Sailing from France to Portugal

Although we left the boat in Brest last year, it had now been sailed around by our friends to Bilbao, which is just at the border of France and Spain. So we flew into Carcassonne, which is a shed that likes to call itself an airport, and then rented a car and drove up to Bilbao.

The next day we moved in to the boat and sorted a few things out on it. After a few hours we were pretty much done, so my sister and I attempted to navigate our way to the metro station. Eventually we found it and hopped on. We met up with our Dad in the centre of town, and headed off the Guggenheim.

As a Photographer I’m supposed to have an open mind when it comes to art; but I honestly found a lot of stuff in there either boring or over-hyped, and then there was the odd smaller piece that was hidden away somewhere that I’d love. To me it felt like a lot of the main bits there were made in an “I’ll go make something that looks nice” way, and then the artist has tried to pile on some bs about what it’s supposed to represent or signify, instead of the art taking its form from what you wanted to put across. An example of this was called “A matter of time”, some beautifully curved and placed pieces of rusty metal. But that is all. Then the artist heaped on the rubbish about how the curves represent clocks etc. Once we’d escaped, we walked around the building; there’s a really cool path in front of it with steam that rises from it.

We walked into town for some tapas and wine at a mere €1 per glass! We found our way back (just) and got on a big green tram. We managed to go to the wrong place , and whilst we waited I shot this train chugging past.

It was a hard journey to get here; it was windy as hell and wavy too. As we got close, we tried to start the engine, but nothing happened. This was a slight issue as now we couldn’t go into the harbour, and we were miles away from anywhere else. Me and my dad eventually fixed it; so we got in. The town is built up on a hill-side, with these shack like houses. We ate down in the bottom of the town in a place where they served cider by pouring it above their heads, into a glass held down by their waist. I assume this makes the cider taste better, and they don’t just do it because they like their restaurant to stink of cider that’s been poured on the floor.

This is a fairly industrial looking fishing harbour that we anchored in one night. We arrived late, just in time for the sunset. Whenever I say ‘The clouds aren’t right’ I compare them to this, as these were pretty damn good as clouds go.

We got to la Coruna and met up with Neil and Cassie, who were going to stay on the boat for a few weeks. The town there is great, with some nice old buildings, and great people, the way people do things and dress is so much more interesting and individual than in England where everyone is just trying to blend in. We bought a jambon for the boat here; an 8kg lump of smoked ham that we hung up downstairs. We tried to reach the non- touristy parts, to see the interesting and quirky, non commercialised parts of the town.

After a long windy day sailing down to Ria de Arousa, we had some tapas with some guys we met, and then I grabbed my camera to get a silhouette of this fisherman. It was a good thing I hurried, as within 20 seconds of me getting my camera out, he packed up and left!

The clouds were sweeping across the sky quickly, so I ran out to the breakwater, to set up my tripod and get a series of long exposures that I stitched later to make this.

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One day we sailed to Caminha, a place that I had originally classed as impossible for us to stay because of a shallow sand bar. We anchored in the river, between a castle and the mainland. This was the border from Spain to Portugal, we swam ashore (which means I can say I’ve swam from Spain to Portugal), and then swam back to find Neil had cooked a two foot long sea bass on the boat! We waited for the right tide height, and then took the boat round into the sheltered bay. This place was quite remote, so the stars were really bright. I rowed ashore to set up on the beach, and set my camera to the time lapse mode so that it was doing a set of 40 photos, doing a test shot first. After draining the battery I returned to the boat, with a sandy tripod and camera bag that managed to piss off everyone on board. I was quite lucky in the fact that the turning point of the stars is in the top corner – I had no idea it was there but I was glad it was! If you do star shots you might find the app Sky safari a good tool for finding the milky way, and knowing where the turning point in the stars will be.

We arrived in Porto in thick fog after a day of dodging boats and lobster pots that would appear out of the fog two metres in front of you. At one point, we thought we might have been about to sail into a wind turbine – we had gone off course slightly and headed into a wind farm; we could hear a horn coming out of the fog but we had no idea where it was coming from and we couldn’t see anything – being in thick fog is so disorienting that we could have been sailing upside down for all I knew. Theres also something amazing about the fact you can be sitting in a huge ocean, yet it feels like you’re in a private room shielded from everything. We went out the first night to get some tapas and take a look around the town. The towns built on a steep river side, so there’s hundreds of levels to the town. We went for a wine tasting on the second level up ( apparently 16 is the legal drinking age in Portugal), and we got the portuguese take on tapas – sardines, bread and cheese seem to be the common snack stuff.

