Andorra is chock full of beautiful views: from the majestic mountain peaks to the babbling brooks along the valley floors, there is so much to delight the senses. In my humble opinion, though, there are few spots that can compete with the "effort-to-beauty ratio" at Els Cortals d'Encamp. So much so that this is swiftly becoming my absolute favourite location for dog photography.
From the base station of the Funicamp lift in the Encamp sector of the Grandvalira ski area, it's a clutch-burning 9km drive up the side of the mountains, navigating a sequence of hairpin bends as you ascend towards the heavens. As the altitude increases and the air starts to thin, the stresses of life lift and a calmness descends. Whether from the majestic views that greet you, or from a simple lack of oxygen, who's to know?
There are many starting points along the road, and even more paths to choose for your route, whether you're after a gentle 5km stroll - at least as gentle as it gets round these parts! - or if you're planning a day hike, or more. It's an ideal start for one of my full day Adventure Sessions, but for the purposes of this post, we're keeping things a little closer to home, and wandering no farther than 500m from the familiarity of the tarmac road.
So what is it that makes this location so good for a dog photographer?
1. The wide open spaces
The key to a great photo shoot is variety, and the flat grassy areas here give a perfect place to capture that feeling that you have room to breathe. To just be. Out in nature, you and your dog. And a weird lady with lots of camera gear making all sorts of strange noises like a lunatic.
SO MANY ROCKS! But not just your boring common and garden pebbles: there are HUGE rocks of all shapes and sizes which we can get you on, your dog on, you AND your dog on... all in the name of the perfect photograph.
If your dog is a water baby, like so many are, this is a fabulous location for them to get themselves (and me) very wet. If their thang is simply splashing in the shallows, there's a wonderful track where the water is generally only a few inches deep, but there are places where the "Riu de les Deveses" becomes deep enough for a quick doggy paddle. I'm generally right in there with the dog - I've been known to come away with every item of clothing (yes, every item of clothing!) soaked through. And on those days, you can guarantee that I'll have forgotten once again to put a dry change of clothes and shoes in my car.
4. The views
Oh, but this valley is like something from the Sound of Music. The green, rolling hills, the rustic buildings, the distant peaks.... I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see Julie Andrews skipping along in her apron.
5. The light
Last but not least, because in the world of photography, Light. Is. Everything. And, oh, but the light here can be simply gorgeous! The hours around sunrise and sunset are always the best for the most beautiful skies, but with this being the mountains, we're often blessed with dramatic skies full of fluffy clouds which give the light a big soft hug to make it fall gently onto us. When we're blessed with a colourful sunset or twilight, it really doesn't get much better with these big open skies.
So there you have it, my top five reasons why Els Cortals d'Encamp is my new favourite place in Andorra to photograph your dog. It is a veritable dog photographer's dream.
Disagree? Let me know in the comments where your favourite hiking and/or photography spot is in our little Principality and you may see it featured on my blog soon!
If you're interested in a photography session with your own best furry friend, drop me a line and we'll make it happen! I can't wait to meet you both and to capture those sweetest of memories for always.
Back in the madhouse
The recent huge storms have proved a bit much for black Lab Willow, who has been curled up in hiding for the last couple of days. For those of you who know her, though, it's a far cry from how scared she was back at her worst. I still hate to see her feeling less than 100%, but it gladdens my heart that she is so much improved that she will still come running at the hint of a treat bag being rustled! Back in the bad old days, even warm fillet steak wouldn't interest her, so this is great progress!
Little Bella spaniel is still healing from the latest surgery on her bottom, trying to fix the damage that was done before she was surrendered to the shelter. Nothing, not even having a bum that looks like a punched lasagne, will keep this little firecracker down, and she continues to express herself through the medium of dramatic song and dance.
All around the blogosphere!
I've recently joined a wonderful blog circle of pet photographers from all around the globe. This week, we're sharing our favourite locations, so following this circle will introduce you to new places from all around the world, and what it is about them that makes them well suited to pet photography. You'll get to see a lot of wonderful photographs from talented pet photographers, and pick up some tips along the way as to how you might improve your own photos of your fabulous furry!
I'm delighted to send you off on your travels with the extraordinary Kim Hollis: Traveling pet photographer Kim Hollis of BARKography at the dog friendly Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn Oregon.
When you get to the bottom of her post, click the link to continue on the circle until you find yourself back here, at which point you know you're back home, here in the open spaces of Andorra, right where you belong!
Until next time, happy hiking and wishing you the purest of joys that is the love of a dog.