The Two Towers, Bologna

I made my way toward the Dolomites but decided to stop for a couple of days in the medieval city of Bologna. It’s a difficult city to get a feel for — it’s at once the rarefied city of scribes and scholars and a thoroughly modern, technologically advanced metropolis. What drew me in, however, was the city’s medieval center, the winding, terra cotta heart of the city.

Two Towers and Chiesa di San Bartolomeo in the Morning, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
December 2016, panorama from 3 vertical images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 8 seconds, ISO 100, tripod.

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Much of Bologna was destroyed during World War II, but the historic part of the city survived. This part of the city, built when Bologna was at the peak of its power and wealth, was once dotted with towers. In fact, one of Bologna’s many affectionate nicknames is “la turrita,” or the “city of many towers.” There were once hundreds of towers in the city; some were built for defensive purposes and many others built by powerful families, continually attempting to one-up each other.

Most of the towers long ago crumbled into history. But among the ones that still stand, perhaps the most well-known are Asinelli and Garisenda, the city’s “Two Towers.” They’re not as famous as their counterpart in Pisa, but perhaps more interesting: Asinelli is taller and Garisenda has more of a lean. Echoing their long history — they’re also older than the Leaning Tower of Pisa — is an inscription on one of Garisenda’s slopes from Dante’s Divine Comedy that mentions that exact tower.

The Two Towers are so tall and so intimately positioned with one another that it was difficult to capture them together in a shot. I used a panoramic technique to get them both in the frame as the sun rose over Bologna. They seem to me to be two old, time-tested friends: the sturdy and solid Asinelli and the whimsical, free-spirited Garisenda, eternally looking askance at the old city.

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Happy Holidays from Anshar Photography

As 2016 comes to a close, I would like to send my warmest holiday greetings to my subscribers and friends. Your support has been invaluable to me and is much appreciated.

Ski Resort of Madonna di Campiglio, View from the Slope, Italian Alps, Italy

I have been fortunate in the past year to be able to travel to fascinating, historic places, and I hope my photographs have brought distant parts of the world a bit closer to home.

My hope for you in the coming year is that you continue to see the world’s beauty. Even in the midst of difficulties, the world is an amazing, beautiful place. As you go through life, remember to look for the beauty that is all around us. Happy holidays!

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Fine Art Prints Christmas Sale – 30% off

In appreciation of my subscribers, I am happy to offer a special discount through the end of December. All of my photographs can be purchased as Fine Art Prints to add to the décor of your home or office. I offer ready-to-hang Metal Prints with incredible colours and details. The details and colours in these photographs cannot be adequately reproduced on a computer monitor. These prints make great gifts for your friends and family, especially those who love to travel and appreciate the world’s beauty.

Room with Bed and Rome Fine Art Print above

Just for Christmas, I have chosen some of my best works from recent years and created 3 collections:




• “Eternal City” — photos of Rome:
http://ansharphoto.com/Rome >>

• “Mystical Venice” — photos of Venice:
http://ansharphoto.com/Venice >>

• “Inspiring Cities” — photos of the most beautiful European cities:
http://ansharphoto.com/InspiringCities >>


I offer worldwide shipping, and any size is available. Prices start at only $35.95.

As a special Christmas offer, I will give a discount of 30% through December 31. Use code XMS2016 at checkout to get the discount.

To make a purchase, simply choose the photo you want, click on its preview. When the preview is open to full screen, click the green “BUY” button on the bottom left corner and follow the instructions from there.

Thank you for your continued support throughout 2016, and best wishes for a happy holiday season!

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Lightning Storm over Zaragoza

Though I had already spent some time in Zaragoza and had photographed the Basilica of our Lady of the Pillar, when I found myself in the area again, on the return trip from San Sebastian to Barcelona, I couldn’t resist stopping. Zaragoza is a beautiful, historic city, and the basilica never failed to enchant.

Lighting Storm over Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar and Ebro River, Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain
July 2016, single image, additional exposures for highlights, additional exposures for lightings, focal length 16mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 2.5 seconds, ISO 100, tripod.

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So once again, I set up my tripod on the banks of the Ebro River. It was early evening, and clouds were beginning to settle over the city; a storm was coming and I could smell rain in the air. I hoped that I’d be able to get a good shot before it started to rain.

