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Focus on Faro

25th July 2012 • Posted in Where2 Magazine

Photographers are always on the lookout for picturesque destinations with beautiful light. Flying into Faro with from as little as £31.99 (one way) offers a chance to look through the lens at the towns and beaches of the Algarve.

 Faro Focus Image

As a photographer I love spending time shooting scenery in the luminous light of Portugal’s Algarve. It doesn’t seem to matter at what time of year I fly into Faro, the light is good for photography. Even during winter months the sky is often bright blue and I can head out with my camera kit without having to wrap up. Some people say the quality of the light is due to the sun reflecting off the Atlantic but I’m not entirely convinced; if that was the case why wouldn’t we experience more clear blue days in coastal regions of the UK?

Looking for Something Different  

The Algarve has some lovely places to explore with a camera, including Faro itself. I’m particularly fond of the picturesque Vila Adentro (walled old town), the historic district behind the eighteenth-century Arco da Vila gateway that people invariably pause to admire. I’m forever searching for unusual views and looking back along the cobbled lanes towards the rooftop of the famous gateway provides an under-appreciated view of nesting storks. 

Inevitably, landmarks such as the Sé (cathedral) are always good to photograph but at this time of year I find it fascinating that orange trees are laden with fruit on the Largo de Sé (cathedral square). I’m not sure how the oranges taste but they look great when photographed against a clear blue sky or worked into the foreground of a shot featuring the cathedral.

Beautiful Beaches and Sunsets

From the nearby jetty, boat trips run into the Ria Formosa Natural Park. To me, the main reason behind making this trip is to reach the deserted island of Barreta, known locally as Ilha Deserta. It’s the most southerly point of continental Portugal and has a long sandy beach on which thousands of shells wash up. Photographing the otherwise empty beach, anglers on the lighthouse pier and views of Faro from the boardwalks over the dunes is a pleasant way of spending an afternoon.

It’s rewarding to be back at Faro’s marina to catch the sun setting beyond the moored boats and palm trees. There are quite a number of cafés in this part of town and when the sun has dipped below the horizon I can celebrate the end of my working day with a relaxing drink.

Slightly further afield, a number of the Algarve’s towns and villages are blessed with variety and character, meaning there’s plenty to photograph. Even the careworn facades of older buildings can prove photogenic. Yet there are numerous spruce houses, some freshly whitewashed and lovingly decorated with potted flowers, plus those clad in traditional Portuguese azulejo tiles. The region is easy to get around and hiring a car offers freedom from bus and rail timetables.  

Late Afternoons in Lagos 

Lagos is one of my favourite towns as it offers plenty of nearby beach backdrops yet has a historic heart, including the remains of a  medieval slave market and city walls. For sea views there’s a seaside path that offers a pleasant walk over to Luz about 3 miles (5 km) away, a village with a golden beach set under honeycomb coloured cliffs. Luz is also the home to Roman ruins that look their best in the soft light of the late afternoon. 

Also, as an avid traveller, I find the coastal town of Sagres fascinating. It was here that Prince Henry the Navigator founded his school of navigation, at which explorers such as Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan studied. The fortress on the headland offers some dramatic views of Atlantic waves crashing into the cliffs way below. It’s also the home to a mysterious wind compass with a diameter of 140 ft (43 m); it has 40 rather than the usual 30 segments used for measuring wind direction and remained buried until excavations in 1921. Its sheer size makes it a challenge to photograph. Early explorers would once have busied themselves here with an astrolabe and compass. To me the camera feels much more natural as photography gives me a reason to observe, seek out details and, consequently, to get more out of travelling. 

Sometimes I’ll set myself challenges, such as looking out for ten photogenic doorways or a similar number of interesting street views. Why not give it a try and see what you come up with? 

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