The opportunity for a week’s winter sun with a friend came my way in March, so I was only too happy to visit one of my favourite canary islands – Lanzarote. My travelling companion has recently bought a DSLR camera and was hoping I could give him some instruction, which was all the incentive I needed to load my camera gear into my suitcase and head off.
Lanzarote is a wonderful island with a mixture of the guilty pleasure of being able to be a Brit abroad, the opportunity to enjoy some Spanish culture and some truly stunning scenery. The artist Caesar Manrique has firmly stamped his influence on the island, but my favourites of his creations is the relatively little known Cactus Garden near Guatiza towards the eastern end of the island. Originally a quarry, Manrique’s vision has created a terraced garden with over a 1000 species of cactus, which you can study as closely as you dare.
As you walk around the garden, you’re struck by several things including the variety, colours and the beauty of these spiky plants. When I visited in March many of the cactuses were in flower and seeing bright colours and delicate flowers from such durable plants was fascinating.
Treating the trip as a photographic expedition we came with a set of lenses including the immensely fun 10mm Sigma fish-eye, my now standard Canon 17-55 F2.8 and the extremely versatile 100-400 L lens. However I also had a polarising filter in my bag and a speedlight for “just in case”. As we walked around the garden I made a point of offering my friend the chance to swap lenses to try something different.
As the afternoon progressed the sun moved lower in the sky, changing the quality of the light and giving the opportunity to try some contre-jour (shooting into or against the light). I found this worked particularly well for me allowing me emphasise the colours of the flowers and the spines around the edges of the cactus and to show them in contrast to the background which was quickly falling into shadow.
With subjects with such sharp edges (if you’ll excuse the pun) I took great care to ensure my shots were perfectly focused and that I made a concious decision about the correct aperture to ensure the depth of field was enough to cover the subject but that the background fell out of focus quickly.
After the best part of 3 hours a glass of the orangest, orange juice I can ever remember tasting was needed before we left heading off into the sunset. We’d had a great afternoon and the next stage was to look at the post processing. Building on the work I’ve been doing to improve the tonal quality of my black and white conversions I was pleased to settle down with LightRoom and to put the channel mixer to work, to give me some images with a complete tonal range but biased towards the light and dark tones to give strong contrasty images.
If you’d like to purchase copies of these pictures, or to buy some of the black and white images to turn into fine art prints why not visit my Pro-Gallery (here)
Note: The curse of the health and safety executive hasn’t touched the cactus garden and those who are unsteady should visit with care. The terraces are unprotected and there is a real possibility of falling to a thorny landing if you’re not paying attention.