Photographing Portugal – Azenhas do Mar
November 14, 2021 | Landscape Photography, Travel | by Michael Breitung
If you read my last article you might already know that for the next year I'm going to live the nomadic lifestyle, travel around the world – as much as COVID allows – and practice landscape photography full-time. To start things off, we decided to fly to Portugal and make it our homebase for the next six weeks. As a first objective I wanted to photograph Azenhas do Mar, which is the topic of this article.
I remember staying in Azenhas do Mar 11 years ago, when I had just started out with landscape photography. The sea was rough, the light fleeting and I didn't get many good photos during the week I had in Portugal back then. Only a few photos from that trip still remain in my Portugal gallery.
Moreover I didn't take a single photo of Azenhas do Mar that I'm satisfied with. So since we are staying here for 10 days I wanted to change this and get at least one portfolio piece.
But before we dive into tips on photographing Azenhas do Mar, I want to first share some of my Portugal experience with you.
I have now been to the Lisbon area three times and renting a car is essential, if you want to make the most of such a trip. There are busses frequenting the coast near Lisbon, but they don't provide the flexibility necessary for photography or for reaching more secluded coves.
When it comes to places to stay, I find the Colares region ideal for quick access to many spectacular beaches as well as the mountains of Sintra and the town itself. A great spot to pick for an AirBnb is Azenhas do Mar. Here you will have a few photo spots available in walking distance – more on those below.
Our current AirBnb is the Casa do Poente from which we can walk in 5 – 10 minutes down to the beach and viewpoint. It's a beautiful little house, well kept and I can totally recommend it.
Finally a few words on the cost of living. Prices in grocery stores are similar to other western European countries, as are prices for gas. In the coastal towns you find many little supermarkets, but the selection is limited. If you are into organic food like we are you won't find many options there. Larger supermarkets can be found in Sintra.
Photographing Azenhas do Mar
To photograph Azenhas do Mar there are not that many options. There's a small beach from which you could get a good view of the town with a wide angle lens*. But since you would be looking up, a lot of the town would not be visible in such a photo. Here's a scouting photo I took with my cell phone. Here you can see how prominent the lower buildings are compared to the rest of the town.
The obvious choice for a photo is from the official viewpoint, which is situated up on the cliffs. From there you can get a beautiful view of the heart of Azenhas do Mar with its dramatic cliffs. This place will get crowded during sunset though. And in the winter months the sun is also a bit too far in the South for a really spectacular photo.
That's why my preferred time to photograph Azenhas do Mar in late Autumn and Winter from the official viewpoint is during Blue Hour before sunrise. Then the town is still lit by its street lamps and I can enjoy the view in solitude, snap a few photos and listen to the waves crashing onto the beach below.
There's a third option from which you can get a glimpse of Azenhas do Mar. This viewpoint is not that well known. It's located further South in the direction of Praia dos Macas. At evening it's frequented mostly by fishermen.
This spot is perfect for photographing with a long lens. And since I didn't have any clouds at our second evening in Portugal this is where I went. In such conditions I often use a long lens as my weapon of choice, because it allows me to zoom in on the subject and exclude most of the sky.
In the video below I show you the behind the scenes for the photos above and I also give tips on composition. Make sure to check it out.
* Above I use Amazon Affiliate Links. If you use them to buy something, I’ll get a little commission from Amazon