Improve your travel photography: Portugal

You will have noticed from last week’s blog that I recently went to Portugal.  When travelling you are, unless you have loads of time, stuck with the lighting you have.  That lighting may be hard and unflattering, so how do you improve your travel photography?  Well the “rules” of better photography are the same wherever you are.

"Looking down on the world" by Derek Gale

Changing your viewpoint is a way to get more interesting images. Here I’ve climbed the “Monument to the Discoveries” at Belem near Lisbon to get a different view looking down.  You can see the wonderful compass rose and world map laid out in tiles.  The map is centered in Lisbon.  The Monument was built in 1960 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator, who helped Portugal become one of the world’s most powerful countries.

"The wealth of Porto" by Derek Gale

You can use simple things to tell a bigger story.  One of Portugal’s most famous exports is Port, the fortified wine made in the Douro valley.  The town of Vila Nova de Gaia, opposite Porto, is full of Port wine lodges where the wine is cellared for a number of years until it’s ready to be sold.  Many Port lodges offer tours and tastings to help you get a better idea of how it’s made and the different styles.  You can also buy their port if you would like…    This glass has a sample of tawny port at a tasting in Calem’s lodge.  I framed it carefully against the bright window so the glass was nicely outlined.

"Porto at night" by Derek Gale

Porto was a very busy place, but quietened down a bit in the evening.  The light during the day was a bit flat so I waited till it was dark to give a more interesting image.  This shot shows the Ponte Dom Luis bridge, the Porto riverfront, and Port transport boats on the River Douro.  It was a 2-second exposure which could not be hand held without blur.  I put the camera on a flat surface by the riverbank and used the self timer to fire the shutter.  It gave a good sharp image.

"Os Almendres" by Derek Gale

The “Cromeleque dos Almendres” is an arrangement of 92 stones from neolithic times set in cork oak country near Evora.  It wasn’t possible to get all of it in one image so I concentrated on a small number of stones and turned it into a pattern picture.  The strong sunlight gave a lot of contrast, and it cried out to be converted into contrasty black and white to show the textures best.  The stones in the background stand out well against the darker trees.  I also darkened the blue channel in Photoshop to make the sky moodier.

"Bom Jesus do Monte" by Derek Gale

This is another pattern picture, but much more regular.  It’s of the famous staircase at Bom Jesus do Monte, near Braga.  This follows the rule to “wait a bit until things are right before you take the picture”.  There was a person walking down, and I had to take the shot when he was behind a pillar.  The interlocking stairways make for a strong symmetrical composition.  It has to be said that I didn’t walk up, I took the enchanting water-powered funicular railway up and walked down.

So, just follow the “rules” and your travel images will be better.


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