Stage 1: The Source
The Ruta de las Fuentes y Atalaya de Conchar is one of a number of spectacular walks in and around the village of Conchar in the Lecrin Valley. Some are suitable for mountain bikes, others not. This one, or at least this stage of it is probably too much for anyone but an experienced cyclist. In the summer, take water. The sides of the gorge are steep and you’ll need to rehydrate.
This particular walk is as spectacular as any walk I’ve done in Spain. It’s estimated to be four hours in duration, but I suspect it’s more. The terrain is difficult. The first section, the Source, consists of a gentle walk then a scramble into a gorge that seems impossibly deep. The bottom contains a busy river that has cut its way through the centuries deep into the landscape.
You can still see the remnants of small farms, wheat grows wild and terrace walls have collapsed in places, it’s jaw droppingly beautiful. The impression is of having dropped into a timewarp. I saw nobody down there and apart from the birdsong and the sound of the river it was completely silent.
From the photographic perspective, it’s quite problematic. Because the gorge is so deep and runs NE/SW, golden hour photography is hampered by deep shadows on one or other side. Full daylight is only available from around midday to around 5pm at this time of the year. This basically mandates the use of a polarising filter to cut the glare and bring out the rich colours. Used with a wide angle lens this introduces more problems as shooting anywhere into the sun produces lens flare which can render the picture unusable.
I took my infrared converted Canon 550 on an exploratory ramble and managed to get a few usable shots. Infrared is actually best shot in the midday sun, so this was a great excuse to travel light and fire off a lot of frames, searching for a good composition I could use later.
Because the 550D is a crop sensor, I use a 10-22mm wide angle lens – roughly equivalent to 16-35mm on full frame. This photo was taken around 5pm and you can see the light is much stronger on the top left hand diagonal even after the application of a graduated filter in Photoshop.
Taking this image as a starting point I returned the next day with a bottle of water, a tripod, my Canon 5D mk IV. 17-40mm lens and Lee Circular Polariser with a graduated filter to balance the light.
This shot is taken slightly higher up the hill than the infrared image. The trail curves down following the terrace wall and inside the trees you can see the river. It took around 30 minutes to get to the bottom of the gorge from Conchar and around 45 to climb back up to the village the way I came, with my kit.
Walking in Andalucia: Ruta de las Fuentes y Atalaya de Conchar
You can find this walk documented in detail here on Wikiloc. The trail takes you through the trees next to the river in the centre of the picture above and up out of the gorge and across the river out of frame. From there it heads north towards Durcal and across to the watchtower just outside Conchar before descending back into the village. It’s worth taking a map as the signposts in the bottom of the valley are long gone and the trail is not exactly well worn!
Ruta de las Fuentes y Atalaya de Conchar is an essential walk for photographers. But don’t forget to just look around and take it all in. No single image can do it justice.
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