Hanging cliff-side along the Italian Riviera, the sleepy hamlets of Cinque Terre are a traveler’s paradise. Set aside as Italy’s first national park in 1999, these five quaint fishing villages (Italian for “Five Lands”) dot a magical strip of coastline accessible only by boat, train or foot.
Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza and Monterosso are all right on the water, while Corniglia sits atop a promontory surrounded by vineyards high above the Ligurian Sea. The only way to reach the latter is via the Lardarina, an intimidating 377-step brick stairway, or the park service shuttle bus from the train station. Cars were banned in all of the villages years ago, which has helped retain the old world feel that has existed here for centuries.
Walking is very popular in the region especially on the main coastal paths where centuries-old terraces cling to the rugged cliffs above the sea. The Sentiero Azzurro (or Blue Path) is the primary trail that connects the five villages and offers sweeping views of the coastline. Harbors filled with colorful fishing boats and trattorias serving local seafood specialties and Liguria’s famous pesto are the reward at the end of the journey.
Frequent trains link all five villages, and you can purchase an all day pass that also includes a hiking pass at the tourist information offices located in each town. A more expensive, but equally scenic option are the boats that travel along the coast several times throughout the day.
The towns of Cinque Terre date from the early medieval period, and the area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. Though no longer the undiscovered find it once was, Cinque Terre’s charm and classic Italian hospitality still retain the feel of old Italy and make this a prime stop on any European adventure.
There’s something about flowing water that soothes the soul and sparks the imagination. Mesmerizing ripples on a lake, the fluid dynamics of an eddy as it dances over rocks in a stream, or the powerful force of a cascading waterfall. It’s poetry in motion – nature’s visual elixir.
Preserving these moments of natural movement on film or sensor is a tireless indulgence for the outdoor photographer. Varying shutter speeds and focal lengths can create dramatic landscapes or freeze intimate moments of light and form. And most impressive is the fact that no two images will ever be the same!
Learning to read the flow of the water becomes intuitive with experience and helps solidify the visual appeal of each frame. Waterfalls in particular are constantly changing their course as the wind shifts, and timing your exposure for the best flow can greatly reduce editing time when reviewing dozens of images.
As with all nature photography, time spent thoughtfully viewing a scene and carefully framing your composition is paramount. It will ensure that when the decisive moments arrive you’re able to capture the dancing waters at peak performance.
Forty-nine years ago the green movement was conceived and since then it has become a driving force in today’s world economy and social consciousness. We’ve come a long way since the early days of tie-dye and a novelty called recycling. Fast forward to 2019 and LED light bulbs are the norm, hybrid cars are everywhere, and small countries like Iceland are run almost entirely on clean energy.
One of the driving forces in my photography is to show the natural world at its best and to remind us all why it’s important to preserve it. I also support organizations like The Nature Conservancy and The Wilderness Society, which do an excellent job of preserving natural spaces, working with landowners, and educating the public about the connection between health and conservation throughout the year.
This year National Park Week is April 20th-28th and Earth Day is Monday, April 22nd. Once again the National Park Service is partnering with the National Park Foundation to offer free admission to over 400 of the nation’s parks and monuments on Saturday, April 20th. It’s a great time to get out and enjoy America’s Best Idea at a park near you or celebrate the day in a natural space close to home. Use the tag #findyourpark to locate all the events in your area.
Whether you take a hike, plan a photo excursion, volunteer with one of the many organizations planning events or simply change out those old light bulbs, take time to marvel at all the natural wonders of our tiny blue planet and make a commitment to help preserve it.