As it happened, I was lucky. The weather began to change more quickly than I anticipated, with deep purple and indigo clouds settling in low over the basilica. As I rushed to get the shot, lightning began to illuminate the sky over Zaragoza, providing a dramatic backdrop for the basilica. It seemed that lightning flashed every few seconds, and it was hard to catch it in a shot — it’s more elusive than I would have imagined. I managed to catch a brilliant flash of lightning in just a couple of shots, but they were beautiful — a bit of nature’s drama in a violet sky over Zaragoza.

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Panorama of San Sebastian in the Morning

A bit later, after photographing the Biblioteca Municipal, I walked further out along the beach.

Panorama of San Sebastian in the Morning Light, Basque Country, Spain
July 2016, panorama from 3 horizontal images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 44mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 0.4 seconds, ISO 31, tripod.

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I wanted a panoramic view of the city, one which would encompass the Old City, the port, and Monte Urgull, the hill which dominates San Sebastian. Given its height and its location, the hill was used for many years for the city’s defense. Since 1950, however, Monte Urgull is most well-known for its 12 metre long statue of Jesus at its crown.

By the time I found a spot which would allow me to capture everything I wanted in one shot, blue hour was waning and the first hints of morning’s golden hour were breaking through the horizon. Against the soft hues of the beach and sky, the brilliant green of the hill was striking. As the sun rose higher, the clouds began to glow a golden pink, and the sculpture of Jesus seemed illuminated from within. Centered within the panorama, it made an imposing image.

From this vantage point, it wasn’t difficult to see why San Sebastian is one of the Basque region’s most loved cities. The city is a mixture of old and new, sacred and secular, man-made beauty juxtaposed against nature’s handiwork. And for a few moments on an early morning, I was lucky enough to capture all of it one shot.

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Biblioteca Muncipal, San Sebastian

It’s fitting that in 2016’s San Sebastian is European City of Culture, I chose to take a photograph of the Biblioteca Municipal.

Panorama of Biblioteca Municipal Central in the Morning, San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain
July 2016, panorama from 5 vertical images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 24mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 2.5 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.

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I walked to the area in early morning, with the first tentative rays of sunlight beginning to break through the night sky. In the quiet of an early morning, with the area mostly to myself, the structure made a striking picture.

It is also fitting that in a city known for its abundant and energetic nightlife, nearby nightclubs were still bustling, even at this early hour. The nightclub on the left was particularly busy, with revelers still spilling out into the street. In the stillness, I spotted a man alone on a bench, his head in his hands. I couldn’t help wondering if he was one of the club’s patrons, a man whose party had come to an unpleasant end. I imagined he must have quite a story to tell.

Looking away from the clubbers, I focused the photograph on the library, with the city hall in the foreground. Waning darkness and the soft glow of streetlights lent the shot a soft, subdued quality. As the last of the night’s partiers trickled into the street, I packed up my equipment, pleased with the shot and silently amused by the man on the bench.

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Kursaal Bridge, San Sebastian

I was excited to see San Sebastian, one of the jewels of Basque country. The city is nestled into a crook of the Bay of Biscay, and is famous for its green hills and beautiful beaches.

Kursaal Bridge and Urumea River Embankment in the Evening, San Sebastian, Spain
June 2016, panorama from 3 horizontal images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 24mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 25 seconds, ISO 100, tripod.

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It’s a city of many personalities and moods, both youthful and laid-back and sophisticated with an Old World vibe. At virtually any point in the storied city, it is impossible not be charmed by its beauty.

I arrived in San Sebastian at nightfall. The city is particularly lively after the sun goes down; it’s a modern, innovative city noted for its culture, particularly its film festivals. But I was interested in another side of San Sebastian — I wanted a quiet moment to see the city apart from its nightlife.

I strolled through the Old Town along the Urumea River embankment. I stood at the foot of the Kursaal Bridge, looking across the river at the conference center of the same name. It’s a bit of a jarring juxtaposition: two cube-shaped, modern structures perched along the fringes of the Old Town. The buildings are controversial: beloved by some for their modern sensibilities, derided by others for obscuring the beaches and for their incongruity in the graceful Old Town.

I wasn’t here as an architecture critic. I wanted to capture the Kursaal Centre and the river by early evening light, and set up my tripod at the base of the bridge. The buildings may be a bit out of place, but against the river, I found them fascinating in early nightfall.

