Secret Hidden Places

The contents of this page have been moved to the new blog http://cabodegataphotography.wordpress.com

Please visit – http://cabodegataphotography.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/secret-hidden-places/

Best wishes

Martyn Thompson
Cabo de Gata Photography
martyn@martynthompson.net
http://cabodegataphotography.com
http://cabodegataphotography.wordpress.com

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It’s my pleasure

The contents of this page have been moved to the new blog http://cabodegataphotography.wordpress.com

Please visit – http://cabodegataphotography.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/its-my-pleasure/

Best wishes

Martyn Thompson
Cabo de Gata Photography
martyn@martynthompson.net
http://cabodegataphotography.com
http://cabodegataphotography.wordpress.com

 

 

On Top of the World!

There is absolutely nothing like the feeling of being on top of the world and no place better to realise this feeling than at a high altitude, such as the Parque Natural de las Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas in the province of Jaén.

Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas

Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas

Amber & I took a few days out to visit (and photograph) this area of stunning beauty staying in the town of Cazorla. Cazorla is constructed around three main squares, the Plaza de la Constitución, the Plaza de la Corredera and the Plaza Santa Maria, where we stayed. Plaza Santa Maria is the oldest and is connected to the other two by narrow, twisting streets so if you’re driving, beware!!!!!!!

Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas

Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas

Established in 1986, the Parque Natural de las Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas is located to the east / north-east of the province of Jaén. It is the largest protected area in Spain and was declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1983. Two of the Iberian peninsula’s most important rivers, the Río Guadalquivir and the Segura, have their sources here, amongst some of the wildest landscape in Spain.

Although one of the park’s major attractions is its abundant and varied wildlife, human intervention has meant that some of the animals that roamed this region have disappeared. Bears were the first to become extinct in the 17th century, followed much later by wolves in the 1920s. Game species like deer and wild boar actually died out here during the 1950s, prompting the creation of a national hunting reserve in 1960, with the re-introduction of these species together with the mouflon, a wild sheep with striking overlarge horns. On the highest rocky slopes are Spanish ibex.

Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas

Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas

There are many species of raptor that can be seen frequently, soaring on thermals high above the mountain peaks. These include griffon vultures, Egyptian vultures, short-toed eagles, booted eagles, Bonelli’s eagles, golden eagles, red kites, kestrels, goshawks, sparrowhawks and peregrine falcons. There are rare sightings of the lammergeier also called quebrantahuesos in Spanish, or bone breaker, due to its habit of dropping its prey down to rocks from a great height to break their bones.

The park has an important population of birds commonly found in the pine forests, such as coal tits, great tits, crested tits, firecrests, azure-winged magpies, white wagtails and green woodpeckers. Above the treeline and on rocky slopes are rock thrushes, blue rock thrushes, red-billed choughs and alpine accentors.

In 1988 the park was designated a Special Protection Area for migratory birds.

Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas

Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas

Among the predatory mammals inhabiting the woodland areas are the fox, genet, stone marten, wild cat, badger, polecat and weasel. A subspecies of the common squirrel is endemic to the Sierra de Segura. A third of the mammal species found in the park are bats. Reptiles include nine species of snakes, as well the Valverde lizard, which is endemic to the park and of course the Ocellated lizard.

Summing up, the landscape in Parque Natural de las Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas is stunning and in common with other areas of Spain, unique. There is certainly no shortage of beautiful locations and places to see.

I’ve put together a slide-show of the best of my 650 ish photographs taken, I hope you enjoy them 🙂

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The Decorators Have Been

…well I dunno, I kind of got bored with the style of my blog and all so I re-decorated – wha d’ya reckon?

Anyway so just for fun, here’s a photograph of a cat, no erm… * searches for random image * a “Fly Agaric (Amanita Muscaria)“, from a trip to see a friend in Holland a few years ago 🙂

Fly Agaric

Fly Agaric

I believe in what I am doing!

Inside one week I have been on Spanish TV in a programme promoting the regeneration of Andalucian traditions, I have become involved in a working group (round table) for active (sustainable) tourism and subsequently got my photo in the Diario de Almería and today delivered a presentation to some students at Almería University. OK, in truth, the TV programme was recorded about a month ago but it was broadcast on national TV last Saturday.

