29 June 2012


Olinda is a feast for our eyes. And while we are at it, for the rest of our senses as well. Located near Recife, in Pernambuco, Brasil, this perfect former portuguese colonial town is as much portuguese as it is brazilian. The portuguese breath-taking architecure and the brazilian "tropicalidade" present in every corner, while we are walking along the cobblestone roads, makes us wish that the time spent there never ends. A mix of Europe and the Americas, of the old and the new worlds, Olinda is the living past in a country with a bright future.
And the colours!
Oh, the colours...
Picture taken with Nikon D40X and cheap Nikkor DX 18-55mm AF-S 1:3.5-5.6G VR kit lens.
Post-processing with Adobe Photoshop CS3.

27 June 2012

Madeira Island Ultra Trail 2012

On the past 9th of June I had the pleasure of being on the Pico Ruívo, early in the morning, waiting for the passage of the Madeira Island Ultra Trail competitors.
Already on the fourth edition, this event is getting more and more worldwide respect year after year. Since my fellow photo colleague Paulo was also a participant in the 55 kms race, I've decided to wake up early that day and proceed to Pico Ruívo, where I arrived at 9 am, just to have the pleasure of watching them passing by.
By that time the check point of Pico Ruívo was already operational, since the first athletes, that left Machico at midnight, were passing by at 5 am.
Overall, it was a nice show for the (few) people watching there, and while the dozens of athletes were passing by I could guess by the happiness shown in their eyes that the MIUT 2012, still a long way to be finished, was already a huge sucess.
Next year, if I have the guts, I'll join them.
Paulo Rodrigues, one of the athletes competing on the 55 kms race, arriving to the Pico Ruívo check point. Next stop would be Encumeada, about twelve kilometres away, running over the central massif and along one of the most beautiful trails of Madeira.
Picture made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 and Panasonic Lumix G Vario 1:3.5-5.6/14-42mm Asph. lens.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3.
The Spanish athlete Cristina Abrié hiking the trail above the Pico Ruívo mountain hut. The smile on her face says it all about the competition, the nice weather and the comraderie that grassed in the mountains during that remarkable day. 300 participants and 16 nationalities.
Picture made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 and Panasonic Lumix G Vario 1:3.5-5.6/14-42mm Asph. lens.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3.

26 June 2012

Curral das Freiras at evening time

A couple of years ago, while returning from a hike to Pico Grande, I waited a moment at the car parking of Boca da Corrida while the sunset light was making its magic. Sadly, I wasn't so lucky. The atmosphere was clear and not a single cloud in the sky. So, I had to forget the idea of dramatic light over the surrounding landscape. However, since I was in one of the most vertiginous belvederes in Madeira and facing her most profound valley, I waited a little bit longer for the best equilibrium between shadow and highlights. Since I've forgotten my neutral density degradées at home, the perfect exposure was an idea to forget. Therefore I metered to the blue sky, hoping that the artificial lights of the village bellow made its contribution to avoid a complete blackness on the lower half of the composition.
Bracketed a few shots.
This one seemed to be the best.
Picture taken with Nikon D40X and cheap Nikkor DX 18-55mm f/1:3.5-5.6G AF-S VR kit lens.
Original file in RAW format converted for JPEG.
Post-processing and minor corrections with Adobe Photoshop CS3.
Manfrotto tripod and ball-head.

Travelling palm tree

Palm tree having a fun ride along the highway, in Madeira.

23 June 2012

M/V Ruby in Caniçal

Friday afternoon in Caniçal and another calm day in our second port, only punctuated by the departure manoeuvre of the Motor/Vessel Ruby. Property of my former employer, the German shipowner Briese Schiffahrt, from Leer, the M/V Ruby is a Chinese-built construction and presently chartered by the Portuguese shipowner Empresa de Navegação Madeirense. With Gibraltar flag, the vessel is presently commanded by the Portuguese Merchant Marine Captain António Curto.
Pilot Card:
Ship's name: M/V Ruby
IMO number: 9251509
Type: Container carrier
LOA: 100.60 mts
Beam: 18.80 mts
Summer displacement: 8561 t
Max draft on manoeuvre: 6.70 mts
Propulsion: MAK main engine, one propeller, variable-pitch propeller
Pitch: Right-handed
Rudder: 1 Becker rudder
Bow thruster: 1 (total power: 350 KW)
Stern thruster: N