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Panorama of the Plaza del Pilar, Zaragoza

I awoke early one morning to photograph the Plaza del Pilar and Basilica of Our Lady of the Pilar.

Panorama of Plaza del Pilar and Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in the Morning, Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain
June 2016, panorama from 4 vertical images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 1.3 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.

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Setting up my tripod in modern-day Zaragoza, it was difficult, at first, to appreciate the basilica’s ancient origins and its importance to early Christianity. But in the quiet and cold of an early morning, with few people around, the site’s significance was easily apparent.

I’d visited the basilica before and was familiar with its story tied to St. James the Apostle and his quest to bring Christianity to Spain. The Basilica of Our Lady of the Pilar isn’t only revered because of its ancient ties to Christianity. The faithful believe that miracles have occurred here. Perhaps the most famous of these involved a beggar named Miguel Juan Pellicer in the seventeenth century. Pellicer was unable to work because of an amputated leg, and often went to the basilica to pray. Because of his faithfulness, the Virgin restored Pellicer’s leg, making the basilica a pilgrimage site for the faithful.

Over the centuries, the basilica and the surrounding plaza have become integral parts of Zaragosa. Each year, religious people from around the world come here for the Offering of Flowers, a ceremony in which they offer flowers to the Virgin del Pilar. More recently, in the twentieth century, the site was significant to the founding of the Opus Dei movement.

This morning, however, the ceremonies and the religious pilgrims don’t seem to matter. In the quiet, I can picture the faithful beggar Pellicer coming to make his supplications. With the breeze coming in from the Ebro and with early morning light just breaking through the clouds, I frame the shot with the Basilica at its center. It is lovely, serene, and easy to see why so many are drawn to the site.

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Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, Zaragoza

On the way from Costa Brava to San Sebastian, I stopped late one afternoon in Zaragoza, a sacred space along the Ebro River. It’s difficult not to be impressed by the imposing structure, particularly with the pastel hues of sunset reflecting on its brightly colored tile domes.

Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar and Ebro River in the Evening, Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain
June 2016, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 30 seconds, ND 5-stop filter, ISO 64, tripod.

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The basilica has an ancient history. The faithful believe that it was here, in 40 AD that St. James the Apostle sat along the Ebro River, contemplating his failure to bring Christianity to Spain. According to legend, the Virgin Mary appeared to him atop a pillar of jasper. She told him that his determination to bring Christianity to Spain would not be in vain and asked that he consecrate a church in her name. The result is the baroque Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, a fascinating work of architecture that is vaguely Byzantine in its sensibility.

Numerous churches have been built on the spot, each one larger and more ornate than the last. Begun in 1681, the structure was considerably modified in the following century. The sacred pillar — the one on which the Virgin appeared — is tucked away inside with only a small portion visible. Over the centuries, the faithful — popes and peasants alike — have lined up here to see the sacred stone, its surface polished smooth by years of supplication.

I was fortunate enough to arrive in Zaragoza at the end of the day as a brilliant pink sunset fell over the city. For the most beautiful view of the basilica, I set up my tripod on the Puente de Piedra bridge and framed the shot so that the striking building was the focal point. With the sunset falling over its brilliant tile domes, the basilica was awe-inspiring.

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Lloret de Mar in the Evening

Like most photographers, I’m drawn to the beautiful and scenic places when traveling. I love capturing a city’s landmarks, the places for which it is known and which shape its character. You can learn a lot about a place by the sites its people choose to celebrate and memorialize.

Lloret de Mar in the Evening, Catalonia, Spain
June 2016, panorama from 8 vertical images in 2 rows, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 13 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.

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During my time in Lloret de Mar, I photographed its iconic seafront and the beautiful — if often misidentified — castle at the eastern end of its promenade. But one of my favorite views of Lloret de Mar was the simple, unadorned view from my hotel balcony, which I found particularly charming by night. It’s not a famous or especially picturesque view, but I love it — it captures a lazy evening in a resort town on the coast, a lovely blue twilight by the sea.

On this particular night, the linden trees were in full bloom and the air was fragrant with their scent. On a still night by the sea, the faint light of early evening and the heady scent of linden made for a lovely end to my trip. I set up my tripod on the balcony and focused the shot on the curvature of the street below. I only wish that I could capture the scent of the trees in the photograph.

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