Light & Land
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28th February 2018
Spectacular architecture, endless almond blossom, white washed hilltop villages and big bold skies, what more could one wish for...?
By Peter Hendrie
Having recently returned from Andalucia after a great few days away on tour, l couldn’t resist this opportunity of sharing it with you. It was time spent in great company, with good food, fantastic wine, capturing images of the unforgettable Alhambra Palaces and Generalife and hectares and hectares of Almond Blossom and big bold skies.
After meeting my group of eager Light and Landers at Malaga Airport, we headed to the hills in the Alpujarra region of Andalucia, our base for the next few days in the laid back town of Orgiva.
The following day we headed to Granada and the jewel in the crown, the wonderful Alhambra and Generalife, probably the finest example of Islamic art left to us in the western world. We spent the whole of day one capturing images of the gardens of the Generalife, the interiors and architecture of the Nazari and Carlos palaces oozing moorish charm.
The intricately carved domed ceilings and arches offered wonderful close-up opportunities of detailed subjects, portraying the stunning craftsmanship that the moors imposed on this area and in particular the Alhambra, before moving across the city to capture the whole complex in the last light of day and beyond, set against the backdrop of the snow capped Sierra Nevada Mountains range from the mirador St. Nicholas.
The following day we set about, “finding blossom” (sounds like a Disney film!). We’ve never failed to find the blossom on five previous visits, but it can vary year on year as to how much and at what altitude it shows. Although cold, we had great lighting conditions, which allowed us to capture the blossom in various shades of white and pink with beautiful side and back lighting, making the blossom pop. Having collected provisions from the supermarket the night before for our foray into the hills, we had lunch al fresco style amongst the Almond Trees with just the buzz of bees busy pollinating the blossom, tranquility indeed.
The rest of the afternoon and early evening were spent moving from location to location in amongst the Almond Groves, high up with a beautiful backdrop of the Sierra Nevadas Mountains and white washed villages on the distant slopes.
After an early start we headed for the three hilltop villages along the Poqueira Gorge of Pampaneira, Bubión and Capileira. Here we managed to capture Capileira as the early morning sun illuminated the village against the backdrop of the mountain peak of Veleta, a mere 3,392 metres above sea level. Trevélez the highest village in Spain noted for the cured hams was a delight. Here we were given a private tour into the caves where 4,000 hams hung maturing in the cold mountain air. We stopped for our picnic lunch as we headed along the high mountain pass towards cadiar confronted by the biggest bold sky l had witnessed for a long while.
Lenticular clouds often form in this part of the world at these altitudes, (like UFO’s visiting earth) but what eclipsed in front of us was quite spectacular. Sitting besides our vehicle we witnessed everything unfolding before us, so hunger aside we managed to capture this Big Bold Sky against Mesa mountain, a flat topped mountain in the distance with a white cemetery in the foreground shot in black and white. This so reminded me of the great Ansel Adams and those stunning Black and White images from yesteryear captured on the big plains of Mexico and Arizona.
The rest of the day was spent in amongst the almond groves as we slowly made our way across the valley up into the Sierra de la Contraviesa. As photographers we cherish those magical moments when all of the elements fall into place - texture, relationships, leading lines and patterns. Painting with light, a phrase l often like to use, expresses that moment perfectly as we encountered beautiful side lighting illuminating the trunks of this almond grove at the end of our day.
Timing is crucial and on our final morning we headed to the hills south of Orgiva, to a favourite location of mine, an intricate strip of terracing to capture beautiful back-lit blossom against the dark hillside as the sun rose over the hills in the distance. As you could imagine, our group spent little time leaving our vehicle in pursuit of their goal to capture this stunning light in various formats. We spent the rest of the morning at numerous other locations close by, before heading back to our base for a spot of lunch before departing for Malaga.
Throughout the tour our group explored and adapted to various techniques that we tried. They approached every topic subjectively through their own eyes which lifted me personally as l am always amazed by people’s approach and styles to photography.
One of the most popular disciplines collectively was shooting in Black & White, not only setting up our cameras, but visualising the final image, something that’s now achievable looking through most electronic viewfinders or in live view using a loupe or dark cloth - by also setting up our cameras to shoot in both Raw+Jpeg, we retain all of the information in the Jpeg file when we do our post production, enabling us to decide upon whether we choose to convert the Raw file to replicate that of our B&W Jpeg or stick with the colour version. I have to confess, more than 50% of the material that l now capture are shot in Black & White, a medium l am very comfortable with.
Conclusion...I can’t wait for next February to come around!!! If this year was anything to go by, then next years tour to Andalucia could be and should be amazing... See you there!