The island of Flores is about as far west as you can go and still be in Europe, although technically it's on the American continental plate and moving 2cm further away from the European mainland each year. We landed in lovely sunshine, picked up the rental car and headed across the island to the cottage we'd booked in Faja Grande on the western side of he island. Flores is basically a large plateau, so going anywhere involves driving up and across the top. The road up has some fantastically dramatic scenery, but sadly once we reached the top we couldn't see anything as the cloud had descended so low that visibility was little me then 50 meters. When we reached the other side however we started to descend and as we dropped out of the clouds the views were magnificent. The cliffs are covered in lush vegetation and waterfalls tumbling down to the faja, the flat piece of land between the sea and the foot of the cliffs. It was late in the day and he sun had passed beneath the cloud and was saturating the cliffs in light and colour.
After I'd finished photographing it we made our way to the cottage, which was right on the edge of the sea below the towering cliffs. The next morning I awoke before dawn to head back across the island to photograph first light at a location I'd spotted as we'd first arrived. The mist was even thicker now and sadly the view no longer existed as it was covered by cloud. I did find a lovely view down across the island towards the sunrise though.
The weather didn't really improve for the rest of the day, so we spent our time exploring the area where we were staying. We had a great lunch at Maresia, probably the most westerly restaurant in Europe as it sits right on the edge of the water here, and then wandered along the coast and up to the foot of one of the many waterfalls in town. The cascata da bacalhau, like all the falls along the cliff here, is incredibly high. This makes it tricky to photograph so I concentrated on shooting it in abstract parts, freezing the movement of the water at the top of the falls as the wind blew it into a misty curtain, and blurring the movement at the bottom of the falls against the black rock.
Later on we took a walk up to Lagoa dos Patos, which is a really pleasant hike up through some incredibly lush forest to the foot of the cliffs I'd photographed the previous evening. The various waterfalls collect in a small lake and it's a really stunning scene. I'd hoped to photograph reflections there but the high winds made that impossible, and the low lying cloud around the top wasn't really ideal, but as the forecast for the following day was poor I doubted I'd have another chance so I took some images anyway.
The next day gave us more of the same bad weather, although it was forecast to clear around 6. We went back to Maresia for lunch, watching the rai pound against the windows and the sea crash against the rocks. After lunch we headed over to Santa Cruz da Flores, the capital of the island to sort out our ferry tickets to Corvo for the following day. The trip across the island was once again covered in mist and I wondered if I was ever going to see what the interior of the island looked like. We stopped off at a mirador (viewpoint) above the west coast and took in the amazing views as cloud drifted in off the ocean
We sorted out the tickets and then I drove a little further north up the east coast as I wanted to check out Albergoa, a beach that I'd considered as a sunrise location. I eventually found it and the narrow twisting road down. There was then a rather steep walk down along very sloppy stones to the beach. The location was stunning though, the path winds down a stunning valley, and the beach itself is stunning with some incredible rock stacks just off the coast. The rain stopped, the stacks were illuminated win light and the sky was moody enough to that I thought it was worth trying to make an image.
It wast the wrong time of day for a waterscape, but the descent was too treacherous to do alone in the dark before sunrise, but if I ever come back to the Azores to do workshops (I'm starting to make plans) then this is definitely a location that will be on my list.
We headed back out and by now the light was starting to get really interesting, and by the time we arrived back in Faja Grande as the light was peaking and I decided to head back up to Lagoa daw Patos, as I didn't really feel I'd done it justice the day before In the mist. This time I practically ran up as I was racing the light and it took me just 8 minutes. The light was incredible on the cliff of the ribeira, and I spent 15 minutes capturing the last light of day at this stunning location.
We left the woods feeling exhilerated...its just such a special place and once again we'd had it all to ourselves.
Dinner was once again at Maresias. The food was fantastic again, I don't think I've ever tasted shrimp more perfectly cooked. It's a tiny place in a shack at the edge of the sea. The owner has filed the inside with his vinyl collection which he plays while you eat. The food is wonderfully prepared and the whole atmosphere with the food, the music and the most incredible location give the place as much soul as any restaurant I've ever eaten in.
The next day was our last on Flores and as the weather was good we took the time to explore parts of the island we hadn't seen. I also too the time to have another go at the waterfall I'd shot a couple of nights previously and had a better go at getting the composition right.
After that we went exploring. From the church at Ponte da Faja overlooking the ocean, the the views across the west coast and the water filled craters of the interior, I was constantly amazed at how utterly beautiful this island is.
I could spent weeks photographing the different places and views here. Just driving along one of the central roads I stepped into a forest of cedar pine and spent 30 minutes just playing around with different compositions. I wished I'd known about this place when the weather was bad as I bet it would be amazing to photograph in mist
Finally we made our way to Santa Cruz, bought the tickets for the crossing to Corvo, had lunch, dropped off the rental car, then walked to he port to wait for the ferry