Rui Jorge Vieira Pinto is a 48-year-old photographer from Setúbal city, a city located ~ 50 km south of the capital of Portugal, Lisbon.
He’s a landscape photographer, who focuses mostly on long-exposure photography. His dedication to improving his photographic skills is beyond admirable.
His enthusiasm yielded a very interesting interview, which we are both very eager to share with you.
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Setubal city has existed since antique, have you ever been drawn to photographing your local cityscape and its historical heritage?
Portugal is a small country with 10 million people. Setubal is the 4th largest city with more or less 120.000 people. Setubal has some historical heritage mostly outside of the city in Troia Peninsula and other small villages like Palmela, Sesimbra and Alcácer do Sal.
It has also a small castle, 3-4 old churches and it is surrounded by a mountain area named Arrabida natural Park.
It’s a city very well known for his gastronomy based on fresh fish and on the fried Cuttlefish/Squeed.
I have a lot of photos of Setubal city, mostly urban and normally photos taken during the day, a little bit different from the category of Landscape.
Are you a professional photographer or is it just a hobby?
So far, Photography has been faced and managed by myself as a hobby. I work as a CFO (Chief Financial Officer) for an international group of Chemical Companies. This basically means that almost every week, from Monday to Friday, (sometimes Saturday and Sunday too) I am fully occupied and have most of my time taken up by this job.
In Portugal, as in many other countries, it is very difficult to earn a living as a Professional Photographer. As such, photography must be looked at as a continuous project to be experienced and enjoyed during the sparingly free time as it is becoming available.
That’s a fantastic insight! What kind of photography are you into?
I’m a landscape photographer. My choice goes towards the nature photography although urban area photography also appeals to me strongly.
Since I started taking pictures, I’ve tried several genres of photography such as Portraits, Macro, Architecture, Events, etc, but in the end, I’ve realized that the Landscape photography is what I liked the best and where I get most enjoyment from.
As a landscape photographer, the type of photos that I like to take the most are the Long Exposure photos, with the use of Neutral Density filters.
Are you alone on your shoots or do you have company?
I don’t have any pets or any other kind of animals (perhaps sometimes in the future because of their loyalty and companionship may become handy).
When I’m leaving for a day of photography, I often try to go with at least one friend. If that’s not possible, I go alone.
As it should be, when I go all by myself, I double the precautions during my walking and sometimes don’t go as far as I would like if I have the feeling that it could be risky.
On landscape photography, for prevention and safety, it’s always advisable not to walk alone and I do recommend this to everyone.
I think that’s a great advice. You’re always kind of exposed, when you carry a couple of grand worth of photo equipment.
What does photography mean to you?
In spite of realizing that photography may not become more than just an hobby, for me, the love and attachment I have towards it makes me feel it inwards in a very special and powerful way.
When I’m photographing, it’s when I’m feeling realized, it’s when my mind relaxes from the daily stress and problems and when I recover my strength. Even if it means for example, to wake up at 2h00 am to photograph a Sunrise at a place 200 Kms from home.
This is how I see and feel Landscape photography.
How did you even start with photography?
Since I can remember, I always loved taking photos.
The reality in the beginning was that I came from a modest family with not many resources and the decision to buy a camera, reveal the subsequent photos (analogue technology) were always left for second or third options.
Nevertheless the idea was always in my mind and in 2003 I bought my first digital camera. I started learning some of the possibilities of the digital world without the need to spend greats sums of money.
In 2008, I bought my first reflex camera, even using just the auto modes for a trip on a cruise. A few years after, on February 2012, I attended a 3 days training course on photography, where basically I learned all the basics, Aperture, Velocity, ISO, W/B and how to work with a camera in Manual mode, and finally, how to make long exposure photos.
At that moment I felt I could say, now I will take photos. Since then, I started a real improvement career, learning from friends, watching a lot of videos on Youtube, and from lots of contacts on social networks, developing my own style and my way of doing photography.
