We've just spent a long weekend in the Peneda Geres national park, in the far north of Portugal. It's a place I've been told about so many times, and have wanted to see for a few years now, and it's also the best place in Portugal for autumn colour.
Having said all that, I didn't regard this as a photography trip. By that I mean, I hadn't spent time researching locations to shoot, partly due to the fact that I'd had no time but mostly because I just wanted to spend three days away with Teresa, relaxing, reading, eating good food and seeing a new part of the country. Besides, the weather forecast was terrible, and I seriously didn't expect that we'd get more than a couple of hours without rain.
So the plan was to take it easy and just explore the area, and maybe find some locations for a future trip. As it turned out the weather forecast was pretty accurate and we had pretty much solid rain the whole time, but autumn colour tends to be really saturated in wet and overcast weather though, so in many ways I didn't mind the lack of good light. I did also get one sunny afternoon, which I took advantage of. OK, it's not ideal shooting in harsh afternoon light, but the thing about travel photography is that you use the light you get, not the light you wish to get. Besides, the sunny afternoon led to a lovely sunset where the light and sky conspired to give ideal conditions for photography. It hadn't been forecast, and as we weren't planning on waiting around in locations "just in case" things turned out, it was pure luck that we happened to be in a great location for the last light of day. . A few minutes after I took the shot below, the sky to the right of me turned blood red, but unfortunately I was in completely the wrong place to shoot it.
Next time we go there, I'll make a proper plan of locations for sunrise and sunset...I certainly saw plenty of fascinating opportunities, but most of the time they were behind a cloak of torrential rain. Sometimes though, even rain doesn't interfere with certain types of shots, for example the shot above of the different ferns in the forests above the town of Geres. I took this with an umbrella over the camera as the rain dropped from the canopy above, the diffuse light really bringout of the turning colours of the ferns. Likewise the image below which was taken in the same forest beneath heavy rain. I underexposed to let the darkness of the forest come in at the corners, focusing on the path of the small stream and the red ferns that grown alongside it.
As I said though, we did have an afternoon when the weather was lovely, and we drove along Serra Amerela, past herds of wild horses and wild goats. The scenery up there is different to anything I've seen so far in Portugal. In parts lush and flowing with streams and waterfalls, in other parts barren and wind blown, with scattered rocks and boulders. The image below is one of the many terraced farms that we saw.
The amount of water there was something that really struck me. I'm really familiar with Lisbon and the south of Portugal, where there are a couple of large rivers and estuaries but little else in the way of waterways and streams. The north however has running water everywhere, and so many waterfalls.
All in all it was a great trip, and we left Geres feeling relaxed and refreshed, and eager to go back and explore it more. It was beautiful in autumnal colours, but a big part of me would love to see it in summer when the weather is better, and when we can swim in the crystal clear water of the pools and rivers. It's a big area, and I felt like we only scratched the surface of the various places to visit and photograph.