As soon as I wrote I’ve had it with traveling in one long essay last summer, I found myself obsessively planning a proper vacation for myself and my son during his fall break from school. After considering Greece, Italy, Spain, and the Canary Islands, I settled on a combination of sea and city in not-so-distant Portugal. Airline tickets were purchased, a car was reserved, accommodations were booked, a foldaway kite was procured. And on the last Friday in October our family of two plunged into our first ever foreign adventure. We spent six nights near the southern edge of the Alentejo coast, soaking up unseasonably perfect weather on a different beach every day and discovering nearby sites in Algarve. Next, we zipped back up to Lisbon by way of out-of-the-way Sintra, to explore tourism’s other side, which we agreed was interesting enough, but exhausting in comparison with empty beaches in low season and sleepy sunlit villages along the Atlantic. On the tenth day we went home, stunned at the way not much time had passed but how so much had managed to happen, and amazed at the way we now know exactly what it’s like to spend nine days in Portugal.
The photos I’ve chosen illustrate a composite story—about family time; about rediscovering the thrill of photography while figuring out a new camera; about a country less classically “southern” than expected, bracingly unostentatious and tinged with a kind of relaxed aloofness that recalls not, say, Italy but Scandinavia. All were taken in ambient light with the Fujifilm X-T20 and the Fujinon 23mm f/1.4 lens. (Given the Fuji’s crop factor, this is functionally a 35-mm lens, which may well be the optimal leisure-travel combo of width and reach, with a range of depth options and practically no distortion.) The images shown are my favorites out of hundreds: specifically, out of the 550 that I snapped, of which 450 made it home, only to become 200 after import and the requisite vetting in Lightroom. (Note to my mother: you get to see all two hundred whenever you like!)