Diario de Almería

Diario de Almería

All of these activities are important and I’m proud to be involved but the subject and content of my presentation to the students really sums up what I am trying to do and what I am passionate about. I have come to the province of Almería and especially Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata to set up a small company running photography experiences and using these experiences to promote respect for the diversity of nature and the environment of the province. The theme of my presentation was how and why photography can be used to do this and also about the need to work with others towards a common goal of sustainable tourism.

There are still a number of companies operating illegally in the Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata in activities that are not good for the environment; motor-cross, quad-biking, jet-skiing, etc… these high-adrenaline activities may offer momentary thrills that may be conversation matter for about a week but we should be considering the environmental impact of such activities and collectively changing the way we think. Thankfully the number of eco-friendly activities for tourism is on the increase and it’s good to see and be involved with the regeneration of local traditions as part of these activities. Moreover, it’s good to see the arts included in this increase. Photography, painting, ceramics, etc… can ALL form an integral part of the sustainable tourism industry and most can be combined with other activities to promote an understanding and respect of the environment and ultimately a richer visitor experience.

Pita (Agave)

Pita (Agave)

Promotion of respect for the environment and working (with others and by myself) towards a common goal of sustainable tourism are things I value highly and I believe I have much to offer people who would like to visit me and be part of what I am doing. In any industry it’s difficult to change the mindset of the customer, especially when they are used to going to a resort for their holiday and taking part in high-adrenaline activities as mentioned above, but promoting the well-being of the natural world not only is a must but is becoming more widely supported by organisations and to some extent, industry – so it’s becoming easier!

I believe in what I am doing and that we can strive towards our goals more effectively together, promoting the most beautiful product called Almería. There is a lovely saying within the network of friends that I work with here, Juntos Podemos – Together We Can.

It’s taken me a while now to write all this up and I certainly hadn’t intended for it to be so… what’s the word???? Intense maybe(?) But these are things I feel passionate about and once I get started, there’s no stopping me LOL!!! This IS however a very beautiful part of the world and unique in many ways and there is lots to show people so come one, get your cameras charged up and out you come 🙂

Contact details:

Martyn Thompson – Landscape Photography
http://martynthompson.net
https://martynthompsonphotography.wordpress.com
martyn@martynthompson.net
Facebook / Twitter / Etsy / Flickr

More Snow

Yesterday we went exploring a few of the Sierras in Almeria but at one point we almost terminated the trip as whilst heading along the sunny A92, the wind seemed like it would prohibit our access. Anyways, we braved it and firstly went to a lovely little pueblo called Baños de Sierra Alhamilla in, well the Sierra Alhamilla.

Cave Dwelling @ Baños de Sierra Alhamilla

Cave Dwelling @ Baños de Sierra Alhamilla

The hot spring at Baños de Sierra Alhamilla flowing at 58 deg was known to the Phoenicians and later by the Romans, but it was the Arabs who used it more. The source was abandoned for many years until in 1777 a local bishop rehabilitated it and built the spa resort of Balneario de Sierra Alhamilla near the source. The spa was renovated in 1991 respecting its existing structure and aesthetics. It now has 25 rooms around a courtyard and in the basement are the Roman baths and seven white marble baths. The Balneario de Sierra Alhamilla is an ideal place to relax, situated in an oasis in the foothills of the Sierra Alhamilla and turned into a beautiful hotel with all amenities; restaurant and restrooms, combining the ancient with modern facilities to enjoy the health-giving properties of the local natural mineral waters.

A little outside the main pueblo are a number of cave houses which look to be used these days for keeping livestock and animal feed.

Flora of Sierra Alhamilla

Flora of Sierra Alhamilla

Surrounding the town is a vast array of lush plant-life and despite the Sierra’s dry and barren appearance there are over 40 species of flora. The Sierra is one of Spain’s most important habitats for the rare rosemary rosmarinus eriocalyx, with flowers of varying shades of blue.

A little further into the Sierra Alhamilla is an area of well-preserved holm oaks, the only woodland in an otherwise treeless area. Adapted to extreme temperatures and times of drought, these holm oaks are a relic from the days when much of Almeria was clad in Mediterranean forest. The best examples of these holm oaks can be found on the Sierra’s north-facing slopes; on the south-facing ones they are concentrated in the Barranco del Rey and the Cerro del Vivero. Apart from the holm oaks and some reforested areas of Aleppo and maritime pines, most of the Sierra’s vegetation is dominated by low scrubland.

Following on from this visit to Sierra Alhamilla, we travelled to even higher ground to revisit an area known as Las menas in Sierra de los Filabres. We made a short excursion here last August which you can read about by clicking here.

