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Out of season, the Algarve’s tranquil beaches, golden cliffs, turquoise waters and warm weather make it the perfect January photography workshop location.

I’ve found my new go to place to be in January to escape the winter gloom-the Algarve in southern Portugal. This is my second year doing workshops there and the weather was consistently brilliant! Cool in the mornings, then warming up to a very comfortable 16 C (60 F). Not bad for January and the best part was having gorgeous coastal locations to ourselves, not another tripod in sight. This is especially important in small locations such as this sea cave where space is limited. It’s only a matter of time before the secret gets out, so I will only offer this workshop for another year or two. I discovered this particular cave a couple of years ago and was surprised and delighted to find out after scouring the internet and social media, no images of this view could be found, until now of course. As a photographer in this age of over-saturated digital photography and I’m not talking about colour, it’s great to get an exclusive. I’m sure it won’t last for long so if you would like to join me next January in the Algarve for some winter sunshine, you can book your place here.

Couple on Praia de Nossa Senhora da Rocha, Lagoa, Algarve, Portugal

The colours of the Algarve are a mix of golden cliffs and beaches contrasting with the turquoise waters. We were shooting one day from the cliff tops looking down on a beach using various exposure times to create interesting shapes with the waves. I found that a 2 second exposure produced the desired effect with an approaching wave. I angled the camera so the line of the wave moved diagonally through the frame. This gives a more dynamic feeling to the image. When I looked at my display, some of the waves seemed to have the appearance of floating above the beach as the wet sand created the illusion of a shadow from the waves. Now obviously it’s not possible to freeze the couple walking on the beach using that exposure and I knew I wanted to incorporate them into the image, so I quickly changed my settings to 1/160 second to capture them. The couple helps to give it perspective and human interest. I combined them along with the wave in Photoshop. I felt it was important to keep the angle of the couple the same as the wave, otherwise, it would go against the flow of the image, no pun intended. I was lucky, one to have a couple walking on the beach as the beaches are quite deserted in January and two, to have them wearing dark, plain colours so they didn’t conflict with the overall colours of the scene.

Early one morning we went to Ponta da Piedade for the sunrise over the grotto, but I turned around to find the predawn sky behind the lighthouse more interesting. I loved the symmetry of the scene, but there was one thing missing and a few other things that needed to be missing from the scene. The full moon was setting just out of the frame so I used the double exposure feature on the D850 setting the number of exposures to ‘two’ and the mode to ‘series’ so you can shoot a series of two exposures as it will take a few test runs to get the correct placement and exposures. You may also wish to place the moon in different places in the frame and decide which you like the best later.

A little tip to help you obtain the exact positioning of the moon is to use Live View and set the single focus point where you would like the moon in the frame.

I made the first exposure for the lighthouse with my 24-70mm lens set at 1/13 second @ f/8, then changed lenses to my Nikon 300mm f/4 and made the second exposure of the moon at 1/100 second @ f/8. This was a perfect exposure to capture the detail in the moon without it burning out. I set the overlay mode to average so it automatically adjusts the two combined exposures. The size of the moon is down to personal preference and I prefer an oversized moon for maximum impact. This only took a few attempts to get the positioning just right. A little tip to help you obtain the exact positioning of the moon is to use Live View and set the single focus point where you would like the moon in the frame. There was an obtrusive chain-link fence and satellite tower next to the lighthouse, but with a bit of content-aware and cloning in Photoshop, they magically disappeared, making the image much cleaner.

Next time you’re out shooting at dawn or dusk and the moon isn’t where you want it, keep this procedure in mind. If you would like to see more images from the Algarve, click on this link or better yet, why not create your own brilliant images along side me in the Algarve.

Full Moon over Ponta de Piedade Lighthouse, Lagos, Algarve, Portugal



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