This is a part of northern Alentejo I always feel I've had a special relationship with. Some of the very first waterscapes I ever took and the first I submitted to this site were taken in a village called Comporta, and one of my most popular shots on DA was taken here around 6 months ago [link]
I'd heard about this place called Carrasqueira nearby, heard that it had an amazing labyrinth of old wooden piers called Cais Palafitico where fishermen from the estuary worked from.
I'd never managed to see it though, but this weekend we had some incredibly beautiful technicolour skies around sunset, so I decided to take the chance and do the 120km drive there on Monday evening.
It was throwing it down with rain when I arrived, and continued to do so for around 45 minutes. I could see this fascinating confusion of piers, many collapsed, and there was high tide so I'd be able to photograph water, rather than the mud-flats they stand on at low tide.
A small gap opened up in the clouds around 15 minutes before sunset, so I set off with my camera onto the piers.
In a place like this with so much photographic potential, I have a tendency to want to shoot everything and end up missing the best part when the light is at it's most beautiful.
I decided to head out to the end of the piers where I'd have a view with less visual confusion and just focus on composing some shots there.
It's an amazing place, and one I'm sure I'll be going back to. I was incredibly lucky with the tide, as well as the light and the sky, which was truly breath-taking.
The downside though is that the place is full of tiny mosquitos. I got eaten alive, but at the time didn't really notice it as I was so involved with what I was doing. My hands are covered in about 20 small bites though, so next time I'll take repellent.
It's important to note that I haven't done anything to this shot other than sharpening and putting the title and frame. I didn't touch curves, contrast, levels or saturation. I used no coloured filters, these are the colours that I saw with my eyes that night and the image that came straight out of the camera.Technique
There's something really evocative about piers, they seem to work so well photographically. I was looking for one without a boat, as I wanted a cleaner image with fewer elements, but I couldn't find one, and moreover, couldn't resist this secondary pier that had collapsed into the water.
When it comes to composition, in a place like this there are limits as you can't move to the side, only decide how high to have the camera and how far along the pier you're going to walk.
In a shot like this I'd normally try to keep the end of the pier below the level of the horizon, but here that just wasn't possible, and besides, I like lower compostions as it makes the texture in the foreground clearer as well as keeping the tripod more steady. There was no wind, but every move I made rocked the pier, so I chose a lower composition.
I checked the edges to make sure there was nothing touching the edge of the frame and composed for the sky. I wanted the clouds to be prominant, but also plenty of water and pier, so I put the horizon across the middle (I know you shouldn't, but I really couldn't care less).
In a shot of a pier I think long exposures work as they smooth out the water, elimiting the visual noise of ripples and allowing the textures of the wood to become more apparent.
The sun hadn't quite set (there was some smoke from the farmers burning fields on the horizon, which has distorted the sun a little) so I used a very dark neutral density filter (a Hoya ND400) which closes out around 9 stops of light. Before putting this on though, I checked composition and lined up the 2 neutral density filters I was putting across the sky to balance it with the exposure I needed for the foreground and the water.
It's important that the graduation lines of the ND grad filter are lined up along the horizon, and when the ND400 is on, you can't see anything through the viewfinder.
I placed the grads first, then removed the entire grad filter holder with the grads in it, screwed in the ND400, then put the grads back in place.
I'd measured the exposure from the foreground earlier, so I just added 9 stops of exposure to the settings the meter had read. The ND400 almost always underexposes, so I added another 30 seconds on just to make sure, giving me an exposure time of 90 seconds at f8 (the aperture setting which gives my lens the sharpest results).
I sat down behind the tripod and opened the shutter with the cable release. I couldn't move at all as any shift of weight would have moved the tripod and the image would have been unsharp.
I was also unsure how the movement of the boat would look on the finished image, but in the end I was quite happy with it.Post Processing
I shot the image RAW and the only thing I've done to the image is crop a little off the edges where part of the filter holder was visible. Other than that, I added the title and frame in PS, re-sized it, gave it some very subtle sharpening and that's it. As I said, there has been no adjustment to colour, contrast or saturation.Metadata
Taken at Carrasqueira, Alentejo, Portugal
Nikon D80 | Sigma 10-20mm | Nikon Cable release
Manfrotto 190XProB w/ 322RC2 ballhead
Hoya ND400 (9 stop) | Lee 0.9 (3 stop) hard GND | Cokin ND8 (3 stop) soft GND
95 seconds | f8 | 10mm
Workflow in Apple Aperture. Frame and title in PS