Blossom One

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Almond Blossom Ridge. Pink-blossomed almond trees cover a ridge on a rainy afternoon near Torvizcón, Andulucía, Spain.

My trip to Santorini last April was my first trip with Light & Land; last month I went on my second, this time to Andalucía in southern Spain. Both trips were led by Astrid McGechan, but this second trip was also co-led by none other than Charlie Waite. The trip was extra fun because, in addition to Astrid, three others from Santorini were repeats for this trip: Richard Earp, Nicola Bolton, and Sue Lace. After a long trans-Atlantic flight, the airport reunions were really fun.

Just as the last trip was my first visit to Greece, this one was my first visit to Spain. I didn’t really have any preconceptions about Spain, I mostly signed up because it looked pretty, I had so much fun on the last trip, and Nicola and Astrid said I should go. This trip turned out to be no less fun. It covered a much larger area than Santorini and consequently had a lot more driving, but we did our best to make even this entertaining. We were split between two vehicles: Astrid drove the smaller car and Charlie followed driving the van. We had walkie-talkies to communicate and we adopted the call signs of “Blossom One” in (Astrid’s) lead vehicle and “Blossom Two” in the van. It was all quite hilarious.

After our arrival at the Málaga airport, we drove about 90 minutes eastwards along reasonably windy roads to get to our (admittedly rather average) hotel in Órgiva. We had a late dinner, although it was early by Spanish standards—in Spain there is a pretty fine line between a late dinner and an early breakfast, it seems. That first day was given over to transportation and the photography didn’t start until the next day.

After breakfast on day two, we drove on curvy roads into the rugged hills around Torvizcón to photograph the almond orchards. Unfortunately, we did not have as much choice of locations because a hard freeze a few weeks earlier had wiped the blossoms from many of the trees. This is evident in the background of this image:

Survivors. Only the almond blossoms on the late-blooming trees survived an earlier hard frost near Torvizcón, Andalucía, Spain.

Even so, we found plenty of orchards in bloom to keep us occupied for the morning. Then we took a break for lunch in Torvizcón before heading back into the hills for the afternoon.

I initially found the almond orchards to be challenging to photograph. There is enough order that it needs to be exploited but there is enough chaos to make it tricky. The valleys are steep-sided and deep, so with the right perspective you can frame against the far side, but most of the orchards are falling away from you. The sky was overcast and although it had some structure in it, my general preference was to keep it out of the frame, which was often difficult. I tried using the telephoto to isolate some trees, but they were generally too closely spaced for that to work in the classic manner. I used a fast 85mm lens wide open in an attempt to use a shallow depth of field to isolate a tree, but these just ended up looking messy because blossoms on the front and back edges of the tree were out of focus (the depth of field was too narrow). In the end I had some success by “embracing the sky” by getting close with an ultra wide which lets you really emphasize a single tree and forces the others to recede:

Overwatch. An almond tree in bloom stands in a freshly-furrowed orchard near Torvizcón, Andalucía, Spain.

Technical notes. The photographs in this post were taken with a Nikon Z7 using a NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S, a Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S, and a Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S, respectively. All three photographs were processed  from RAW in Adobe Lightroom Classic.