while I had been taking these shots the sun had started to break through the clouds that were over my current location, and it was getting hot.

I started the descent, taking my time all the way and, after about 45 minutes, I made it back to the little bridge over the Sella river. 

What a difference. The sun was now shining and the bridge and it’s surrounding plant life was full of colour. OK, it’s not the most impressive river or bridge but it was pretty in its own way:

After that it took about another 20 minutes or so back to the car and I headed for home

My second trip out was to Guadalest. Specifically I intended to walk the circuit of Guadalest reservoir.

I headed up there fairly early in the morning. It wasn’t the crack of dawn but I was hoping that some reasonable light would be possible on the route around.

I parked up in a small parking area near to the dam and started the circuit by crossing the dam and taking the Camino Rural (rural road) up onto the slopes of the Serella mountains.

This is an easy walk. It’s about a 10 km circuit (6.2 miles) and about 65 % of it is on the tarmac Camino Rural which, although open to traffic, is very quiet. I only saw 3 cars and 2 cyclists on the whole route.

Shortly after crossing the dam I found quite an interesting view down onto the water with some trees in the foreground and more trees on a piece of bank that sticks out. These trees were reflected in the water as was a small part of Serella mountains that were visible over the trees in the distance:

A bit further along and I was treated to a great view of El Castell de Guadalest sitting high up on its rocky ridge. This is not the view that most people see as the normal tourist stop off is within the village itself. In fact, this road is probably the only place that you can get such a viewpoint and I decided it was worth an image:

For a while the road climbs the slopes, not steeply, it’s still an easy walk, and then slowly descends again. After about 4 km the road crosses the small river that feeds into the reservoir. It’s not a very impressive amount of water and most of it is hidden by trees and overgrown plants. I even found a very small waterfall tucked in near to the bridge but there is absolutely no way to get anywhere near of it short of abseiling (and it really isn’t that impressive).

The route continues on for another couple of kilometres during which it does climb again until one particular vantage point offered a great view down the winding length of the reservoir from the entry point of the river with the mountains in the background:

Shortly after this the trail leaves the road and drops down steeply towards the waters edge. There is a small stream that has to be crossed (the walking guides refer to stepping stones but this is either a very generous description or perhaps they have moved due to the unusual weather over the winter) and then the trail heads back towards the dam and where I had left the car.

It was a pleasant walk. I will be doing it again at some point but I may actually end up diverting off and trying to find some side trails that would get me different views down closer to the water.

And so, to the final shoot of the week. 

The previous week I had originally planned to do a dawn shoot at El Hondo nature reserve but, at the last minute, I had changed my mind and went to Albir instead.

So, this week I decided to give El Hondo a try. A check of the weather forecast showed some ideal conditions. Quite a lot of cloud and almost no wind. If that worked out it should be good.

I headed out about one and a half hours before sunrise. It’s about a 45 minute drive to get there and then I allowed myself 10 minutes to walk around to where I intended to shoot and then, with some set up time, I should be ready to start taking pictures from about 30 minutes before sunrise (and staying while the light lasted of course).

When I arrived the place was deserted (and it stayed like that until I left, absolute heaven). I parked up and walked around to the long wooden bridge that extends across the closest lake. I was intending to use this in my shots.

I actually needed to get to the far side of the bridge and it was quite disconcerting to feel the number of spider webs I passed through as I walked the length of the bridge. I shouldn’t be surprised, there are a lot if insects there.

Conditions were looking superb. As the blue hour started to shift into the golden hour the sky started to get the first hints of colour, which was also reflected in the water, while the rest of the scene retained that blue tone of the ‘almost night’. The wooden boards of the bridge do tend to flex as you move around so I tried to avoid super long exposures as even the slightest movement I made could result in blurry images.

A 10 second exposure while I did my best impression of a statue resulted in my first image of the shoot:

Time passed and I watched the changing conditions, I tried a few more shots but nothing that was better than the one I already had.

There was a bank of cloud low down in the sky, right where the sun was rising. As the sun came up behind the cloud it created a beautiful scene with subtle tones and really soft light. Re-composing to place the brightest part of the sky out of the frame to the right I captured this shot:

More waiting, it wasn't much of a hardship as the the scene was beautiful and peaceful. The birds around the area were waking up and moving about. There was the occasional splash of some kind of hunting, or maybe it was fish.

I could see that the sun would soon hit a gap in the clouds, assuming the gap didn’t close up, and I hoped that it would do so before the quality of light and colours faded.

I quickly set up a shot looking towards the rising sun, nothing man made in this shot, just the sky reflected in the water with some plants to break up the foreground and the plant covered banks of the lake in the distance:

I re-composed again. If the sun broke though soon it would produce some beautiful colours. If it took too long then the colours would be gone and, although still pretty, the scene would not be as good.

Finally, about 25 minutes after actual sunrise, the sun briefly broke through the cloud and everything lit up. I took a couple of shots as the sun traversed a gap that was too small for all of it be visible at the same time. In the end I chose this one as the best:

I waited around for a bit longer, I wanted to see what happened when the sun cleared the next block of cloud but, as I expected, the colours were going. I waited for about another 10 minutes but I could tell that it as all over and it was time to pack up, drive home, and get some well earned breakfast.

That’s it for this week. I have a few plans for next week, all depending on weather conditions, and I’ll share the result with you in the next post.

Until then, have a great week 


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