Coastal Photography in Cascais

In February we flew to Lisbon for milder temperatures, longer days, and sunlight. After several months of dark, grey winter days in Berlin, we needed a little Vitamin D! And Vitamin "Sea" as it turns out.   

As much as we like living in Berlin, we really do miss living by the ocean, so we found ourselves spending a fair bit of time in the nearby beach town of Cascais.  We enjoyed being by the ocean so much that we actually made this easy day trip from Lisbon twice in our week in Portugal!

Moments after stepping outside the train station in Cascais, we breathed in the fresh, salty sea air and followed the stairs down to the beach. On this day, the cool stormy weather reminded us of many days on the west coast of Canada and we felt quite at home. As excited as I was to photograph at the ocean, I took some time to simply look around and inhale all of the sights, sounds, and smells familiar to coastal environments.     

Happiest at sea level. Photo by Nathanael Kuipers.

Standing on powdery sand that alternately appeared pink or gold as the storm clouds moved across the dark sky, we were mesmerized by the ocean. Small waves lapped the shore in front of us while large waves crashed against a sea wall in the distance. The environment can change quickly on the coast, and this is part of the challenge and the appeal of coastal photography. The light, the tide, the wildlife, the details - what you see or don't see can change significantly from one day, hour, or moment to the next. 

There were only a few people on the beach, but it was no less interesting for people watching: a man searching for coins with his metal detector, a friendly lady walking her joyous Shih Tzu, and a group of four young women happily taking photos for Instagram. Although we did roll our eyes when we realized the Instagrammers had packed their own beach-themed props including items such as dried starfish! 

I spent my time happily photographing the natural details of the beach (no props needed!) - red seaweed washed ashore, the sea spray of the waves, and even the sea gulls! It was only after we returned to Berlin and I started editing my photos that I realized how many pictures of these pesky birds I had taken in Portugal - proof of missing that west coast living!

One of many photos I made of seagulls.

When we returned a few days later to the same stretch of beach, there was no seaweed to be found on the shore. If we hadn't gone on the stormy day, we would have missed this entirely.

From the shore, we made our way up to the walkway and lookout point over the ocean. This was a good vantage point to safely watch and photograph larger waves. We spotted a few surfers in the distance, while some of the smaller seabirds searched puddles on lower levels of the concrete for something to eat. Their pursuit of lunch was briefly interrupted by the sea spray of a large wave crashing just below, but they quickly returned to their quest.   

Eventually, after our own lunch of fresh seafood, we headed back across the beach and wandered into the town of Cascais itself. It is quite pretty with its decorative cobblestone streets and squares, and colourful fishing boats in the harbour. By the time we walked past colourful shops and along the patterned cobblestones, the light had become flat and dull. While this bright overcast sky made the colours pop, the sky itself was bland, without dramatic storm clouds blue skies to fill the background. 

But, as we walked farther through the town and past the beach along the harbour, the sun started to come through the clouds just enough to illuminate the colours of the many fishing boats anchored just off the shore. Little bursts of colour on the horizon appeared while the ocean appeared more aqua than it had in the morning.

Despite some difficulty with the sky, this was one of my favourite photography days. Ok, it was just one of my favourite days, but I really did enjoy the subjects at the beach and observing as the clouds, light, tides all changed them. I don't think I could get bored photographing coastal life. Do you have a particular landscape or subject that you always find interesting? Let me know in the comments!

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