I spent a week photographing Cabo de Gata Nijar Natural Park earlier in September, we stayed in a small hotel on the edge of the park, with desert and mountain views. The park is protected, no commercial building or greenhouses are allowed so it is a real gem, featuring beaches that have appeared in blockbuster movies and unspoiled coastal villages with excellent restaurants. Plenty of walking trails and even a deserted gold mine to photograph.
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I took with me a Canon 5Ds, 24-70mm, 16-35mm and 70-200mm lenses. A Feisol tripod (CT-3442) and for more casual use my Ricoh GRIIIx.
One thing of note that I’m gradually realising is this – I used to bracket (typically three pictures, 1 or more stops apart to get bright, medium and dark exposures covering the entire dynamic range) every landscape image I made so that I could balance the exposures of different parts of the image without bringing undue noise into play. I’m no longer finding that necessary most of the time as recent Canon sensors (from the 5D Mk IV onwards) are so much better at handling wide dynamic range. It’s possible to recover detail from shadows much more effectively than it was five years ago,
For the same reason, I’m leaving my ND Filters at home as well. With the local adjustment tools in DxO PhotoLab and the masks in Adobe Lightroom it is possible to get better, more accurate results toning the skies down or amping the land up than it is with glass filters.
I expose for the brightest part of the image, usually the sky, and take a view then as to whether it is necessary to bracket the image or not.
Isleta de Moro
Isleta de Moro is a gorgeous fishing village with a sheltered bay offering excellent snorkelling over extensive shallows. There is also extensive parking just yards from the beach and one of the best fish restaurants in Andalucia, making it a great choice to spend a lazy day swimming and eating. For the restless, there is a large rock to climb, like a miniature Gibralter jutting out to sea.
The Gold Mines of Rodalquilar
I’ve written extensively about the history of these mines, so I’ll be brief here. The short version is there are deserted mine wokings and abandoned dwellings offering a fantastic photo opportunity.
Strangely absent from the tourist centric promotional literature this is one of the photographic high points of the trip.
I was very late to the party with Monsul Beach, it’s featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Wind and the Lion and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen amongst others.
It’s off the beaten track a little, but well worth the effort of seeking it out. A large sweep of sand marked out by an enormous rock rearing out of the beach.
The landscape here is largely volcanic in origin and has a distinctive ‘pebble dashed’ look, presumably formed by smaller rocks carried in molten sand and remaining trapped for eternity as the lava cooled.
This beach is around three kilometres from Monsul Beach, so both can be done in a day.
The beach here is fine sand, bordered with dunes and a hiking trail. Its windy, so don’t try changing lenses! Really needs to be shot at dawn rather than evening as the sun rises over the sea in September, but this was the last hour of my last day so I’ll be going back for sure!
Life in the Desert
We stayed at a house called Little Agave, out in the desert on the edge of the park. I recommend it, the hosts are charming and work very hard to keep everything as near to perfect as possible. Immaculately clean pool, plenty of places to sit in privacy contemplating the desert garden and views of the mountains in the distance.
Photographing Cabo de Gata
I came away from Cabo de Gata thinking I’d like to live there, plenty of hiking, beaches and good restaurants. But on reflection I’d miss Granada and the splendour of the Sierra Nevada so maybe in another life!
I will run a Photographic workshop there next year. It’s a perfect location for astrophotography as well as beaches, sea and mountains all in easy reach of one another. If you’re interested in joining us shooting mountains and desert locations in Spain then sign up below if you’d like to find out more about the workshop.
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