I’d only been given a list of seven things to photograph on my Mallorca trip. The author hadn’t finished writing her piece by the time I flew out so the Art Director had to agreed that the seven-item list was all I could cover while I was there.
While most of the requests centred around the artsy, bo-ho roots of the region, one item was to cover the walk between the steep hill-top village of Deià and the coastal port of Sóller.
I’d already seen a few of the wooden signs around the village so knew which direction I’d need to head in, plus people I’d spoken to said it was sign-posted all the way. The sign posts even said how long you had left till your destination. Two and a half hours from Deià to Sóller, apparently. Great, thought I. I can walk there AND back in a day.
I’ve shot (or attempted to shoot) walking trails before and one of the main perils is picking the wrong time of day and not finding any people on the route to feature in the photos. Instead of heading out for around sunrise or sunset, as my landscape photographer sensibilities might have dictated, I set off at 10am – primetime for walkers, I hoped.
The first part of the path takes you down into a gully and eventually the rocky cove of Deià beach. No time to be lured in by the sparkling sea, I swiftly took heed of the onward path up, up into the hills and on my way.
The sky was overcast which, although not great for drop-dead gorgeous, 1k likes on instagram-type landscape photography, works well enough with capturing people – if I could just find the people – in the landscape. Very bright sun in the middle of the day will create stark shadows that are harder to improve on whereas, with a little bit of expert repro in Lightroom, it’s possible to even out the levels for an enticing double page spread.
Which I could of course paraphrase to say: I went off on a long hike on my own and had plenty of time to think about deep, geeky aspects of photography because there was no one around to yawn at me. Apart form the sheep, perhaps.
The track loosely follows the coast from on high. When it veers from the seaview, you find yourself among olive groves, citrus farmland and wooded glades.
In case I didn’t find many other walkers, I got up to my old tricks and decided – with the aid of a stone for a tripod – to put myself in the frame.
Luckily, I did find other walkers on the trail. Some looked the part more than the others. I always feel slightly culpable when deciding what sorts of people to pursue. It’s all left to chance of course, no hired models here. But colourful hiking attire always looks better against the landscape. And, often it seems to be the slimmer, fitter people you find in the colourful precision gear. I always feel guilty thinking those kinds of thoughts because I’ve seen the This Girl Can campaign, I’ve read those stereotype-busting articles. I don’t want to be complicit in perpetuating visual themes.
I did ask some middle-aged French ladies if they minded being in a picture but they didn’t really understand and probably thought I was trying to sell them something so said no. I took a pic anyway, but can’t submit it.
In the middle of the hike..oooh, let’s say about three hours in to this two and a half hour hike, the wooden signs seemed to stop telling me how long it would take.
Not that I was complaining, it was beautiful out there. The gnarly olive trees alone will keep me in instagram posts till Christmas.
But maybe I hadn’t stolen quite enough cheese and bread from the hotel breakfast spread to keep me going all the way to the beach.
At long last, I emerged from a particularly beautiful wooded spot and scrambled up a slope to be rewarded with a view of Porto Sóller. A little further down and I though, yes this is the spot. I just needed the people now.
I lingered for some time till I could hear voices rounding the valley below. It wouldn’t be long before they reached me. Thankfully they were a smiling French couple with excellent English and were more than understanding of my long lens and how they’d feature in this beautiful vista.
From here it wasn’t far to the the beach and the end of the trail but, oh boy, it took a lot longer than the two and a half hours those early wooden signs had promised! Try five! But I wouldn’t have had it any other way, it was a glorious day’s work.