At the time of our visit yesterday, there was still a lot of snow about transforming the Sierra into a winter wonderland.

Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland

Disused Bridge

Disused Bridge (Compare with previous post!)

The partly desolate village of Las Menas sits high in the Sierra de los Filabres and takes a fair amount of effort to get there, especially when confronted with beautiful snow-covered scenery! From what I understand from reading local notice-boards, Las Menas is one of many former mining towns that have been abandoned in years-gone-by for one reason or another, usually because the cost of mining the product outweighs the value of the product mined.

The Sierra de los Filabres is a nature-watching paradise and especially for the bird-life. It is the largest mountain range in Almería Province and forms the southern limit of the Almanzora Valley. Its highest points are the 2,168 m high Calar Alto, the Tetica de Bacares or “La Tetica” (2,086 m and near to Las Menas) and the Calar Gallinero (2,049 m).

There are over 110 types of birds living in the Sierra de los Filabres and although most of the birds in this area are migratory, there are a number that do nest amongst the higher altitudes. Eagles, owls and falcons are also common to these slopes and those who are patient enough are rewarded with views of them.

Being watched from a safe distance!

Being watched from a safe distance!

Other species of wild-life living in mostly the wooded areas, include the wild boar, mountain goat, wild deer, foxes and wild cats. Apparently the Sierra de los Filabres is the only place in the province of Almeria where wild-cats can be found in such numbers.

Summing up, what would seem like a fairly quiet place with not much going on is actually teaming with more wild-life than you could imagine. I tried my best to capture as much as possible with my camera but it doesn’t wait for you, it doesn’t sit still and pose. So, whilst I haven’t got as many photographs of wild-deer as I might like to have to have and whilst my photographs of (I think) a beautiful pair of Bonelli’s Eagles were far too blurred to be of use and whilst the quick brown fox jumped too quickly across the road for me, I certainly enjoyed watching them.

This is a nature-watchers paradise but don’t think you can just spend an hour dashing around and seeing all there is to see, you need at least a WHOLE day to fully appreciate the environment here and for me, I couldn’t think of a better way to study the environment and be at one that through the lens of a camera.

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Contact details:

Martyn Thompson – Landscape Photography
http://martynthompson.net
https://martynthompsonphotography.wordpress.com
martyn@martynthompson.net
Facebook / Twitter / Etsy / Flickr

Excursion with Oz Nature

Following on from this mornings brief post of a spider photograph, I’ve now got everything ready for a proper post and review of the day, so here-we-go!

Calandra

Calandra

Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata is a nature watcher’s paradise, as well as a photographer’s paradise of course and there is much to see and do. The park encompasses an outstanding variety of habitats from coastal dunes, beaches, steep cliffs, salt-pans, a substantial marine zone, salt-marshes, inland arid steppe and dry river beds. Designated a UNESCO Biosphere reserve in 1997, the park shelters an extraordinary wealth of wildlife, including many rare and endemic plants and endangered fauna.

Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata contains one of Spain’s most important wetland areas for breeding and overwintering birds, Las Salinas de Cabo de Gata, the saltwater lagoon that runs parallel to the beach and is separated from it by a 400m-wide sand bar. Located between San Miguel and the Cabo de Gata headland, this lagoon is of outstanding ecological interest. Las Salinas (salt-pans) are the only ones still in operation in eastern Andalucia.

On 1 April, Jesus Contreras of Oz Nature organised an excursion for about 25 people around the Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata to observe the nature and study the bird-life of the area, it was a long and hot but truly fantastic day.

Oz Nature

Oz Nature

Our excursion started at Las Amoladeras not far from the visitors centre and took us by foot to the town of Cabo de Gata where we stopped for lunch, via the Rambla Morales. In the afternoon we went to Las Salinas to watch amongst other things, the flamingoes.

I’ve edited down the number of photographs I took of the day and once again, created a slide-show, I hope you like it.

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Contact details:

Martyn Thompson – Landscape Photography
http://martynthompson.net
https://martynthompsonphotography.wordpress.com
martyn@martynthompson.net
Facebook / Twitter / Etsy / Flickr

Oz Nature
http://www.indalodeoz.com/
http://www.andalucia.org/turismo-y-deporte/almeria/oz-nature-wildlife
indalodeoz@indalodeoz.com
Facebook / YouTube / DepositPhoto