In the Algarve, a region in Portugal, there is a local phenomenon in which a dense sea mist will form along the Atlantic and move in for an extended stay, trapped by the high cliffs along the Costa Vicentina coast. This cool gray fog shrouds the horizon and drapes itself over the mountains, making it especially difficult for anyone to capture the expanse of the usually gorgeous scenery. This mist didn’t arrive until the very last day of London-based photographer Richard James Taylor‘s shoot for National Geographic Traveller.
Every photographer knows what it’s like to race against the clock, but travel photographers have a specific pressure to meet their deadlines. If you’ve only got three days to shoot a whole city and two of those days it’s pouring rain, improvisation becomes your best friend, the clock your arch-nemesis. However, Richard has been a travel photographer for more than 15 years and is no stranger to the clock; they might even be buddies at this point.
I planned a week to travel through the region from Sagres in the south to Odeceixe in the far north of the park, which was just about enough, though I would’ve liked to have stayed longer!
Richard has been working with the team at National Geographic Traveller for around ten years. He’s regularly asked to shoot for the magazine’s ‘In Pictures’ feature. For this shoot, Richard took the lead. He worked with the team to decide a suitable location, and then he researched potential stories that he thought would fit the magazine’s ethos.
Once we’ve all agreed on something that seems like an inspirational and authentic travel experience, I will work on the shoot logistics with NGT’s support where needed. It’s a great relationship with a lot of trust and creative freedom on both sides.
These stories require the photographer to deliver a broad range of imagery, from landscapes to portraits, interiors, and food.
The idea of the shoot was to show a different side to the Algarve. Away from the tourist hotspots is a region of outstanding natural beauty and wild open spaces, and this is what we wanted to show, a sort of undiscovered Algarve.
They named Costa Vicentina, the massive natural park bordered by the Atlantic Coast, as the shoot’s focal point. Working with the local tourist board, they explored the Algarve and all it has to offer.
This more rural stretch of the Algarve is dotted with working fishing harbors, authentic hilltop villages, and beautiful windswept beaches favored by surfers.
Richard wasn’t just shooting the beautiful scenery. He had also planned on doing portraits of some local characters, which he had to take at a distance due to the pandemic.
There were a lot of longer focal length portraits than I might otherwise have liked! Other than that, it was just a case of exploring the region and shooting the right spots at the right times.
The shoot involved exploration, timing, and, of course, experimentation with his recently acquired drone qualifications. Earlier in the year, Richard gained the necessary qualifications to shoot commercially with a drone, which means that during this shoot, the call of the drone was too strong to resist.
This shoot was wrought with temptations: the drone, the locals and their endlessly fascinating stories, and especially Marta and João Mealha, founders of Freeride Surf School, who, according to Richard, are the coolest siblings in Portugal.
Before the foreboding sea mist set into the region, Richard not only got a diverse range of photos but spent some time with the “local flavor.”
Traveling back home could have been tricky due to the restrictions put in place, but luckily Richard was able to just make the last flight out of Portugal before the next quarantine hit.
There was a travel corridor in place between Portugal and the UK at the time, which meant it was possible to travel freely between the two countries. By the end of the trip however, the situation began to worsen again. It’s a difficult time to be a travel photographer.
It can be nearly impossible to balance the stress of working around the weather and time constraints, the pandemic-induced restrictions, while also needing to connect with the space and the people who live there. Still, Richard was able to make the necessary time to give the culture and the area justice.
A quote from the great Ferris Bueller comes to mind, “Life moves pretty fast; if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
To read more about Richard’s time in the Algarve click here.
See more of Richard’s work at richardjamestaylor.com.
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