This is a process that never ends and I learn new things every day. Besides that, and for Landscape Photography, I say that “our best photo is the photo that we will shoot tomorrow”.
Your last quote reminds of one by I. Cunningham, “Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.“
What do you mainly shoot these days?
As I mentioned earlier, I’m a landscape photographer, passionate for long exposures, so 95% of my work is about landscapes and mostly of them, long exposures photos.
For landscape photography, when you combine the same photo elements of nature like earth, clouds, water and Sun, you always need to look for that period of time when the light is better and this means at Sunrises and Sunsets, starting 1,5h earlier and finish 1,5h after.
During the week, I prepare the program for the weekend looking at the weather conditions and choosing the places to go. Normally places with water, seascapes, environment colours with clouds on the sky (the most important element).
I travel a lot inside Portugal where I have a very good knowledge of the country, with a huge advantage that Portugal is not such a big country, so it’s really easy to leave home very early and return at night having driven 1000 kms and covered 4/5 spots.
The coast of Portugal, excluding Algarve region, is turned to the west side, so the locations are normally photographed mostly during Sunset. Then, you have some areas with lakes, rivers near mountains, houses, mills, castles, that you can save for the Sunrise.
Finally, if you have good clouds choose a place with appropriate light, with a good foreground and make a long exposure.
When you have long weekends adding 2/3 days with an holiday in the middle, it’s possible to visit other countries and due to the proximity, Spain is normally the first option.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic disease, I had planned two small trips (5 days each) to the north of Spain, first in Asturias region and then in Basque Country and Cantabria regions. It was planned and organized by me with a group of max 8 persons. As the known events changed everything I need to wait for better days.
Do you remember whose course it was? Was it a famous photographer?
Yes, I remember, the photographer’s name was José Romão. He is an old school recognized photographer, but always with an interesting view of the future, which was the main reason why he was teaching the course.
He has an excellent work in landscape photography in Portugal, mostly on the seacoast. One of the things that liked most about his course, was the simplicity of how he explains photography, since the camera, the most basic to the rules to photograph, or as some would say, the break of the rules, and finally the filters, the post processing (very simple), etc.
Would you share with us what is in your camera bag and which are you favourite?
- Camera body
- Tripod – Manfrotto 290 xtra
- Filters – Lee filters: ND10; ND6; ND Grad soft 0.9, 0.6 and 0.3, and Polarizer Zeiss filter
- Flash – Nissin Di600 (used only a few times and in the appropriate events)
- Camera bag – Case logic for the day by day, Manfrotto Prolight for the travels
My favourite lens is the Canon 16-35mm f4. It’s a wide-angle lens ideal for landscape photogrpahy.
It’s from the second edition, very sharp in all photos, not too heavy and with enormous precision on focus. I believe I used it on 95% of my photos.
From time to time and if I need to change for a short plan (on urban photography for example), I use 24-105mm or the 70-200mm (all the three lenses are always available on the bag).
Is there a reason your picked Canon over Nikon and Sony?
Honestly, the main reason was simply the money. As I was changing from APS-C to Full-frame sensor, meaning that all my other material was not compatible, I chose the less expensive Full-frame camera with a standard lens available on the market. It was in the Christmas season, which by the way is always a good time to invest some money on technology, and Canon had the best offer. After that and looking at the photos that I was doing, I noticed a huge difference from the Sony A-77 with APS-C sensor, so I decided to continue with Canon, and so far, I’m really very happy.
Do you have your favourite photo? And does it have a backstory?
Every photo has its own story to tell, sometimes risky stories, sometimes romantic stories, and some other times hard working stories. The most important on landscape photography is that every photo must communicate feelings, such as sadness, relaxation, mindblowing, mind emptiness, life clues, and hints, etc. If the photo doesn’t communicate, you just have a regular and standard picture.
