A Perfect Fall Photography Destination – Picos de Europa in Northern Spain
by Sandra Kehoe – November 20th, 2015
By X-Rite Coloratti George Jardine
Over the years I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to teach Lightroom and digital photography workshops in some of the most visually interesting places around the world, and the adventure travel workshop genre just seems to get stronger every year. Recently I’ve been teaching with Wild Photography Holidays, in my opinion, one of the best organizations in the business. The classes are small — generally between 8 and 10 photographers — and the destinations and travel arrangements are researched and personally hand picked by the owner/operators Martin Sammtleben and Geraldine Westrupp.
I’ve just returned from a trip with Wild Photography Holidays and this October trip into the Picos in Northern Spain was timed specifically for the fall color. At the lower elevations, everything was still very green, while cooler areas and higher elevations were ablaze with color. The Picos have some of the steepest mountains that I’ve seen, and in some areas, you could see the full range of color progressing up the hillside from the full-on green of summer near the bottom, to fantastic yellows and golds at higher elevations.
Another benefit of exploring the Picos in October is that the tourist season is completely behind you. In general, we had the hotels in small mountain villages all to ourselves. Seating in any restaurant you wanted to try was always wide open, even in normally packed seaside tourist spots such as Puerto de Tazones (a fishing village that reminded me very much of the tiny, picturesque coastal towns of northern California).
The Picos are so steep, and the river valleys so deep and narrow, that I think we were especially lucky when it came to driving in and out. The road into Cain de Valdeón is literally carved into vertical rock cliffs, and is so narrow that it would only accommodate two vehicles passing one another every few hundred meters.
But the drive to Cain is worth it, as this tiny town is the launching point for several great hikes, including the Ruta del Cares, or the route along the Rio Cares, one of the most beautiful and popular places in Spain; 11 km of trails carved into the sides of the river gorge that we had virtually to ourselves.
During shooting hours, Martin and Geraldine give personalized instruction on camera technique, lens choice, composition, etc., and in the mid-day or evening hours, host hands-on digital sessions. These sessions include a range of subjects such as image organization, file renaming, keywording and all the rest, but by far the most important sessions are on image development and color. Despite the fact that workshops like this attract the most passionate amateur with loads of expensive pro gear, they are always a bit surprised at how important the subject of display calibration is.
Once we capture some images and we get to a session on color correction, everyone is on the same page, and we can begin talking about “accurate color”, personal expression, and all the associated topics.
To this end, I always pack an X-Rite i1DisplayPro calibrator when I travel, and keep a copy of the i1Profiler software for both Mac and Windows on a memory stick. If there’s any doubt amongst the students for the need for display calibration, all one has to do is get everyone’s laptop pointing the same direction and stand back. Witnessing the extreme differences in luminance and color is a pretty dramatic demonstration.
When it comes to color correction, of course every photographer adjusts their photographs to their personal taste. And with the expanded dynamic range of most modern digital cameras, and the somewhat flat default raw processing, it’s natural that photographers tend to want to “pump up” their color in post processing. But one of the interesting things I found on this trip is that I was generally more satisfied with the “color right out of the camera” than usual (after applying a custom ColorChecker profile, of course).
Case in point is the sunset that we found at the Lagos de Covadonga. These two images were taken just minutes apart from the same location, one with a telephoto, and the other as a panorama of 7 vertical images taken with a 24mm lens. In both instances, the color is very close to what the camera captured, with very little post processing aside from a tiny bit of Clarity and Vibrance. The panorama was also lightened slightly across the bottom of the frame.
And did I mention the FOOD?
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