22 June 2012

Summer festivities in Madeira

Since our early years as a nation, almost nine hundred years ago, we Portuguese were always voyagers. Although immersed in a strong cultural identitarian bond, for us the physical Portugal was always to small. It was and it is home, granted. But just not big enough for the dreamy people living in it. So, after the independence in 1143 and the unification of the nation in 1249 we ended up in a dead alley with nothing more to do. I guess those following years were quite depressing, with everybody looking to each other, searching for answers to the question "what shall we do now?".
So we packed our bags and started the Discoveries, following Mark Twain's advice that traveling was mortal for the vices. That decision made us a country of emigrants, right in the fifteen century.
From those days on, our diaspora led us to the far corners of the world. First to Africa, Asia and Brasil, during our golden age of maritime expeditions. And finally, in more recent times, to the central Europe, to the United States, to Canada, to Venezuela and to South Africa.
These two later countries, in particular, are home, for decades, of a well established Madeira community.
And once every year, normally during the Summer months, many of these compatriots return to Portugal to see their loved ones, family and friends. It's a time full of popular festivities, many of them also included in the catholic tradition.
It's a season of joy in Portugal. From the North to the South. In Madeira and in Açores. Those three Summer months are, for many people, the best part of the year. And their homeland makes the best to welcome them.
Here, in Madeira, those days already started. With the small (and not so small) towns all over the island competing for the more beautiful street decoration and for the biggest religious procession.
Arco de São Jorge is a small village on the North coast of Madeira´deservedly proud of her Summer festivities.
A couple of years ago, while driving around, looking for photo opportunities, I had the good fortune of arriving there while the decorations were being made and placed all over the streets.
Particularly, the flower tapestries placed on the roads, although not originals to the village, took my breath away.
The streets of Arco de São Jorge, during a Summer festivity. Picture taken with Nikon D40X.
Nikkor AF-S 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G kit lens.
Post-processing with Adobe Photoshop CS3.
Building the flower tapestries takes some time and dedication...
Picture taken with Nikon D40X.
Nikkor AF-S 55-200mm 1:4-5.6G kit lens.
Post-processing with Adobe Photoshop CS3.
... but the results can be astonishing.
Picture taken with Nikon D40X.
Nikkor AF-S 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G kit lens.
Post-processing with Adobe Photoshop CS3.
The Catholic Church has a very important and secular presence in our Portuguese identity. Madeira is no exception. Many of the Summer festivities in Portugal are religious ones. Mostly celebrating the patron saint of the villages and towns.
The religious procession is a very important part in all those celebrations. Like here, in Arco de São Jorge.
Picture taken with Nikon D40X.
Nikkor AF-S 55-200mm 1:4-5.6G kit lens.
Post-processing with Adobe Photoshop CS3.

20 June 2012

Fanal - In the heart of the Laurissilva forest

I've read somewhere that the early Madeira discoverers found an island covered in a dense, enchanted and pristine subtropical forest. Quite similar to the one existing in the continental Europe, before the last glaciation age, some 20000 years ago, wiped it out of the map. The forest that we, nowadays, know by the name of "Laurissilva". By our present standards, this was, probably, a natural paradise.
But... being us what we are... things wouldn't last too long. As soon as the first settlers arrived on the island they started the deforestation of the South coast with the objective of cleaning the ground for agricultural purposes. However, doing it with saw and axe was to much of a trouble, so they opted instead for the use of matches. And they torched the island.
According to the historians, the fires were so big and vast that several years later the island was still burning and, as a consequence, a large part of her natural heritage was lost forever.
Thankfully, most of that nonsense intervention was made along the South coast, where the climate was gentler and the land was attractive for farming. The vast majority of the North coast, however, with its harsh weather and abrupt orography, was spared from a similar fate.
So, presently, the surviving ancient Laurissilva forest in Madeira occupies an area that goes from Santana to Porto Moniz, passing thru the high peaks of the Central Massif and Paúl da Serra until the large valleys of Ribeira do Seixal and Ribeira da Janela. Amidst these two, hanging at the Northwest edge of the plateau formation called Paúl da Serra, lies the forest park known as "Fanal". My brother's visit to Madeira was the catalyst I needed to explore that remote corner of the island. Suspended between land and sea and between past and present, the Fanal is a time travel within your spirit and in your senses. And surprised both of us.
It truly is the heart of the Laurissilva forest.
The entrance to the Fanal park, as seen from the wooden stairway leading to the forest house.
Picture made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 and Panasonic Lumix G Vario 1:3.5-5.6/14-42mm Asph. lens.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3.