Lisbon has the Vasco da Gama Bridge, build in 1998 for the Expo, which I believe is one of the most photographed bridges in Europe. The 12,3 km lines of the bridge, mixed with the “Tejo” river and the walkway passages of the area, at the Sunrise with the light coming from the steps of the bridge, it’s a mindblowing sight to watch and of course, to photograph. I can say I have 3-4 excellent photos, shooted in Portugal in the last 5/6 years and one of them includes this bridge.
This photo is really recent and with a story to tell. It was on the second weekend of May, on the first Saturday I could leave home after 2,5 months of confinement, due to the Covid-19 pandemic situation. I said at that moment, “What a Sunrise!”.
Another photo which I consider one the best, was shot after the Sunrise in a place called Torreira, near Aveiro city on the center-north of Portugal.
The day started at 3h am, leaving home by car at 3h30m and to travel 340 Km. It was a cloudy day, the sky was covered by clouds, and with soft light, the Sun appears from time to time projecting the light on the river, with a medium tide. This was one of those moments, where it was possible to use the light and have the reflexes of the clouds on the river at the same time.
Once more, we have natural elements: water, earth, clouds, and the Sun. It seems the Serenity of Life.
The third photo that I present was shooted in 2017, this time using the Canon 6D and it was the most impressive Sunrise that I ever saw.
The place is called Mourisca, close to Setúbal city where I live and it has an old Mill that was restored for tourism purpose, with a small dock for fishing boats and some bird-watching spots. The Sado river at the high tide floods the entire area bringing some additional magic. This photo was taken on the day of May, on a cloudy morning.
The Sun rises around 6h15m am so, once more, I needed to wake up very early.
What happened is recorded in the photo. The sky became a mix of colours of red, yellow, orange, and blue while the Sun crossed the horizon line. It was a feeling of fear mixed with serenity.
Is there a piece of equipment that you regret buying?
So far and looking at the equipment that I have, luckily, I believe no. Maybe the less used was the Flash, but when it was needed worked perfectly.
There is one gadget that is on my plans for the future, which is a Drone. Not for video, but for photography, with a good camera that must shoot in raw.
For landscape photography, it begins to become a particularly good tool that allows us to get angles only possible when you are in the sky.
It is definitely on my list.
Have you ever traveled to another country or a continent for photography?
There are a lot of countries in the world with magnificent landscapes to photograph. And you, as a Landscape photographer, want to visit them all, which normally it’s not possible.
Thinking in a more realistic way there are 3 countries that a landscape photographer (European) should plan to visit: Iceland, Italy (Dolomites place), and New Zealand (this one should be a very well planned trip, due to the cost and the distance from Europe).
I got the chance to visit Iceland twice and I had it planned for this year to visit the Dolomites in Italy, before the Covid-19.
New Zealand trip is part of my long time plans.
Talking about Iceland, I can resume it in 3 words, “Iceland has everything”. You can catch the Northern Lights, landscapes with no end, terrific sea, ice, snow, beaches, cascades, animals, architecture, and several other subjects. Safe country, good hospitality, a little bit cold (sometimes a lot), and a magical country to visit and photograph.
I was there twice, 2017 and 2019, both in March, expecting to get the Northern lights and see other things. In the end, I just saw the other things, because the northern lights did not appear due to bad weather conditions. But other things are just amazing. It is a place where you can feel like you are closer to the gods and to nature. It has 100% fresh air, almost no pollution, and amazing, really amazing landscapes.
I believe that besides writing, the photos speak by themselves, and you can see unbelievable places. The message behind every photography depends on each person but for me, in Iceland, most of the photos bring you to places like “Valhalla” (Odin’s house) “where the braves may live forever”.
Do you have your favourite local area where you take photos?
Besides all that I have explained before, yes of course I have favourite locations to take photos.
In Portugal, there are a lot of wonderful spots, but the three places mentioned before, “Vasco da Gama” bridge, “Torreira” and “Mourisca” are the ones I like most. I must say that I have been there hundreds of times, sometimes with luck, sometimes without any luck (it happens a lot, but you get used to).
