Just Back From

Chasing Waves and Early Light on Portugal's Wild Coast

by Lucy Laucht
Portugal All photos by Lucy Laucht.

While on a shoot for ONA (a collection of handsome travel camera bags and leather goods), photographer and Fathom contributor Lucy Laucht captured the free-spirited nature of Portugal's coastal surf towns.

So, what brought you to Southern Portugal?

I was initially drawn to Portugal because I wanted to explore and photograph the off-beat surf towns of the western coast. There’s an adventurous and free spirit to the place that I felt fit with the ONA aesthetic and ethos. So we took a road trip along the beautiful and dramatic coastline of western and southern Portugal, through fishing villages and unmarked beaches. The result is a set of transportive photographs imbued with story, movement, and the sense of peace you find in discovering new places.

What was the best tip you got before you left?

Not to miss the bifanas (very thin marinated pork cutlets on a bread roll) and the farmers' markets.

Your itinerary:

We spent two nights at Casinha De Sardinha, a beautiful, bright, studio design house located in a peaceful area of the historic town center of Lagos. That gave us a good feel for town before we moved to Burgau. Both were perfectly located close to the beaches of the Algarve and the wild west coast.


What did you know by the last day that you wish you had known on the first?

You cannot have a bad meal in Portugal.

This was especially great:

The food at Os Lambertos.

What were the challenges of working at this location?

The heat! It was the middle of the summer, and our crew was wilting by midday.

What were the best parts of working at this location?

The dramatic coastlines and the light. Oh my, the beautiful light at sunrise and sunset.

How did you go about finding the local talent?

Our producer (and Lagos local) Maggie’s beautiful group of surfer friends.

Speed round of favorites:

Meal: Pastel de natas (custard tarts) from Padaria Central.

Neighborhood to Explore: Old town Lagos and the little surf town of Burgau.

Casual Hangout: Coffee & Waves for amazing coffee and açai bowls. You can rent beautiful, locally shaped boards there, too.

Shooting Locale: Tough call between the west coast beaches and dramatic cliffs between Praia Dona Ana and Praia do Camilo.

Local Styling Prop: Cute tinned sardines — a Portuguese classic!

One place you didn't get to visit, but wanted to: The Alentejo region.

What's the best tip you'd give to someone setting up a photo shoot abroad?

Hire a good producer or fixer who knows the local area.

Any surprises?

Some local fisherman took us out on their boat one evening. We thought we’d just shoot in the bay, but they took us pretty far to a hidden beach — and the light was perfect. It was one of those pinch me moments.

Shot you won't forget:

Sunset at Praia Castelej — with an old Land Rover, surfboards from Bob’s Boards, a crew of new best friends, and magical west coast light.

You can't stop thinking about:

Piri piri chicken and pastel de natas!

Keep Exploring Portugal

Sun, Sand, and a Beautiful Boutique Hotel on the Portuguese Coast
Feeding the Body and Soul in Northern Portugal
Take a Spin Around Europe's Coolest Capital