Bad weather photography; a weekend in Porto

Porto seemed like a brilliant place to visit in late October to escape the blanket of fog and rain that usually descends on my hometown of Amsterdam in this period. Call us unprepared but we didn't expect that Porto would have the exact same dreary weather this time of year. So after being told by our local AirBnB host that we could expect rain or... more rain, we knew we had to pick our moments to head out and explore the city.


One of the city's landmarks: the Torre dos Clerigos coverd in fog (Sony A7II 24mm)

And what a lovely city it is. Rising and curling riverbanks along the Douro river with colorful building facades close together, showing a glimpse of the myriad of small streets behind them. Bridges that dominate the sky and tower over the city. Strangely enough, perhaps it is because the city is used to it, but the rain and fog did not feel out of place. As if the city has learned to accept, and even embrace it. With my photography, I tried to do the same.


Porto's buildings are packed tight together (Leica SL 50mm Noctilux-M)

I would have preferred sunshine and bright skies to bring out the color in the city, like the blue azulejos. But there is beauty in fog as well. The easiest way to show this, is to convert to black & white which I did a lot. Not something I normally do as much and I struggle with consistent tones, but especially on our first day when it was pouring 90% of the time, there was no other choice to represent what I saw before me. Even with non weather-sealed cameras, I did not worry too much about the rain. With some strategic positioning you can shield the camera from the rain and I haven't had any issues.


Umbrella's in abundance on the bank of the Douro (Sony A7II 24mm)

I brought two cameras and three lenses for the occasion. My Leica SL with the 50mm Noctilux (experience report here), and a Sony A7II with a Sony 24mm f1.4 and a Zeiss 135mm f2.8. It was to be the last time I took the Sony with me as I sold it right after we came back from our trip. I've had a weird experience with Sony as a system. I really liked what came out of the camera, hated the process of getting anything in. I just couldn't glue well with the ergonomics of the camera. The whole thing was counter-intuitive to me. I did enjoy the two lenses I had for it, the 24mm is absolutely stunning and I have a soft spot for the Batis range, even though it isn't the brighest not the lightest option out there. The 24mm Sony G-master is a lens that does everything right. It is super bright, very sharp, not too big and even has an aperture ring which is always a plus in my book. And yet, I did not like it (enough). There is a cleanliness to the files, a lack of identity that I just found boring, as good as it is. The 135mm Zeiss is something else though. Not too fast, really a bit too heavy and with a funky but useless oled screen, the specs don't look appealing. And yet, I loved this lens and I was tempted to hold on to it. It was the only thing I had to overthink before I decided to sell my Sony system.


Did I mention it rained? (Sony A7II Zeiss 135mm)

For one shot I ended up going with a more Sepia look, for me something that normally is the equivalent of using Comic Sans font. In other words, a terrible idea. Yet somehow, it was the only way I could get the mystic blanket of fog that was over the church to contrast nicely with the green of the palm tree.


One of the few times I think Sepia works in a shot (Sony A7II Zeiss 135mm)

At times, we had to hide from the rain. And one of the best places to do so is the main train station. The entrance hall is covered in azulejos, depicting the history of the railroads in Portugal.


Offloaded crowd from an arriving train finding its way to the city (Sony A7II 24mm)

And just when you though the inside of the station is the main attraction, you walk under the classic departures and arrivals board and enter the platforms, only to discover a valley-like setting with steep hillsides creating a something that looks like a bowl. This is strengthened further by the fact that the trains depart the station through a tunnel that begins only a few dozen meters at the end of the platforms.


Not doing the experience justice with this shot - go check out the Porto station! (Leica SL 50mm Noctilux-M)

A visit to any Portuguese destination cannot be complete without eating plenty of pasteis de nata, the country's national pastry. Crisp, puff pastry with egg custard is an excellent combo indeed. We did not manage to find a place that sold pasteis de nata that did not tast good.


Portugal's national pasty: pastel de nata (Leica SL 50mm Noctilux-M)

On our final day the weather improved slightly and I was able to shoot a bit more that just black and white foggy cityscapes. I'd love to come back late summer to experience some more of Porto in the sun.


Finally some sun and a hint of blue skies (Sony A7II 24mm)


Sharing insights on the art of photography - Erwin Hartenberg Photo