Cork Tree, Odemira, Portugal by Paulo Bizarro

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This photo was taken a few kilometres away from the village of Longueira, a small coastal village in the Alentejo province, Portugal. This coastal region is part of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentina Coast Natural Park, which was established in the late 1980’s to preserve the unique scenery, flora, fauna, and cultural traditions of the local population. This Park is best known for its pristine beaches, and less so for its interior region; in fact, less than 10 kilometres away from the coast, the landscape changes from coastal dunes and cliffs, to the typical Alentejo landscape of farms and rolling hills. This dichotomy is reflected not only in the transition from coastal to inland ecosystems, but also in the change in economic activities – from fishing to agriculture. For many centuries, cork oak trees have been representative of the Alentejo, providing economic sustainability thanks to its cork and acorns.

In this occasion, I was walking towards the river Mira valley, looking for subjects to photograph. Cork oak trees make interesting photographic subjects, and I happened to traverse a local farm. This was during a late mid-June evening, with the Sun already disappearing behind the hills. The ground was covered by dry hay stems, turned yellow and orange by the Summer. I looked around for a tree that had seen some recent cork extraction and found a few in a nearby corner of the farm. When the cork is extracted, the exposed tree becomes a deep red. I wanted to emphasize this aspect, plus the age of the tree. Thus, I proceeded to set up my tripod low in the ground and used a wide-angle lens. I ended up selecting this frame, that shows the tree and its branches against the blue sky.

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