The beautiful Algarve / by Neil Alexander

At the beginning of August the family and I, along with some friends all jetted off to the Algarve in Portugal, and I've finally manage to make time to edit all the images and drop them into a book using Lightroom 4's new Blurb integration. You can also now convert to an eBook for downloading to an iPad with a couple of clicks, and I'm giving this one away free! The links are down at the bottom....

But first, a little about Luz.

Luz is located down in the South of Portugal in an area knows as the Algarve (from the Arabic for "The West"). Tourism makes up the bulk of the Algarve's economy and it's easy to see why. The climate is warm Mediterranean often accompanied by a nice cooling sea breeze, the vibe of the place is really relaxed and unlike many of the other Mediterranean places I've visited, there is an emphasis on good food. And I mean more than a fancy olive and feta cheese salad. Unfortunately to many Praia de Luz will only ever be associated with poor little Madeleine McCann, but only those that have never visited the area. The landscape itself isn't up to much - it's predominantly dusty scrub, but the little towns and villages are really what caught my eye, and obviously the whole area is steeped in history.

Then the gear

As usual, I couldn't bring myself not to take a bunch of gear, but after some careful deliberation, I decided to travel as light as was possible. Rather than my modus operandi, in which I pack my Think Tank roller until it's bursting at the seams and hugely overweight for a carry-on, I decided I was only going to take two cameras, two lenses, a strobe, a few filters and a tripod all tucked neatly and with space to spare in my Billingham 550.

My ultimate aim was to travel as lightly as possible and only with gear that I would definitely use. So rather than take the 70-200 2.8, the 17-55 2.8, the tilt-shift and the kitchen sink (I have a collapsible one…. honest), I simply took my new go-to street camera, the Fuji X-Pro1 with 35mm F1.4 and a trusty D300 (without grip) with even trustier 18-200mm F3.5-5.6 IS lens. Oh, and two polarisers, some ND grads & Big Stopper, an SB900, LumiQuest Promax Softbox III, gorilla pod, Giotto carbon-fibre tripod, cable release, bubble level, laptop & usb hard drive. I didn't even take a card-reader! I know. How could I? I often hear photographers beat on about using a card readers as they're much faster, don't drain the camera's battery etc etc, but I thought I'd throw caution to the wind, and just for one week I'd go direct. I convert everything to DNG on import. Quite why, I'm not really sure any more. It's just a decision I took some years ago when the format came out and have just stuck to it ever since. The downside is that there's a whole load of crunching goes on in Lightroom when I import and convert, so I've just got it into my workflow that I go off and make a brew, or in this case plonk myself by the pool with a VAT and just let it run. So I really didn't notice whether it was much slower, but it felt good leaving just one more gadget behind.

I didn't push that shutter enough.

I only shot around 100 shots a day total, including multiple frames shot for HDR and Panos, which is really rather low for me when I'm doing travel work. My main goal this trip, was to spend as much quality time with my wife and kids as possible. Anything photography related was a bonus. And it worked for me. On occasion there were times when I should have made photographs (food in particular springs to mind), but to be honest, we were too busy enjoying ourselves and generally soaking it up that I didn't really beat myself up about it.

I had done the usual research, using Evernote to collate locations worth shooting, sun times, weather predictions etc etc and I did manage with a few solo excursions, to manage to tick most of the boxes. The one place I didnt manage to get to, that I would really have liked was the lighthouse at the "Edge of the World" at Cape St Vincent near Sagres.

The Book

Over the years I've put several different books together of my own photographs over the years, but having played around the new Blurb integration with Lightroom a little, and then discovering that you can now create an epub book which you can open in iBooks on the iPad, it was time to do another one. The fact that you can now send as an eBook, (and incidentally you can also charge for it) means it gives me a beautifully easy way to share it with friends and family simply by emailing a link to their iPads (I think almost everyone I know has one these days). I then decided to swap out the family pictures and put more of a travel book together. The images in this post are a sample of what I've put together over on Blurb - why don't you grab a copy for your coffee table, or your iPad? In fact with the first 5 print book orders, I'm giving away a free A3 signed print. How's about that for an incentive? Get the printed options here, and the eBook for free here.