La Conchita, California, December 2019
As I find myself on the south-east coast of Spain right now, enjoying a few quiet off days on the beaches of Playa de Oliva, I made use of the time in the evening, grateful for the fact the sun wouldn’t burn as hot as it does during the day, when it literally fries my skin that’s so unused to any sort of prolonged form of these warm rays, given the summer months have been washed away by persistent rain back home in Ireland.
So I took the short hike up to the ruins of Castell de Santa Anna, which is overlooking the small town of Oliva in the Valencian Community and the adjacent Mediterranean Sea.
Rewarded with a 360 degree view from up there, it certainly was well worth the effort; tranquility in its purest form watching on as the horizon changes colours to dark yellows, luminous orange- and red tones – but nobody is here, except myself, of course!
Having been to similar scenic viewing points in other places, like San Francisco or Lisbon that come to mind immediately, this one isn’t less spectacular, yet the area of Oliva, despite posing kilometers of the finest sand beaches isn’t particularly popular with tourists.
How wonderful, I think! There are still a few places not overun with tourists. Granted, I am one as well, of course….
One of the most “Instagrammed” places of recent times; and I have got that bucketlist item ticked off the list as well!
Ever since having seen photos of the Horseshoe Bend for the first time I wanted to experience this unique landscape with my own eyes – and get one of those “unique” panoramic shots.
Interestingly, it’s only a relatively new phenomenon that the Horseshoe Bend is so popular, which has seen annual visitor numbers rising up to 1.3 million! Hordes of people armed with selfie stick and mobile phone is a common sight these days; locals tell the story of a a place kept a hidden treasure for most of its existence.
Just a few miles outside of Page, Arizona, a short trail winds its way up to the spectacular edges of the Canyon walls – it’s easy to see why this has become such a popular attraction. Ultimately, this is the reason why I found my way there too!
Thankfully it’s off-season. Yes, this was certainly the most crowded place I’ve been to during my trip through Arizona. But I expected worse. And experienced much, much worse in other parts of the world.
Despite sunset time, the most popular time of the day for the Horseshoe Bend, there was ample opportunity to wander left or right and leave the crowds behind to find a place for oneself, to take in the breathtaking scenery and enjoy the sun slowly fading away.
Nonetheless, the crowds become an issue. At other times, there’s no serenity here, and in order to accommodate the masses changes are coming to the Horseshoe bend: “proper infrastructure” is currently under construction: meaning a new trail, railings as well as the rumours have it, a $25 entrance fee.
That’ll alter the uniqueness of the experience dramatically, of course. What choice have authorities, though? They’ve got to ensure safety and currently, that has to be said, it’s rather dangerous, given there are no barriers, and beyond the edges it goes 300 metres straight down!
For the photo I had in mind, a straightforward panorama, I brought the Sigma 8-16mm. Finding a place for myself wasn’t an issue…. but one that provided the perspective I had in mind, while having a panoramic images with no people tangling their legs over the edges was the difficulty.
I decided to wander to the left and “hid” behind a tall stone wall, that helped to frame the picture but also hid the people I didn’t want to have in the shot. Eight vertical frames were stitched together in post in Lightroom eventually.
Unsure what to expect, I planned only one full day in Monument Valley. Little did I know, indeed!
The overwhelming beauty, grace and magic of this landscape blew my mind – this stretch of planet Earth is something hard to describe in words, and certainly no photograph will ever do it justice. It’s got to be experienced by oneself!
Snow fell in the Valley the days before I arrived; covering parts of the red desert ground and the Mitten Buttes in deliciously fine white powder. Arctic temperatures… a result of the winter not making an exception for an area that only a few weeks ago was still piping hot as warning signs reminding hikers to take plenty of water on board during their travels.
Depending on what directions one looks, rock formations, size but also light and atmosphere changing dramatically. Snow covered peaks to one side; planet Mars-like landscapes the other way.
Photography-wise Monument Valley, but particularly The Mittens, present a riches of subjects to explore; so many different scenes want be captured – but nothing compares to the sunrise, when those first precious rays find their way over the massive stone walls, illuminating the valley in warm, golden light.
There’s this one world famous view everyone will have in some form or another; and if only in a Hollywood movie that gives the place its name: Forrest Gump Point. A particular delicious panoramic view with Route-63 leading right into it…. a place synonymous with selfie sticks these days.
I don’t own a selfie stick and wasn’t after the “money shot”. Rather, the setting sun, provided the perfect backdrop to create a powerful silhouette of the Mittens – the imagine I probably most love of all the ones I got during my time in Monument Valley.
Tamron 70-200mm G2
Balmy temperatures, stunning architecture and grand views – that all is Lisbon. What Lisbon is also: sore calf muscles!
The one who wants to enjoy the rich beauty of Portugal’s capital has to be prepared to go the extra mile… or two for that matter…. up some brutally steep hills. The reward is even greater, though, for those who make the effort.
My legs were hurting, that’s for sure. Yet, while not inspired photography wise during my few days, (Lisbon offers enough subjects to photograph – I was simply not in “the zone” and had other things on my mind) it still felt great to climb around the city and get surprised about what’s next to be explored beyond the next wall of steep stairs.
The richest of rewards to reap is – of course – a delightful sunset; the golden sunlight glowing above the rooftops of Lisbon’s historical city, illuminating the monumental Lisbon castle
This photo – one of the few I took during the week – was taken atop of the Miradouro da Graça – quite clearly the prime viewpoint of Lisbon. A grand view offering the full scale of the hilly Portuguese capital.
Using the Telezoom Tamron 70-200mm turned out a perfect option opposed to a wide angle. A handful of vertical frames shot at 70mm stitched together in post worked best for me.
Sometimes you get rewarded late…. so late that all gear was stowed away as I was on the return leg after a fine, yet far from spectacular – at least from a photography point of view – climb up to Turlough Hill in the afternoon.
While a beautiful day it was, the sun shining sky high throughout, the oh so often elusive yellow ball did vanish behind a tick layer of clouds as I prepared for my carefully selected sunset shot. One of those days, it seemed. Nothing you can do about it.
As I set sail before darkness hit, all of a sudden the world around me turns into a vibrant orange, red and purple wonderland. Gone is the layer of clouds, free is the sun, minutes away from dropping behind the back of Turlough Hill.
A sunset photo at last!
After passing the site multiple times in recent weeks (and didn’t find it instantly when actively looking for it either), today there was no stopping getting to the top of the Hill of Allen!
To find the site, even more so to find parking, is an adventure in itself. Don’t expect signs, and don’t expect the small car park that exists in theory to be open either – the site is officially not open for public any more as quarrying takes place at the other side of the hill.
It it still possible to go up, though. A small, muddy way leads all the way to the hill. A shame the county council has effectively abandoned this site of historical importance as it could be a real gem – if protected and cared for.
At the top of the tower has been a glass canopy erected a few years ago. Unfortunately this one has been smashed and glass is scattered as wide as the eye can see.
If you squeeze through the open frames you’ll be rewarded with the most magnificent view over county Kildare, the Curragh all the way up to the Wicklow Mountains in the distance, nonetheless. It’s well worth the effort.