My legs felt as if they needed stretching and, it being a fine morning, we began the day by returning to the hill above Senija to see if we could see get some better Swallowtail activity. Activity was exactly what we did get. We’ve been up this hill to enjoy these magnificent butterflies (and spot a few orchids en route) on several occasions but I have never seen them in greater numbers or witnessed such frenzied activity as we did today.
The hill above Senija is a favourite hill-topping site for two stunningly marked species, the Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) and the Iberian or Southern Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides feisthamelii). Hill-topping, collecting at the tops of hills, is said to be a mate location strategy. I can quite believe it because competition here today was fierce. No sooner had one settled than another came close causing a chase to ensue. On one occasion, I witnessed five Swallowtails chasing each other in what could only be described as an aerial dogfight. The speed at which such apparently delicate creatures can fly is quite astonishing. There was certainly in excess of a dozen of both species combined, and quite possibly a dozen of each; counting was impossible given the activity, speed and ground covered. I did eventually manage to snag one decent Swallowtail shot before the subject got displaced.
The Iberian Swallowtails, on the other hand, never did seem to settle in an advantageous position for long enough and this was the best I could manage. I’d never had such difficulty before. No matter, their display was very entertaining and a joy to watch. Pictures are not everything.
Our main event, today, though, was a rare trip out in the evening. (We are usually into the local vino at that stage of the day.) The draw, though, was a night time return visit to the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, which we’d visited during the daytime a little over a week ago. From that first trip and a little research prior to our visit, we new these stark white, artistically designed buildings could be stunning at darkness. Once again accompanied by our friend from our La Mancha trip, the three of us set off up the autopista at about 17:30, a journey of some 75 minutes, our plan being to park, find dinner, then begin clicking away.
The journey went well; I negotiated Valencia’s traffic and parked. I had one nagging worry: it had proved impossible to find an open restaurant in Alcazar de San Juan (La Mancha) prior to 21:00. Here we were looking in Valencia at about 19:00. There’s a strip of eateries opposite our target buildings which we began scanning. We first noted a Lebanese restaurant, the Beirut Restaurantes Ciencias, with an open door. That’d be interesting, a little “Beirut under siege by the Israelis” war cuisine, perhaps? We filed it under “useful” and looked further.
There were a distressing amount of children around a couple of burger joints. We debated returning to the Italian restaurant, at the opposite end of the strip, one we’d used for lunch on our first visit, but then decided on the adventurous Lebanese/Beirut option. Hell, you only live once – battle bowlers on, chaps. We retraced our steps back down the strip to Beirut. Closed. Bugger! Shades of Alcazar de San Juan loomed.
Nearby was a corner Spanish bar offering paella with a drink for 8€. My two companions seemed up for it so we grabbed a table and sat with initial drinks to peruse their menu. The paella and a drink sounded good, though probably wouldn’t be a large portion so we chose a couple of tapas to begin with. The tapas came out together with a plate mounded with paella. Sure enough, The paella wasn’t huge but it would keep our three sets of worms at bay. We all began tucking in. Two further equally mounded plates of paella came out. Strewth! The first plate had been just one portion. None of us could finish a plate of paella and the tapas were completely superfluous, save for the variety.
On the opposite corner was one of those dreaded burger bars swarming with those dreaded rugrats making their normal dreaded racket. One rugrat was making an abnormal dreaded racket kicking a football backwards and forwards over the paving slabs with his father who, judging by his girth, also clearly enjoyed the odd truckload of burgers. Maybe he could finish our paella collection? At least it would stop that incessant bounce, bounce, bounce of the football. Then a couple of uncontrolled kids began using the tables as an obstacle race course. Fortunately, one of them finally crashed into a chair and fell over; there’s some justice after all. All I needed now was a dog barking. Ah, there’s one. Relaxing it wasn’t.
We paid and began wandering back to the target buildings. Oh, look, the Beirut Restaurantes Ciencias is open now and doing a good trade. [Sigh]
Night was falling nicely and lights were coming on. It was a little breezy, though, and the water surface was rippling. Still, some longer exposures aided by neutral density filters would smooth that out. We began studying angles and setting up tripods.
Francine headed for the one shot she knew she really wanted, the Hemisféric IMAX cinema. With a complete reflection in the water fronting it, this building looks like a huge eyeball. It does make for a visually stunning image. As Francine was setting up, I tried lining up and quickly discovered that my lens choice, the 18-300mm Sigma “travel” lens, was not adequate on my 1.6 factor cropped sensor camera – I needed something wider. My super-wide lens, 10-22mm, was still in the UK. I had not been expecting to be forced to be quite as close to the buildings; I thought the space around would be larger. Mistake. I went in search of an alternative subject. Besides, there was really no need to duplicate what Francine was doing and would do better. Here’s the sort of thing Francine was coming up with.
I found I could stand at the corner of the reflecting pool and get a partially reasonable line up on the opera house and performing arts building, the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, with it’s staggeringly supported roof. I say partially reasonable; I found I needed to avoid the line of floodlights along the left edge of the pool and that cropping out the edge of the IMAX Hemisféric on the right meant losing space. Still, it’s something to do. It maybe better to go wide and include both. Oh, and there’s quite a bit of furniture in the water, too, but that can be cloned out. 😉
Evening wore on and we kept wandering and clicking, coming often to the conclusion that there quite a few problems with disadvantageously placed lights. Here, for example, is El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe, the science museum. However, this is rather spoiled by the diagonal grey effect caused by the glaring lights from the road bridge behind the viewpoint. [I may try sliding the black point right to see if things improve.]
With the advancing night, the wind dropped and the water smoothed. At about 23:00, after playing for a couple of hours, Francine returned to the Hemisféric to repeat her earlier exercise with smoother water and darker conditions. It really is all about conditions and timing. Now you can really could see the eyeball effect. This is how it really should be done.
Jealous? Me? No, of course not. Well, not much, anyway. Perhaps just a little …