Weather challenges and city shots

June 16, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Weather challenges and city shots 

There is a saying that landscape photographers love bad weather. The reason for this is that ‘bad’ weather normally means clouds, and clouds add interest and drama to both the sky and to the light falling onto the landscape. 

This time of year, in this part of Spain, can be a challenge for landscape photography.

First there is the position of the sun. Sunrise and Sunset are increasingly towards the north and, with the local geography, that really limits the number of places that get decent light during these critical times of the day. There are a few locations but they normally involve a bit more travelling and they also need the right kind of conditions to really work.

Which brings us back to the weather. It’s been hot this week. Temperatures running at about 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit ) and even warmer in the sun. Of course it’s not as hot as the southern parts of Spain, some of which have been 10 degrees Celsius higher. Combined with the warm conditions we’ve had fairly high humidity, which not only makes the temperature feel even higher but also tends to create quite a lot of haze in the atmosphere. And then there’s the clouds, or rather the lack of them, as we have had pretty much zero cloud cover for the whole week and what little we have had has been more of a thin hazy blanket over the whole sky.

All in all it has made it quite difficult to get out and do some real landscape photography this week. Most of the plans that I had in mind have been postponed until conditions look more favourable. 

Not to be deterred however I have looked for alternatives and this has involved some walking around one of my favourite places locally, Amadorio reservoir, and also a trip into Alicante to shoot some city scenes.

OK. Let’s start off with the Amadorio trip. I went out in the afternoon. It was hot and humid and I made a couple of decisions before I went out. First I took a lot of water with me (the risk of dehydration in these conditions is high) and second I chose to travel light. No tripod or filters, just the camera body and a couple of lenses in my backpack. To be honest this was more about the walk than the photography but sometimes you find opportunities when you least expect them.

My walk started out along one of the trails that lead along the hills on the eastern side of the reservoir. After a while this trail rejoins the main footpath and eventually comes out onto the nearby road.

Shortly before I reached the road I began to hear the sound of falling water. I know that, in this general area, there is an inlet to the reservoir that is controlled by a sluice gate of some kind. It creates a small waterfall that, although tricky to access, can be quite pretty. The last few times I have been around here the gate has been closed and the waterfall dry. Today, however, I could hear it so I backtracked to find the route down to it and have a look.

When I got there it was in full flow. In fact I have never seen it quite this strong. It’s a bit of a scramble to get down to the bottom and then it’s quite overgrown and difficult to get a decent view. Getting into the water to get a shot is not a good idea as the bottom is very soft mud and you could easily get stuck in it. I picked a composition but, without a tripod or filters a long exposure was impossible. I did want to try to get a bit of a long exposure effect so I used a small aperture (f/22) which let me get a shutter speed of 1/40 second. I braced myself as best I could against the bank and a small tree and fired off 20 shots. Later I combined and averaged these in Photoshop to get the equivalent of a 1/2 second exposure. I also used one of the shots to reduce the amount of movement blur in the leaves in front of the waterfall as these were moving about quite a bit (I blended this in using layer masks in Photoshop).

I had to crop the final image a bit as, even braced the best I could, I still moved the camera a bit between shots and when the images were aligned the edges were not all the same. Even so I quite like the way this one came out:

Later on, as I reached the northern end of the reservoir, I stopped to take in some of the views near the bridges. I have taken shots of the larger bridge there a few times but there is also a small bridge for the narrow access road that leads around the back of the reservoir. 

A bit of exploration and I found an interesting looking spot. The sun was moving around and getting a little bit lower on my left and the combination of the suns position, the light reflected from the water and the light reflected from the surrounding hills actually looked pretty nice. I found a really nice bush covered in pink and purple flowers. On the hill just to the other side there is a house and I really liked the position of the flowers, the bridge and the hill so I decided to see if I could get a decent image here. 

I decided to exclude as much of the sky as I could and I even considered a 16:9 crop that would have taken out almost all of the sky and the top of the hill and the house. In the end I decided to keep the format as shot because I actually quite liked the house up there and, especially, the big tree next to it:

I finished up my walk, completing a circuit of the reservoir (and all of my water) before heading home.

This week we also took a trip into Alicante. This was not so much a dedicated photo trip but we had a few things to wander around and have a look at. I took the camera and a couple of lenses in the hopes that I might get something interesting.

As is often the case walking around I tend to look at the scene and see what the light is doing. 

Although it certainly wasn’t perfect lighting (this was a very long way from being golden hour) I like to observe what the environment does to the light as well as what the light does to the environment.

In the city there are lots of big buildings and these bounce the light around creating some interesting light on some of the features.

The first of these was on the monument to José de Canalejas that is located near to one end of the port. The combination of the light from the sky and also reflected from the buildings, created quite a nice effect on the monument from certain angles and I managed to get this shot that I think looks nice:



Not far from the port is the town hall of Alicante. Opposite the town hall is a plaza with offices and bars and restaurants. The buildings have some character and, again with reflected light from other buildings, they were picking up quite a nice glow. There were not too many people about and I was able to get a nice wide shot that shows the scene pretty well:

The town hall itself (Ajuntament de Alicante) is having some work done. In just over a week there is the big fiesta of Las Hogueras de San Juan (the Bonfires of Saint Joan). Later next week the massive effigies will be brought out and displayed and, the following weekend they will be burnt in a big celebration. 

The town hall is obviously being decorated in preparation and some lights spelling out the Valencian word for Bonfires (Fogueres) are being fitted:

The final image of the day was of the large, and quite beautiful, fountain that sits on a road junction near to the entrance to the port.

I had a look around at the different angles, trying to decide on the composition that would work the best. I was also interested in which angle had the best light. The water jets on the fountain are not in a symmetrical pattern and I decided in the end to shoot at a very slightly off centre angle that I felt worked best for the light and composition.

Again I had no filters or tripod so a long exposure was out of the question and, to be honest, I’m not sure would have been best anyway. There was also quite a lot of traffic and people about so I had to time my shots carefully to try to avoid them in the scene if I could.

I couldn’t quite decide if I wanted a really fast shutter speed to completely freeze the movement of the water or if it would look better with a little bit of blur.

In the end by adjusting the aperture, I shot several images ranging from 1/400 second to 1/60 second and decided to make the final choice when I could see them on the computer.

My final choice was an image that was shot at 1/100 of a second because I felt the really fast shutter speeds didn’t really give enough of a sense of the beauty of the water moving while the 1/100 had just a tiny hint of blur. This was shot with a wide angle lens (10mm) so I had to correct the vertical lines to make it look right:

That’s it for this week.

So, what will next week bring?

To be honest the weather is looking like more of the same, although that could change as weather forecasts are rarely reliable.

This may be a time to look at doing some more urban and architectural images until the conditions for landscapes improve.

If you check back next week I’ll let you know what happened.

Until then, have a great week



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