Ponta do Pargo and Sao Vicente

Madeira has a lot more to offer than whale-watching, as was to be expected. Most people go off on hiking-tours and we did so as well, when we visited the Risco-Waterfall. Apart from that we toured to the extreme west of the island, to the Ponta do Pargo for a spectacular sunset and Sao Vicente for the vulcanic caves. In a later post I will write about Funchal and Porto Moniz.

For most of these outings I brought my Olympus OMD Em10 Mark II and the 25mm f1.8 (50mm, f3.6 equivalent), a simple, light and effective kit, which is surprisingly flexible.

a view over Sao Vicente. In the foreground the entrance the grotto’s multimedia-experience

Sao Vicente is a small village with about 3000 inhabitants in its district and is probably most famous for the Grutas, the volcanic caves that can be explored as part of a guided tour.

a look inside a side-tunnel

The tour is quite short, though, as it covers only about 700m, but it ends on a multimedia-experience in which the genesis of Madeira is explained, which is quite nice. Through the caves runs a river of pure water that was filtered by the vulcanic rocks, which is drinkable. The small stream forms lakes underground which are very nice to look at.

a small -artificial – lake inside the caves

Outside of caves, you can find some nice restaurants and of course the extreme cliffs that are part of every coastal town in Madeira.

a vista from Sao Vicente

From Sao Vicente you can go along the coastal roads, which for a large part are not tunneled, which is an amazing experience in and of itself. You drive high up the cliffs along meandering roads and you’re sometimes able to catch a view over a valley and the landscape or the open sea.

a view to the south from Ponta do Pargo

At other times, the road leads you straight through a forest. It’s scenic, it’s wonderful and uplifting. I need to go back in order to get some images to prove the beauty of the northern coastal roads.

sunset at Ponta do Pargo

After a lenghty lunch at Porto Moniz, we went to Ponta do  Pargo at the western-most point of Madeira and thus the perfect spot for a spectacular sunset. There is a lighthouse, which is still in use and only some other tourists were around for the view.

sunset at the lighthouse

The temperatures in Madeira are mild day and night, so we spent some hours there before and after the sunset, exploring the small space near the lighthouse photographically. Apart from the other people there were only some curious goats that alternatingly viewed us as interesting and fear-inducing.

the goats cannot decide what to do about me

I surely hope you enjoyed this small blog, today. Ahhhh, I think I can throw in just one more picture as an extra. Enjoy!

Madeira (c) Torsten Drever

Planning a great shot

Most of my shots are ’sort-of-planned-in-advance‘, i.e. I know where I go (always helpful) and I know what I’m interested in, so I can bring the right lens and accessories. And that’s ok. But when I went to Sankt Peter-Ording a couple of weeks ago, I knew I wanted to have a postcardish shot of the famous lighthouse there. So on my third day there, I approached the subject much as I approached my other stuff, packed my camera bag, brought a tripod and decided to drive to the lighthouse. There I realized that I had to walk a couple of Kilometers only to get to the lighthouse, that I would have to wait for two hours in the cold to wait for sunset and that I had already got soggy-wet shoes from the saltmarsh. So, no. I had to get back.

At home I downloaded PlanIt!, a photography app that tells me the time of sunrise/sunset, the position of the sun and that can previsualize a shot based on Google-Maps and the information I entered about my Olympus EM1. That way I had a good understanding of the situation before I returned the next day to take the shot.

The photographic problem that the lighthouse presents is that it is only accessible from its northern side so that it is hard to even get some light on the lighthouse together with the sunset. But as it is situated in a national park it is not nice or ethical to simply walk around it. The solution light-wise is to make an HDR image. I decided on three brackets as you could only stand on rather squishy ground and I did not want my camera to wobble too much over the course of taking five images for each bracket. Having fixed the camera on a tripod I decided on doing a five-step panorama in portrait orientation (you can see a bit of that below).

Stitching all fifteen images together in Photoshop was a breeze and the result is somehow campy, but I like the colors a lot. You get a bit of background in the slide-show below and the actual image is on top of this blog-post. Enjoy!

coming towards the lighthouse – notice the difference in light quality

the final panorama

the shot from a different perspective

from car park to lighthouse

contact sheet