The Algarve (from the Moorish Al-Gharb meaning The West) province of Portugal spans its entire southern coast of the country and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west and south and Spain on the east. The wonderful thing about having the opportunity to spend a week photographing this lovely region is that one can drive from one end to the other and back again in one day easily and return to your hotel at night. In truth I was in Portugal during in November, so that may explain the ease of driving from one end of the Algarve and back again, since it was off-season. The off-season for any travel destination is always best – fewer people, less traffic and probably better weather (well, at least, the spring and fall). Also, getting in the best local restaurants is a breeze.
I was based in Faro, the Algarve’s largest city, so the first days were spent just walking the streets and observing the architecture, the markets, the harbor, etc. As I was on assignment for the same Japanese magazine that published the Southwest Scotland article, I had to come up with a theme. My first thought was to photograph dogs. The dogs run free and seem to be everywhere, although, thankfully, I saw no large packs. Well, even though there were no large packs, the second dog I photographed bared its teeth and snarled, so I changed my theme to photographing the Algarve from east to west. I think it was the better choice.
One day I drove over to Olhão (pronounced O-yahng). While there, I started to feel a little panicked, because I wasn’t getting photographs that made me entirely happy. As I walked around Olhão’s waterfront, I kept going back and forth from one end to the other, looking for the perfect photo. Of course, when I was at one end of the waterfront, the other end looked more interesting, but as I went to the other end, the previous end looked more interesting. It was at this point, I realized I needed to relax, because photography isn’t about rushing, it is about waiting patiently for the shot you want. As I sat at the water’s edge, a Portuguese man approached me and said in English,”People think that taking photographs is easy, but you must sometimes just wait”. I thought he was very astute, so I agreed with him. Then he just started speaking to me in Portuguese as I nodded yes to everything he said. After about five minutes, he looked at me and said, “You don’t understand a word I am saying”. I smiled and said, “No”. At that point, he spoke a little English and he taught me a little Portuguese. He then asked me to follow him as he showed me around the local fish markets. It was a wonderful experience and a little adventure that was a very rewarding aspect of being a photographer. I did get my photograph, which was a man rowing his boat out into the harbor as seagulls hovered overhead.
The sea is still a big part of life in the Algarve and the food reflects that aspect of Portuguese life. I love food and wine, and although I never photograph my food at restaurants (I leave that to others.), I have wonderful memories of the great restaurants where I ate while there. As an aside, the Portuguese espresso is the best.
I enjoyed my limited time in the Algarve. I hope to get back there some day and photograph it again. As most photographers will tell you, they always will find something new to photograph on each subsequent trip, even if it is photographing something previously photographed in a unique way. In the meantime, if you are in Algarve, remember there are lots of photo opportunities, just be patient and you will return with wonderful memories.
Guest blogger: Ron Colbroth
Ron Colbroth is an editorial, travel, landscape and fine arts photographer, whose images have been published in numerous magazines in the US and around the world. He has a passion for cooking and enjoying wonderful wines.