Rock formation on the NW part of the park and facing the Ribeira Funda valley.
Picture made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 and Panasonic Lumix G Vario 1:3.5-5.6/14-42mm Asph. lens.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3.
Under the canopy of an ancient tree, aiming the lens to the distant horizon.
Picture made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 and Panasonic Lumix G Vario 1:3.5-5.6/14-42mm Asph. lens.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3.
The secular and primeval vegetation of Fanal gives the park a otherworldly atmosphere.
Picture made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 and Panasonic Lumix G Vario 1:3.5-5.6/14-42mm Asph. lens.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3.
Besides birds and bugs, the sole permanent occupants of the place are cool cows.
Picture made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 and Panasonic Lumix G Vario 1:3.5-5.6/14-42mm Asph. lens.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3.
My brother Rui approaching a vertiginous cliff, from where we had a magnificent vista over the Ribeira Funda valley.
Picture made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 and Panasonic Lumix G Vario 1:3.5-5.6/14-42mm Asph. lens.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3.
The grassy Fanal plateau, from a nearby hill. On the top of the picture you can see a artificial pond, used for livestock watering.
Picture made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 and Panasonic Lumix G Vario 1:3.5-5.6/14-42mm Asph. lens.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3.

10 June 2012

MS Riviera

A new construction, about one year old, the M/S Riviera was our visit today, here in Funchal. Coming from Motril, Spain, and bounding for La Palma. Today's call was her first among us.
Picture taken with Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3.

Pilot Card:
Ships name: M/V Riviera
IMO number: 9438078
Type: Cruise ship
LOA: 239.30 mts
Beam: 32.20 mts
Summer displacement: 35902.2 t
Max draft on manoeuvre: 7.30 mts
Propulsion: Diesel-electric, two variable pitch propellers, 24 MW total propulsion power
Pitch: N/A
Rudder: 2, Independent Semi-Spade
Bow thruster: 2 (total power: 4400 KW)
Stern thruster: 1 (total power: 1900KW)

07 June 2012

Men at work

During my life at sea, it was always with sheer pleasure and relief that I ended the vessel's commercial operations and, casting off, proceeded to the high sea and to the next port of call. Most of the times, while alongside, we don't have time for anything. The cargo operations are always very demanding, and require the crew's utmost attention. And if we are not in commercial operations, there's always a mobile phone ringing, an agent arriving, a report to be made, a maritime authority officer to deal with.
So, most of the times, in the Merchant Marine, the only chance we have to relax and fully dedicate ourselves to our vessel is when we are traveling between ports.
During those few days (or, sometimes, weeks), we cut the umbilical cord with land and, in total autonomy, immerse ourselves on the daily routines of the ship's operation and maintenance. Those days are the best to fully appreciate our careers at sea and the longer the voyage the better.
During those days spent in oceanic traverses, and as long as the weather permits, we dedicate ourselves to painting jobs, to grease the mechanical and hydraulic systems, to update various reports and to conduct safety and security drills, to name just a few tasks that are important for the ship's operationality.
However not all the maintenance operations, as you might easily imagine, can be performed at sea. Some tasks, by their innate nature, have to be done in port, while the vessel is stopped and alongside.
Such is the case with anchor works. Altought not very often, anchors do require some level of maintenance, since they are one of the most requested and beaten mechanical systems on board. In cruise vessels, where the looks are (almost) everything, paint and paint brushes are main tools of the daily routine.
The fact that the anchors are naturally made to withstand torture treatments doesn't refrain this cruise ship's crew members to keep theirs in spotless white.
Taking advantage of a short call in Funchal, and while the passengers are ashore, these crew members perform the routine maintenance of their vessel and prepare her for the upcoming voyage.
Picture taken with Panasonic Lumix DMC FT-3.

02 June 2012

Perigáum Automatic - The ultimate cheap automatic watch?

I was thinking about buying an automatic watch for quite some time. With a few analog quartz watches already and some digital ones with various applications, I, curiously, decided to take the plunge and buy a classic one, because, as a fellow seaman once said to me, they are very interesting machines.
However the most famous and reliable automatic mechanisms are from Switzerland and, together with fame and precision?!, they always bring attached a nice price tag. At the other end of the spectrum lie a few oriental watchmakers, but not a single one of them (except the more expensive Citizen and Seiko) with unanimous favourable opinion among users.
Refusing myself to pay more than one or two hundred dollars for a watch, I excluded, for obvious reasons, the Swiss ones... normally starting at ten times that price. So, for now, and while I'm waiting to win the jackpot, I forget the Rolexes, the Omegas, the IWC's and even the (comparatively) modest Tissots. For the moment, I just keep as my only official import from Switzerland the chocolates. So, after (quickly) forgetting any dreams of grandeur I started to do some research on the net for the right product, among a few obscure, but nevertheless (so I thought) trustworthy, European watchmakers.

