029 - Oia - Spain/Galicia

Between A Guarda (028) and Baiona (032) there are quite a few emblematic places. One of them is the beautiful 12th century Santa Maria de Oia monastery and the even more beautiful natural park, where wild horses roam free - Mougas. Let's discover!

Click here to see the map better.

How did I find this place? Well, I won’t go into lots of details here -> short story: I bought back in 2017 a Tamron 70-300mm lens that was the cheapest of its kind and it seemed to have good reviews also (I don’t think there is a dedicated lens today that has bad review… only games and movies seem to have that). With that lens on the camera me and my wife went to do some hiking in a place we weren’t before. We lived in Baiona back then and we already saw the mountains in the region. So we chose Oia parish and then A Guarda. We did not stop at the monastery at Oia for fear of loosing the “golden” hour when eagles are more present/visible on the sky (between 12 and 14 a clock, Spanish/Portuguese timezones).

029.1 We packed water, snacks and the camera gear and so we started the hike.

029.2 We followed the main road as it can be seen on the map.
029.3 I bought the lens (because where I lived I could not rent to test) thinking that I could really get closer to the small life (bugs, plants) and also catch wildlife (more on that at the end) without paying a big price. This is also why we came to a Natural Park - thinking it will be abundant with flowers and birds and eagles.

029.4 Looking through the camera’s viewfinder, the image was shaky (at 300mm focal length, every small movement is highly accentuated, plus the lens is bigger than “normal”). As I half pressed the shutter, everything suddenly looked steady and still. We were both very amazed on just how much that lens was helping us take steady photos. We were convinced we got a bargain.

029.5 As we were walking, we saw horses roam free, just like that, on the path. Some were checking us or moving out of our way and then continue to eat. I don’t think that these are truly wild horses, rather horses kept on the natural reserve (and they know the territory and when to come “home”). Perhaps I am wrong, I did not investigate much. Where I was living in Baiona, there was an area with horses but more on that later.

029.6 Horses on this path are a common sight and Mougas is renowned for this. I bet when you will come here to visit, you will also find horses walking up and down the paths.

029.7 Quite many people were riding the horse (some like in this photo), however most will be riding at a much slower pace, with someone holding the horse up front. Every horse has its name written on the saddle, and you hear the riders whistle and calling the horses by their name.

029.8 Not just horses are on this road (and paths) but also ATV (quad bikes)… dangerous if you have a small child and surely a big nuisance for wildlife and horses. I don’t think you can drive your personal car on this road though. I don’t recall seeing one.
029.9 Vegetation in these parts is abundant and always green, with really just two seasons: one with tons of rain and another one with some hot days and about half rain. I should know, I lived in the area for two years.

029.10 We tested the lens on small plants, and tried really hard to get pictures in sharp focus. I always had the feeling that the wind starts only when I am about to take a photo.

If the subject (tiny or large) is not moving much, then the Tamron’s Image Stabilisation does wonders (under bright sunlight).

029.11 And just like that, a Gomphus Similimus dragonfly was spotted on the path (far from water source I might also add). He was standing still for many good minutes. I gently got closer and closer while still taking pictures in case it will fly away and I loose all opportunity. I love the details on this image and it really was not difficult. 

029.12 On the camera viewfinder (optical, not digital) the image looked perfect with details and all. However when I got home, only two pictures were very good and even the ones chosen for this article are not as sharp as I wished (like those found on profesional websites). It turns out that a macro lens and some extension tubes, and some flashes can be more useful than just one big “cheap” telephoto lens.

029.13. Here is another example where the 300mm of the Tamron, was not enough. This lizard we saw it from at least 10 meters away, as it rushed into a hole. We waited at a distance for it to come out, and as our luck will have it, it did come out the same place. It rushed down the slope and grabbed a dead insect (that is what it has in its mouth).

029.14 I got distracted by this beautiful Melanargia galathea butterfly so the lizard got quickly out of my sight. This butterfly was also quite still (and we were approaching gently and taking a shot every dozen seconds). Mougas is really teeming with bugs and little life.

029.15 Moving on (many minutes later) we saw the first waterfall and it was difficult to make an artistic shot without an ND Filter. An ND Filter is a piece of glass, put in front of the lens (camera) that will make it more dark. Think of it like sunglasses, but with much better optical quality. Some of those glasses are a bit dim, others are fit for welders. They bring night in a sunny day so the camera will behave as if it is nighttime. This means that we can expand the time the sensor is exposed to light, and the fast moving objects will become trails. Waterfalls will look like “milky-falls”.

029.16 No need to go to O Pousino, keep the road up and … something amazing might jump into view…

029.17 This blue dragonfly (Calopteryx xanthostoma) was standing and waiting for photos. There were actually 2 of them and each stood for many minutes. My wife took this shot and it looks like the dragonfly is trying to talk to us.

029.18 We made almost 50 photos (combined), just of these beautiful dragonflies.

Looking at these two shots (first on Nikon 55-200mm kit lens (it comes with the camera when you buy it) and the second on Tamron 70-300mm) we see that we don’t need expensive gear to make great photos. Most of it is actually luck, luck to get life this close and this beautiful, with great weather conditions. As of 2024, this sort of photo cannot be made on a stock phone, maybe with some optical extensions, so this type of photography is still in need of a dedicated camera (same for sports and landscape photography).
029.19 We stood so much with the blue dragonfly that both me and my wife got at least one shot that we loved. While we were busy with the dragonfly, this beautiful Polygonia c-album was not even 3-4 meter away from us. I left the dragonfly and went to “catch” the butterfly. Then exchanged places with my wife.

029.20 We are finally here at the main attraction -> the As Pozas waterfall. Believe or not, in this pond, quite a few kids were jumping and swimming. They were kind to let us take a few photos and then jumped back in! I used to do the same when I was a kid (8-14 yrs old) and I remember having loads of fun even if the water was cold at first. My biggest fear was the European Crayfish stinging me while bathing in the river’s water, as there used to be quite a population of them. This was a great sign, meaning the water was not polluted, but back then, that was the least of my problems :)).

029.21 Here I am trying to hold the camera still by using my elbow - it is generally working.

029.22 This shot, in long exposure, was done standing still, no tripod, using my arms as a sustaining platform for the lens. I did a bunch of photos of course, and only one was decent sharp (I mean the stones look sharp and in detail). I think that the vibration mechanism from the lens is a bit too strong.

029.23 Going out in Galicia, in the nature, or on one of the many beaches or islands is always a beautiful experience filled with positive feelings, and good unforeseeable events. Like in this image, far in the distance there is a four-masted ship, can you see it?

Mougas or Oia region holds a lot more to discover than just this portion that we showed here. The mountains in the region offer great views and are very easy to hike (I think the maximum height is 654m). Quite a few people will be on horseback, some on mountain bikes and of course many also on foot!

If you do plan to make this trip, do pack water, especially in the summer (it can be very dry) and some snacks (no stores/restaurant).

Thank you very much for seeing this article, and we hope you found it useful.

Thank you,


Legend: https://misteriosleyendasdegaliciayasturias.wordpress.com/2017/12/01/leyenda-de-la-virgen-del-mar-de-oia/

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