After, we went for a roam around so I tried to capture some street scenes, but I was using ISO 5000, which is a but of a push even for the D7100. Also, my 50mm doesn’t seem to be that sharp wide open; I’ll probably swap it for a 35mm 1.8 soon.

The next day we decided to carry on exploring, we started out by going over the famous Porto bridge – It’s one hell of a climb to get up but worth it, you can also take the cable car up if you’re feeling American. Whilst it’s nice enough in the day, I wish I could have gone up in the early evening, the lights reflecting off the river would have been incredible.

Because our plans were somewhat rushed and uncertain, I didn’t have time to do proper flickr research of locations for shots; this meant I didn’t have an agenda as to where to go. This did give me an open mind though, and meant I wasn’t trying to copy somebody elses picture. Still in the mood to do street photography, I was searching high and low for anything, when I looked up and saw this scene; an elderly woman with her bird watching people bustle below.

After dinner we went back, this time going the easy route on the bottom of the bridge. We stopped for a nightcap, and so I wandered over to the riverside where these old wooden boats were tied up; the lights of the buildings across the river dripping into the water.

We anchored in Cascais right next to the beach, and swam around for a bit, before heading out to dinner at a great Italian restaurant that overlooks the harbour. The next day we rowed ashore, and went for another swim, and then bumped into this guy we had met at the Italian restaurant the night before; who was renting out paddleboards. He let us take a few boards out for free, and I discovered that it is actually pretty fun!

After, we went for a traipse around , and came across this closed photography exhibition. The side lighting made great shadows , and I loved the cool blue and white tones.

Neil had contacted some of his friends that had a penthouse overlooking Cascais, so we met up with them for drinks and taps on their balcony. They had an incredible view of the hills behind Cascais and over the sea too.

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We got to Figueira de Foz quite late, so we quickly went out for dinner. We had heard about these two restaurants that were run by the same owner, that are really popular there. We waited for a while, but then we got a seat along this big rectangular bar area. We had a great meal, traditional Portuguese food: spaghetti and clams and an assortment of other things I can’t remember. As we were just about to leave, this man came in, sitting next to me. He had obviously been performing on the street as a statue man, and he had his little pot of change resting on his knee. I waited till we were just about to leave, as I didn’t want to make it awkward, and then gestured to him with my camera. He struck a great pose, giving me a wtf expression. And that’s the story of my first posed street shot, hopefully the first of many!

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We arrived in Lisbon early, and quickly went so that we could go off on a bus tour around the town. this was ok, but then we got off and walked around the town. I was keen on trying to capture images that really depicted Lisbon, and the big thing about Lisbon is trams; so I got a streetscape setting the tram against the town.

As one came past, I shot a glimpse along the side. I love this shot, it’s one of my all time favourite street candids, the light that just touches the sides of the people’s faces, and the way they’re all looking out.

We walked up to the castle that overlooks the town. My initial impressions weren’t great, but when we were just about to leave, I hung on a bit, persistent to get a shot of the town at night. I didn’t have my tripod with me, so I had to hold my camera on a curved wall for a 30 second exposure, which wasn’t easy!

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We woke up at 5 am to leave a windy hellhole that we had stayed in, thinking it was a nice bay for a quiet anchorage. It got up to 40 knots during the night, and none of us slept at all. We saw the sunrise over the huge mountains that we had stayed under, and we had dolphins splashing around in the golden water as we were sailing dreary-eyed on our way to Sines. Once we arrived we crashed out for a few hours, and then walked up into the empty town. We came across an open door, with nice smells pouring out. We wandered in, and a woman ushered upstairs into what must have been somebodies dining room. We were the only ones there in this tiny room, and we were served some amazing cheese and octopus. We ordered some veal and foot long fresh sardines, and we were advised to have this incredible white wine called B.S.E. It was an amazing restaurant: the food was brilliant - from the window you could see the harbour; and it was all just tucked away in a tiny corner!

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