For starters, I had a general concept of my ideal machine:
1. Not more than 150 Euros.
2. Automatic movement.
3. Gold plated (I know it sounds kitsch, but I have already a few stainless steel watches).
4. Large case (bigger than 40mm in diameter).
5. Water resistant.
6. Visible mechanism on the back and also forward.
7. A few complications (just to look nice!).
8. Leather strap, and... lastly...
9. ... a precise mechanism.

You probably think that the search was easy. And, in a way, it was. I forgot the E-Bay market for starters. I know, I don't really have any formal complains about E-Bay. In fact, I've bought over the years many items with them. Mostly Chinese photographic accessories. And not even once E-Bay failed me. However, I decided to buy my watch from Amazon. But since I'm a European citizen, I immediately forgot Amazon.com and choose instead the UK branch. That way, within the European Union, I had automatically the tax problem solved.
So, I started the search. And eventually that led me to the Perigáum 1972 watchmakers.
About whom I didn't know anything. A quick search on the web led me to their website ( http://www.perigaum.com/). However, although elegant and formal, the website is short on words. Witch is a shame, because with a better information they'll get (I suppose) more clients.
However, between the lines, I have manage to understand that the company is German and it was founded in 1972 (no sure about this, tho... could be the door number). However, there are a few interesting models by this watchmaker on the web and the prices are also interesting, lying around the numbers I was pointing at.
The very positive reviews I was reading were enough for me to take a leap of faith and so I decided myself for a watch of this brand. The fact is that Perigáum has a few models that go well over the one-thousand Euro mark. And at that level a watchmaker must know what he is doing, because the competition is already fierce. There are several "classic" brands with products in that price tag. So, to compete at those prices with well established brands Perigáum has to duel with the same weapons. As I've told you, I didn't wanna so much. My only hope is that they apply the same engineering standards to their lower-level models. The ones I was targeting.
Finally, I've decided myself for the Perigáum 1972 Monaco Automatic P-0505-GS.
The Amazon professionalism was, as usual, perfect. The order was placed at 01:44 of the past 30th of May on their website (the seller store was Watch-Shop) and yesterday (first of June), around 16:00, the UPS courier was calling me with the package. From UK to Madeira: about 62 hours. Not bad.
Now... about that watch.
Well, it's nice. Don't be expecting something that it's not. But for 98.62 £ (package included), I guess I got a little bit more than what I've payed for.
Pictures please:
The watch comes in this nice black case with the User's manual/Warranty certificate. All this protected with a white cardboard box with the Perigáum logo on the cover.
The watch itself is somewhat elegant, without being flashy. The crown is not screw-in. And it serves two purposes: when completely closed, and if you need to start the mechanism, just turn it gently, clockwise, five or six times to acquire a little reserve power. Then you just need to slightly shake the watch to start the movement. If you pull it out one (and only) step, it works as a regular time setting.
There are two additional buttons on the right side. The upper button sets the date (by mere pushes) and the lower one sets the month (by the same procedure). The blue ink you see on the crown is, I think, a production mark. It's easily clean.
The case see-through back, with the mechanism visible by means of a mineral crystal window.
The black leather strap, with the Perigáum logo and the words "genuine leather". This might not mean a thing. However using genuine leather in such an inexpensive watch is, to me, a watchmakers commitment on quality. They could easily have gone for any synthetic product.
Another front view of the watch in review. The open balance spring gives the watch it's elegant touch. The dial is in black colour and, besides the hour, minute and second hands, you'll find on it the day of the week (on the left) and the month (on the right). On top, under the roman numeral XII, you'll find the date window (in Arabic numbers). Just don't expect that these hour and minute hands are easily seen at night time. Contrary to my Citizen Divers that almost hurt my eyes in deep night, the fluorescence of these two hands is kinda week. Anyway, this is mostly a "urban" watch. So the designers probably thought that we are going to use it in well lit places. Somehow I have the feeling that they were correct.
The watch case, in nice golden colour, with a third button, almost hidden. You can use any pointed tool to (carefully) push it. And it serves the purpose of setting the weekday.

At the end of this review, there are a few questions that remain to be answered. For instance: will the golden colour survive the test of time? Or is it going to wear out and show, sooner or latter, the stainless steel underneath, like so many cheap Rolex and Omega imitations from the Far-East? How accurate is this automatic mechanism and where is it from? The most expensive automatic Perigáums clearly state "Swiss made" on their dials, regarding their origin. Is this a Japanese automatic movement? If so, it was not a bad approach, since many of them, judging by the many positive opinions worldwide, are more accurate than the Swiss ones. Dear gents at Perigáum, we, your clients, would love to know the answers to these questions.
Meanwhile, while we wait, I'll try to find the answers to some of them myself.