Blog: Landscape Photography In Algarve, Portugal

December, 2019

The Algarve region of Portugal hosts some of the most dramatic and stunning seascape locations on Earth. In this blog post, I will share with you some of the locations I visited and the lessons I have learned from my trips to this gorgeous area of the Iberian Peninsula.

Last light at Praia do Castelejo.

Last light at Praia do Castelejo.

Praia do Castelejo

I have visited this location a number of times over the last couple years. It was only on my most recent trip in December of 2019 that I was finally gifted with beautiful light and conducive tidal conditions. Conditions truly do have to all come together to come away with something spectacular.

Firstly, this beach is HIGHLY affected by the tide. My first visit to this beach was in early 2018. The tide was completely out and at this beach, it meant that there was absolutely zero water flow and footprints throughout the entire scene. During my second visit, the tide was so high that it was actually quite dangerous to go anywhere near the sea stack (both for the camera equipment and myself). I have found that middle tide (around +4-6 feet) is the sweet spot for Praia do Castalejo. My portfolio image above was taken as the tide was going out. I had to scramble during the last moments of light to find a composition that had finally been revealed during the receding tide.

Second, as with all other forms of wide angle landscape photography, the light conditions have to give you something to make a dramatic image as well. Interestingly enough, the sunset wasn't looking great. The sun set behind a large marine layer of haze and clouds, so direct sunlight on the landscape didn't happen. I waited it out a bit longer to see if the high clouds would catch some color and sure enough, they did. The tide receded just enough to reveal some nice rocks in the foreground and the entire sky lit up in vibrant pinks and oranges. All of these perfect conditions converged at the same moment, giving me about a 5-10 minute window to capture an image.

This was one of my more difficult shoots. Seascape photography is tremendously dynamic. You have to react to the conditions. As tides recede and light changes, your compositions then change.

The sun rises through the rain and paints gorgeous warm light upon the marvelous seastacks of Praia da Marinha. This image truly...

The sun rises through the rain and paints gorgeous warm light upon the marvelous seastacks of Praia da Marinha. This image truly showcases the beauty of the Algarve.

Praia da Marinha

One of, if not the most famous seascape locations in all of the Algarve. This beach is host to a myriad of sea stacks that tower out of the ocean, including a natural double arch at the western end of the beach. I have shot this location a number of times. The image above was shot at an overlook of the entire beach. You will need a very wide lens to get the entire scene in one shot. I shot this image all the way at 14mm. As you can see, I was gifted with some pretty unique conditions. When I left my AirBnB, it was raining quite heavily, but decided to give a try anyway. The moment I got to parking lot, I could see a perfect gap in the clouds where the sun would soon rise. I rushed over to this composition that I had scouted the previous day and got ready for the light that I knew wouldn't last long. The moment the sun rose above the horizon, it lit up the rain through the storm clouds, creating a great deal of atmosphere and drama to the scene.

The fantastic double arch of Praia da Marinha.

The fantastic double arch of Praia da Marinha.

This image was shot from my trip in December of the previous year. Where I decided to go below. The tides play a huge role into shooting the double arch from below. To access this area of the beach, the tide needs to be either very low or all the way out. As I shot a number of compositions through sunset, the tide was coming in. You can easily get trapped at this location if you're not careful, as you have to climb over a number of rocky barriers that get pummeled by waves during the higher tides. This composition revealed itself toward the end of the shoot. I noticed that this rock had water flowing perfectly around it and I knew it would make some lovely leading lines into the scene. This image was taken at sunset.

The sun rises through the marvelous seastacks of Praia dos Arrifes.

The sun rises through the marvelous seastacks of Praia dos Arrifes.

Praia dos Arrifes

Another location I have shot multiple times, but with only one image to show for it. Another spot greatly effected by the tides (recurring theme here). The difference here though, I shot this at high to medium high tide. High tide brings the water far enough in to the beach to use it as a strong compositional element to an image. There are dozens of beautiful rocks to use for the water to flow around and through. It's a wonderful location to get creative, as there are tons of different angles and compositions to be had here. The view from the west side looking east separates the sea stacks more and you can really see the large opening in the main seas tack even more than the image you see above. I guess I'm just going to have to return. Something else to note... This is a massively underrated location. Every time I have visited this location, I have been the only one there.

The southwestern tip of Europe. The Lighthouse of Cabo de São Vicente over the cliffs of Sagres.

The southwestern tip of Europe. The Lighthouse of Cabo de São Vicente over the cliffs of Sagres.

The Cliffs of Sagres

This was the best display of light I had during my trip in December of 2018. I arrived at this location a few hours before sunset to scout for some compositions. There is a very OBVIOUS shot that is farther west, which in my opinion has been shot to death, so I decided to walk around to see if I could find something of my own. I composed this to feature the curving line of the edge of the cliff from the left of the frame, that sweeps up to the next layer of cliffs that points perfectly to Cabo de San Vicente Lighthouse. I found this lovely arangement of rocks in the foreground that were all pointing toward the lighthouse as well. Once the sunset light got a bit softer it really shaped the dimension throughout the scene. The seagulls flying above were a nice little bonus as well.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog post. The Algarve is only 3 hours from where I live, so I frequent this area quite often. I have many more locations in my back pocket that I will need to revisit in the near future.

If you are interested in shooting on location with me. I offer private instruction/workshops in the Algarve region of Portugal. Visit my private instruction page for more information. You can also contact me if you have any questions.