It seems that holidays and exploring new destinations are this season’s must have here at DS…
Adrian recently wrote up his holiday experiences with Sony’s 18-135 zoom (which you can read here), Paul’s been stalking London like some modern day Jack the Clicker, Pascal’s been to the less unkempt areas of old London town and I’ve no clue where Dallas is… but I’d be surprised if he’s at home 🙂
Me? I never take holidays. My life is a holiday! My existence is one of tight financial constraint and colossal personal freedom.
Usually I can manage that occasionally frustrating oxymoron with little more than a pause in my ever-so-slightly-too-cocky stride.
But then it happened… I stupidly checked out the classified section of a photography forum and I saw it…
I tried not to buy it.
I ignored it, yet I kept coming back…
Then it happened. Someone was going to buy it… It was the classic line that most people selling things experience….. I’ll take it mate, but I just need to get paid at the end of the month ordinarily these words are worth less than the pixels they’re typed on… Sure no problem, let me know – but of course if in the meantime someone turns up with a serious offer I’ll have to sell it to them.
But this time I wasn’t the seller, I wasn’t the guy waiting for pay day.
I was the guy that turned up with the serious offer. Galvanised like Megatron into Galvatron by the prospect of owning something I’d wanted for a long while… for a price I couldn’t quite believe.
So it happened. A cash gamble. A credit card purchase via PayPal, and a desperate (and successful) rush to sell off a lot of things to pay for it before the bill was due.
It happened and it worked. I now own a Summilux 50mm ASPH.
Pascal and Paul wanted a review… I’m not ready for that… perhaps not ever… it’s hardly a lens that no one’s ever written about… you could argue that the 50 ‘lux is possibly the most non-un-destination of lens reviews.
So instead, you’re getting my holiday snaps!
My wonderful girlfriend suggested we needed a holiday in a way that didn’t make it sound like a suggestion at all, and I was left sheepishly grinning that perhaps we could go somewhere cheap…. like in the (ok her) car cheap.
She knew just the place. (I told you she was wonderful).
Portugal’s Alentejo Region, is vast, hot (like 40+C / 104+F in early September) and old. As can often be the case, Wikipedia sums it up well:
Alentejo is the least populated region in the country, representing over one third of national territory but only 7.1% of its population
A mere 6+ hour (I didn’t really time it, we stopped off at places) drive in sweltering heat later and we were there. There being no where.
Mrs Adam and I are city/town folk, since our own personal year dots, and we found ourselves staying in a farm, converted to accommodate guests.
Had it rained (not likely) we wouldn’t have even got the car down the final 5 KMs of dirt track to reach our destination.
For photography I took one camera (the Leica M9P) and two lenses (the 35mm Summarit and the 50 Summilux).
It wasn’t end to end rural bliss, we stopped off at any city/town or village that looked interesting (or had a filling station, or ATM or supermarket for our self-catering rural destination).
I’m an urban boy really… I’m not used to huge empty spaces, nights so dark you can look up and see the milky-way, days so hot that drinking fountain water is the temperature of tea, and evenings so calm only the sound of insects drifts through the air.
As a photographer I was very much on holiday… I like street, I like documentary. I’m not much of a landscape person. I’d arrived with the second fastest fifty that Leica make, yet saw little point to go under F8.
As the holiday went on, and we got to explore the surrounding areas (if driving for an hour counts as ‘surrounding’) I started to adjust to this new (to me) paradigm, to stop being awed by the view (and floored by the heat) and too look for snaps that captured what I was seeing.
I even got a chance to get a bit of street in there after all!
Drive down here for long enough, and not only will your fillings fall out….
…but you’ll end up here.
The region features a colossal man made lake with artificial beaches
The place where we stayed had a genuine rustic charm.
You went to the supermarket picked up what you fancied to eat, and you helped yourself to whatever utensils you needed from the kitchen to prepare your food.
On the way down to the farm we spent a night at a place called Elvas
We found a charming old ruined castle, before being ordered out as it was technically closed, unsafe and I shouldn’t be up there… I was proud of myself for managing those stone steps in flip-flops..
For the final day, we visited Monsaraz, which was a truly charming place – I shot it all with the 50mm and it was there I started to feel that I was getting the new fifty in my life.
I was able to try a bit of street with my new 50!
Night fell and 1.4 became a valuable tool on a camera that I don’t take past ISO640.
It was great to try out the Summilux wide open with bright light sources, it’s not flare free (however it seems to be more flare resilient than the 50mm cron), but the transition to OOF areas are noticeably smoother than on my 7Artisans.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, I strongly suspect my personal joy at being here with a new lens and new sights will far out weigh the job I’ve done explaining the feeling of the location and my documentary of that feeling with the pictures.
But this is as un-destination as I’ve ever been, the very fact that there’s nothing there makes the nothing the destination. Sure we took the time to explore, to stop when and where we could to see and feel as much of the region as possible (well to be fair and with less artistic licence, Mrs Adam has been there before) but I don’t feel that any of the places justify travelling great distances to see singularly (unless you’re already in the area), so the whole region becomes a case of joining the dots, a case of making the effort to get there, then drawing your own experiences from the places you encounter.
I’m not trying to be provocative, it’s a wonderful area of the world, and I dare say they get plenty of tourist trade (the English language signage in Monsaraz suggests this to be the case) but as individual locations many of these could be satisfactorily explored in less than a day, or even a few hours for the smaller villages.
But this becomes the appeal. These aren’t cookie-cutter locations, each one has its own charms and sights, like ingredients in a salad they work together as a whole providing far more flavour than they would as standalone components.
Gear wise, well frankly I could’ve taken a decent modern mobile phone for most of these shots (not that I own one), I should’ve have taken my Panasonic LX100, which is a m43 fixed zoom lens compact that has a footprint smaller than most decent modern phones.
But I didn’t. I went on holiday with a technically ancient digital camera, with no EVF, no AF, no dual card slots, no wi-fi, no weather sealing, terrible ISO and once again I was pleased that I was able to make it work for me in so many situations.
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