Cabo Raso / by Dario Branco

Since everything is quiet around here, I have been struggling to photograph and write something useful.

A few days ago after a few hours of thinking and searching, I decided to go back to a place I been a few years to redo an old photo and hopefully do a few more.

Here is the photo I took in 2015.

I wasn't happy with the final result. I remember being there staying in the same spot for hours before sunset to capture the best moment. I looked for a few spots but I wasn't happy with the framing. I opted to frame more of the foreground than I normally would because there was no interest in the sky. I also wanted to have a balance between ambient light and the light from the lighthouse.

In the end, I got what i came from. But there was room for improvement.

Moving forward to April 14 of 2017, being at home with nothing to do, I started looking at the weather and the clouds in Lisbon area. Usually, i use Clear Outside website to check the percentage of clouds in the sky and lately, WUnderground for weather. I decided to go to Cabo Raso because it was the closest. With that said, not having a car that meant that I had to walk for one hour and a half.

Now that the easy part was done, I thought about doing as I did in 2015. Look for a good composition and stay there until the lighthouse turned on. After a few minutes, i knew I wasn't going to stay in the same place waiting. The light and the sky were too good to focus only on the lighthouse. On that short amount of time, i was able to make one photo more or less from the same location of 2015.


While I was making the photo I was thinking that I managed to capture a good moment. Since i had at least 50 minutes until sun set i decided to explore the area and take advantage of the amazing location and weather conditions.

Although this is an amazing location it is also tricky to walk on. It is windy, the sea usually is rough and the rocks are very slippery. There were places I wish I could risk more but I reminded a few years ago of getting covered by a wave that messed up my old 5D Mark II. So if you are planning to go here and make some photos be careful.

When I was walking around I was looking at the sky to see how I could use the sun. On the first photo, i liked how the sun was hitting the lighthouse and giving it a warm color and how the shadows helped show the building's shape but i wanted to include the sun in the frame. The only way I would be able to do was if I would move to the opposite side of the lighthouse and find a composition without the lighthouse.

This area is known for the ruins of São Brás Forte which gives opportunities to find good compositions. I managed to find two spots that I liked and were not too dangerous to walk. Still, i had to pay attention to what was happening with the sea and where i was walking.


Usually, I like to have the camera low and have more of the sky. This time because I was on the top of a rock I tried to frame more of the foreground and focus on what the water was doing. If is not apparent by now, I love doing long exposures and for that reason, i am glad I got a decent 10 Stop ND filter. 

Because I was pointing the camera towards the sun, to have detail in the sky and the rocks I had to do bracketed exposures. I still have to master it because I should have done seven exposures instead of five. When I was post processing I was missing photos with more detail in the shadows. More on that in the next post.

For the final photo, i used two exposures. One for the sky and the other for the water. I ended up doing a copy of the water exposure to recover more details from the rocks. So three photos in total.

For the final photo, I loved how the light was reflecting off the old ruins. I managed to capture a brief moment when the sun was breaking through the clouds. Once again I did five bracketed exposures, used three for the overall blending and duplicated two of them to recover detail on the rocks and on the sky around the sun area. In total five exposures.

I tried to wait and redo one more photo from the lighthouse but gave up because I didn't like how the light was too flat. 

My main goal was to combine two images of the lighthouse during sunset and at twilight with the lights on. I didn't manage to do that because I exploring the area making other photos. I feel I would regret if I came back home with one photo of the same spot.

On my next post, i will try to show how I do my post processing for this kind of photos.