Portugal is a wonderful country to visit from the tourism point of view, but also for photography. The light in the Sunrise or Sunset, near the sea is unique and I should invite everyone to come. If we go to Europe, I must say, from the places I know, the north of Spain is magic, the south of France wonderful, London for urban is amazing and of course, Iceland is “rabbit in the hat”.
In the field, what are your settings?
This has always some controversy, as each photographer has his own definitions. In my opinion and for landscape photography with long exposures, you need high “f” values. I know that this could go against the general opinion, but I use mostly f13, f16, sometimes f22, which I know could cause a large number of opinions, it will depend always on the light and the right movement that you want to achieve on the clouds, water, etc.
- Aperture – from f/13 to f/16
- Shutter Speed – depending on the aperture setting
- ISO – ISO 100
- White Balance – normally I adjust the W/B changing the Kelvins for each photo. It depends always on the light
- Focus – Manual/Auto – To focus auto, after, changing to manual and then shoot the photos
Image Format – RAW/JPEG – RAW, always
How do you post-process your photos?
The post-processing photos is also a controversial subject because normally people tend to discuss what they don’t know, instead of what is better for the final result. All of my photos have 90% of the work on camera. The remaining 10% are made in post-processing. And of course, if you shoot in raw landscapes and you do long exposures, the post-processing is an important part of the photo and could be the difference from a regular photo to a recognized and appreciated photo.
My workflow is mostly based on Adobe Lightroom. I import the photos, make the necessary adjustments. For specific situations (cleaning points, specific levels points, specific saturation points), I bring the photo to Adobe Photoshop and then go back to Lightroom to finalize the photo. When I’m importing the photos to Lightroom there are some presets which I use. That’s about it.
How do you suggest that beginners educate themselves to take better photos?
A tricky question. The correct answer should be, watch a lot of Youtube/tutorial videos, buy a lot of books from recommended photographers, join specific groups on the social networks, and watch the posts… and so on.
To see a lot of photographs is one step, to watch Youtube videos is another step, but you must learn just the technical points, not the view of the photo and/or where/how to shoot.
The most important thing, from my point of view, if you are a Landscape photographer, is to create your way of photographing and post-processing your photos. Learn the technics to grow, but forget how they do it, otherwise, you will be influenced by the photos and you will try to do one copy which for sure will be always worst than the picture that you saw.
The rules of the Landscape photography are a very subjective issue, it’s completely different from weddings, portraits, macros, and so on, here you have a jury of 10 guys, 8 of them could vote 10, the 9th vote 7 and the last one, because it depends always on how the people understand and communicate with the photo. Therefore, as I mentioned, yes learn the technics, but most importantly, create your own way of seeing the landscape and apply that to your photos.
Do you have a favourite photographer?
There are a lot of good photographers of whom I saw photos and work, mostly European guys. To talk of one of them means talk about all of them. When you are learning, everything seems amazing and you desire to achieve that level as fast as possible.
In Portugal, there is one photographer which I like particularly, even if he doesn’t do long exposures (or does it from time to time). His name is “Joel Santos”. He has done a wonderful work photographing Portugal. He has published several books (I have 3 of them) with good technics on how to use the camera, how to edit photos, HDR and others. My initial formation on adobe Lightroom was based on his book.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
I wish I had 10% of my present Landscape photography knowledge that could lead me to different experiences. Maybe it didn’t change too much for today, or maybe changed it a lot.
What details do you believe make the best photographs?
As I mentioned before and for Landscape Photography, I believe the photo should communicate something. If you don’t have this communication, it’s a regular/standard photo.
Besides that, most times it’s very personal. You can use all the techniques, the rule of thirds, a very good foreground, the light, etc, but if the photo doesn’t communicate something, just forget it. It should be dramatic, joyful, with movement on the clouds, with water like milk and so on, but at the end, should say something that allows the person who will saw the picture, spend some time thinking about the photo.
