There is an extensive network of long distance hiking trails throughout Europe, In Spain they are known as ‘Grandes Rutas’ (GR) and are marked with two horizontal stripes – one red and the other white – to help keep you on the right track.
The Catalonian part of the GR92 trail, also known as ‘The Mediterranean Trail’ passes along the beach in front of my apartment and is a great route for exploring the rocky coastline of the Costa Brava. This part of the trail has a total distance of about 350 miles (580 kilometres). It starts at the border between Spain and France and continues down past Barcelona heading towards Castellon, 100km north of the city of Valencia. Other stages extend much further travelling through the provinces of Valencia and Andalucia to finish in Cadiz. During the course of its journey it also passes through Cabo de Gata which is a place I’ve visited and talked about before (see Cape Cat).
The Costa Brava in Spain is noted for its rocky coastline. There must be hundreds of coves to discover and the GR92 is a good way of getting to them. Most are small coves, often uninhabited, sometimes with a rocky beach, sometimes with a sandy beach. Many provide scenes that landscape photographers dream about discovering because of their combination of sea, rock formations and extensive skies.
I took this photograph today at Cala dels Frares which is a small cove near Lloret de Mar. Roughly translated from Catalan its name translates to Monks’ Cove. The name apparently comes from someone interpreting the standing rocks in the sea as reminiscent of hooded monks. I’m not sure about that but its name helped to stimulate my imagination as I was trying to work out how to frame the composition.
A few days ago I was persuaded by a friend to accompany him on a hike up the Rio Chilar near Nerja in southern Spain. A great day out. The hike is fairly short – about 10km (6 miles) round-trip. The altitude gain is only about 250 feet so not strenuous but it can be difficult. Most of the time you are walking through the river and the river bed can be difficult with stones, boulders and changes in depth. One minute the water is above your ankles and then, if you choose the wrong place for your next step, its above your knees. So an easy hike on the lungs but hard on the feet, knees and leg muscles.
Along the way there are some great opportunities for photography. There are a number of water cascades in the river. They can be difficult to clamber over but they are great locations to stop and explore. Slow shutter speeds work well so a tripod is essential kit along with neutral density filters because the light can be bright. The first photograph was taken at one of those cascades with the camera set at ISO 100, 30sec exposure, f8 aperture and the lens set at 180mm focal length. The long exposure (courtesy of a 10 stop neutral density filter) helping to give a blue tinge to image which I feel fits with the idea of an ethereal, mystical mood.
The next photograph gives an idea of what the cascades look like. Plenty of opportunities to search for details and ideas within the complex mix of rocks, trapped wood and water.
Another great feature of the Rio Chilar trail is the mini-canyons where the river has cut through the rock. Depending on the time of day and the direction of the sun it would be useful to have a flash gun in your bag that can be used off-camera as a fill light for the shadows. I decided not to take my Canon 600EX-RT Speedlites with me but fortunately I was able to get a reasonable shot of the river flowing through a mini-canyon.
There are also plenty of small details in the river bed that provide good material to work on in Photoshop. I’ve used ‘blending’ in this next photograph to show the sort of images that can be created in post-processing. Here’s an example using the ‘vivid light’ blending mode at 85% opacity.
So, a good day out but you need to get to the start-point for about 8:30am to get parked and beat the rush, its a popular walk for the Spanish and for tourists on holiday. Minutes after taking this last photograph the pool below the waterfall was filled with a procession of people all wanting their ‘selfie’ photo-opportunity in the pool with the waterfall behind them. A bit annoying for us landscape photographers but a great way to cool down after the first half of the hike before returning back down the river.