From a very young age, I’ve always felt that Foz do Arelho, located eight kilometers west of the city of Caldas da Rainha in Portugal, is “my” beach. It was the beach I frequented, first with my parents and later with friends, on blissful days that stretched into the night. Foz do Arelho is a beach where the sand divides the Atlantic Ocean from Lagoa de Óbidos, one of the largest natural lagoons in Europe. This is what gives this beach an almost fantastical quality.
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When I began to feel that photography was my passion, this beach became part of my daily commute. I was fourteen years old when I took my first photo on this beach: an impossible-to-miss rock called Gronho that rises at the end of the beach. Since then it was almost routine: a trip to Foz at the end of the day to try to photograph one of the best sunsets you can see in Portugal. I still treasure this collection of photographs.
About four years ago, I bought a cheap, second-hand drone and I mounted an inexpensive action-cam to it. The drone had about seven minutes of autonomy, but it was enough to fall in love with the vision that I had gained from above. For a few weeks straight, I was only interested in piloting the drone and absorbing the beauty of the incredible resulting photographs.
Returning to Foz do Arelho, it is brilliant how this beach changes every day, especially the beach on the lagoon side. By flying the drone over the lagoon, I discovered that it is possible to walk in search of shapes, patterns, and designs, because they really are there. (And believe me, they really do change every day.) I’ve never captured the same photograph twice as there is always a surprise when I position the camera gimbal down.
This particular lagoon is also home to a very old small-boat fishing tradition: the search for the infamous mollusks of the lagoon—cockles. It is amazing to fly over these fishermen hard at work on their boats. I often see them looking up, perhaps wondering what that UFO is all about. It is always worth interrupting these fishermen, however, because the photographs I get are of a very cultural and original character that I have only succeeded in capturing in places like Thailand and Myanmar.
For those of you who already fly a drone, I’m sure you can understand my addiction. For everyone else, imagine a place where there is total freedom to fly with ever-changing scenery and unrivaled beauty; where the color of the water makes you think that you’ve found paradise in the far corners of the world.
Without a doubt, leaving Foz and traveling the world was a positive experience. Traveling and seeing other cultures, other places, and other possibilities made me look at Foz do Arelho with new eyes—I found more attentive artistry within myself. When I look at my recent photos of Foz, I see more care, more composition, more dedication, and, above all, much more passion for the moment.
Something I learned and discovered during the months I traveled in Southeast Asia was that fear often makes us miss life-changing moments. Photography is not something to learn once and master. If we look twice, we discover that there is still so much to know, so much to see, and so much to photograph right in front of us. Try not to focus on one single place to repeatedly photograph; we must distance ourselves and perhaps a day later we can absorb a new essence of that place with new visions. I have proof of this in a photograph I took very recently of Gronho, the aforementioned imposing rock. I never thought it was possible to get that photo after years of photographing in Foz do Arelho, yet I managed to take the one that I can say is arguably the best photo I’ve ever been able to capture there.
As my journey unfolds, I hope to continue traveling the world and whenever I return home, I want to be able to look at Foz do Arelho with fresh eyes and to uncover new possibilities within it. My ultimate heart’s goal is to continue to show those who follow me and my work everything that my eyes see and that my imagination projects. That’s the power and beauty of aerial photography.
YouTube / Instagram: @yoanguerreiro