How do you as a photographer make sure that the thing, person, or landscape you want to shoot looks the way you want it to?
It is related to what I have written before. You must find your way of doing Landscape photography. When you find that, every time you are shooting in one place, you have imagined in your mind how do you want the final picture to come out, and you take as many shots as you need to be comfortable when you go to your PC to finalize the photo.
There are times that you don’t achieve this, when you go to the PC, import your photos, and trying to edit them, and in the end, you’ll just give up, delete and the next weekend, go back again. But that’s life. Be very critical of the level of your photos. If you don’t achieve the photo as planned, delete it and go back to place and try again.
From your point of view, what makes a good picture?
Similar to question 15. And I’m talking specifically about Landscape Photography. The picture should communicate feelings. Sometimes, in just one photo you can tell a story also, and then it’s perfect, feelings and story, but it’s hard to do it. The story usually makes more sense on a set of photos with a subject.
Since the photography techniques and equipment change quickly, it is important to stay up to date. What do you do to always keep up with the times?
I believe that when digital photography arrived, it was the result of an evolution that everyone should follow. Staying in digital, the offers and the technology are so developed, that the need for new equipment will depend always on what you want to do with your work.
In my example, on reflex equipment, I started with a Sony camera, the Alpha 100, and changed it to Alpha 77, both of them with the APS-C sensor. I arrived to a level where I believed that to grow, I needed to change it to a full-frame (for Landscape it’s essential), so I sold all of my Sony material and bought the Canon 6D. With a full-frame sensor, I noted a big change when compared to the APS-C sensor.
Last year, I kept the Canon 6D and bought the Canon 5D Mark IV, and I have noted a new upgrade, on the sensor and on the Dynamic range, but it was not a big change compared to when I left the APS-C. It can be said that it will always depend on what you want to do and the money you have available to spend.
At present, and for the next years, besides buying a Drone, I don’t see any need to change cameras/systems, etc.
All the big players are moving their efforts to the mirrorless technology, which could be correct as it brings a lot of advantages to the weight, on the digital, etc, and it could be the future. However, if you compare prices vs advantages, perhaps you’ll conclude that it’s a big investment to do for the needs that you have, at least for now.
Nowadays almost everyone has access to devices with which it is possible to take pictures. What do you think is the difference between a professional photographer and any other hobby photographer?
If you go by the book, you will see that the difference between a professional and a hobby photographer is that one is registered and has a certificate from one organization and part of his salary is paying by his work on photography and the other, is taking very good photos with very good equipment but with no registration, even if he is making money with some works (like it or not, that’s the reality). This is one group of photographers.
Another point is that you have a cell phone with a very good camera and start taking photos, publish them on a social network, and receive lots of likes. This has its own values, but in my opinion, it is completely different from the first group of photographers. Both cases will continue to happen, and I believe as being correct, there is no way and it’s not fair to cancel either of them.
In the end, I believe that, when an organization or a person needs professional work, they will contact someone from the first group, professional or not professional, and the market should adjust.
What, in your opinion, is the most important factor to consider when shooting landscapes?
Most important, when you are shooting Landscape photography, it is the light existing at that moment. That’s why, in landscape photography, it’s very common to see sunrises and sunsets and not too common, daylight photos.
Besides the light, you need to have natural elements, such as earth, water, and clouds. If you have all of this, choose a good foreground, and go for it.
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Matic Broz is a multifaceted creative professional, with experience as a photographer, graphic designer, and business owner. He has a decade of experience in helping other creatives improve their craft and start their own businesses. His writing and research have been featured in notable publications such as The Guardian, PetaPixel, and USA Today. Additionally, his scientific research has been recognized with a cover feature in the prestigious MDPI-owned journal. In his leisure time, he enjoys photography, hiking, and spending time with dogs. Read more
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