Landscape photography tours in the northern Spanish forests in autumn offer colour and spectacle to the photographic enthusiast. The region east of Bilbao comprises key national parks including the largest, Ordessa in the Spanish Pyrenees. With collection and departure from Bilbao, the tour is geared for photographers who have an interest in taking better landscape photographs in locations within easy reach of overnight accommodation.
Working with light
At the autumn time the weather in the region is mixed shifting from sunny to cloudy days with a touch of cooler air. The Pyrenees may offer some light high altitude snowfall which will decorate the wider epic scene otherwise your focus will be on the seasonal change with the leaves in full rich fall colours.
In landscape photography, a variety of weather conditions can work. There is no one ideal light for all scenes and locations.
Photographers will often recoil at sunny days and superficially this is true; the direct sun is problematic. However, the exceptions are those when strong sunlight passes through tree cover in misty conditions or when deep forest tree cover needs light penetration to lift the scene.
Perhaps the most useful approach in bright sun is to work with reflected light coming back from the other side of the valley. The quality of light is softer and warmer and offers a different quality.
Learning to work with the light that’s available and tailoring your photography to suit will be a key feature of the tour.
This tour is different
Genuinely small group sizes make a difference and a maximum of 5 makes for an ideal guide and guest ratio. Whilst we’ll be going to popular locations we’ll keep away from the crowds as there are enough places off the beaten path where we can explore unhindered. The tour places emphasis on finding gems within any given location and it’s not about going to the hotspots to recreate classic well known photographs.
The tour plan
We’ll spend 2 -3 days at each of the locations so there is more than one night in 2 of the 3 locations. Travel times are not excessive between them and these days can include morning or late afternoon photography. Early and late light will mostly work best for exterior locations with some time spent in the forest during the day when the light is filtered and optimum. Day 8 will be a drive day of about 6 hours back to Bilbao.
The places you’ll visit
We’ll take in three national parks during the week. Gorbea, Iraki Forest and Ordesa y Monte Perdido. Each of them is markedly different and across the 3 you’ll experience a range of photographic options including rivers and lakes as well as mountain scenes and more classic forest views with autumnal leaves and the special colours which draw photographers each year to the north of Spain.
What you’ll gain photographically
As one of the leading landscape photography tours to this part of Spain, my approach is about developing your own take on the locations and less about technical expertise. It’s about quietly surveying a scene and thinking about how to record it. Almost a touch of mindfulness is necessary.
There won’t be heavy trekking at the locations, just shortish walks which means you’ll spend more time at one place than shooting varied scenes on the hop.
Controlling exposure and highlights will be a key feature of the week alongside thinking about the choice of focal length. If you use a zoom that’s fine but you’ll cover how to position yourself to combine DOF, perspective and spatial compression using the lens to its capabilities.
There will be ample opportunities to work in the close-up domain with the available leaf structures but mostly it will be about instilling some abstract properties within the composition and learning to convey more than a description of what’s in front and instead create a timeless image.
View my gallery of images from the region taken on a recent trip.
Always keep in mind the opportunity for finding a tree that sets itself apart from the rest. Weathered or damaged branches offer separation of contrast and tonal range. Its starkness and decay are a standout scene against the uniformity of seasonal change. Single trees can also make good images but I also like more complexity in the scene so the complete frame is offering textures and form. We’ll cover how to look for both.
Whilst colour is in abundance in this part of Spain, the mountainside swathes of yellows and reds can be exchanged for a more refrained look at revealing the autumnal hues. Using careful framing you’ll learn how to balance greens with vibrant colour. The eye leans towards tonal range within a scene rather than a vast expanse of one colour. Learning to balance reds and greens in a scene will lead to more interesting images.
Gorbea Park at altitude lends itself to the possibilities of morning mist. Tall trees offer the perfect foil for light to descend through. Photographers will often say they cannot photograph in sunlight but there are exceptions and this is one such situation. Learning how to control your exposure will be key to stopping highlights from burning out. Bracketing is another solution to rendering the scene as full as you see it.
Accommodation & dining
As always on our landscape photography tours, there’s a mix of B&Bs in rural and village locations. They are well facilitated with good bathrooms and on-site access to wifi. There’s no room sharing or supplement coming as a single person – you’ll have your own en-suite private bathroom. Couples are welcome and this is also a popular option. Evening dining is regional cuisine either served in local restaurants and there’s of course plenty of available local wine. Across the 7 nights, we’ll stay in 3 places. Click on the following links to see our first-choice selection for the establishment’s Hotel B&B B&B
Reserve your place on one of our Autumn Spain photography tours
After a successful trip in October 2019, I’m offering a tour in October 2024. The group size will be limited to 5 persons which is an excellent tutor-student ratio with me as instructor and guide. Transportation will be via private car and includes collection from the airport. The price will be £2150.00 for the 7 nights based on at least 3 people in the group including transport, accommodation and breakfasts. You can view my gallery of the region here to get a feel for what’s possible.
Use the form below to register your interest and I’ll promptly get back to you with availability. You’ll need a telephoto in your kit bag, a wide-angle and a decent tripod. If you require filters then I recommend Format Hitech. Let me know if you are unsure what to purchase. You’ll need to arrange flights into Bilbao. BA run a service from London Heathrow and Easyjet from Manchester. Reserve your place soon for one of the best value landscape photography tours around. This tour is only available for one date.