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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Castle on the Beach, Lloret de Mar

The Costa Brava is famous for — among other things — its rocky cliffs topped with picturesque medieval castles. At the eastern end of the Lloret de Mar seafront is a particularly lovely example. Its stone facade and turrets are very likely what most people imagine when they picture a medieval castle.

Castle on Lloret De Mar Beach in the Evening, Catalonia, Spain
June 2016, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 29mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 120 seconds, ND 5-stop filter, ISO 100, tripod.

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This postcard-worthy castle is not, in fact, what it appears to be: frequently misidentified as the Castle of San Joan, the castle which overlooks a small, rocky lagoon in Lloret de Mar is actually a modern private home designed and built to look the genuine article. The real Castle of San Joan was built in the 11th century. Its history has been so punctuated by warfare and disaster that little remains of the original structure; earthquakes in the 1400s and a British bombardment in 1805 have left little more than rubble to mark its existence.

So the lovely castle perched at the eastern end of Lloret de Mar is not a relic of the Middle Ages, although plenty of well-meaning tourists and photographers have misidentified it as such. It’s no less scenic for being modern. Its appearance and location make it one of the city’s landmarks and a great subject for a photograph. I went early the next evening, as dusk was settling over the seafront. I thought the deep blue sky and mist-like waves coming in from the sea made an especially evocative shot, and I could understand why so many tourists mistake it for the real Castle San Joan.

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Lloret de Mar Seafront in the Morning

The next morning, I awoke early with the intention of photographing the promenade from the opposite end. I set up my tripod before the sun was up and with the moon still visible.

Panorama of Lloret de Mar Seafront in the Evening, Lloret de Mar, Catalonia, Spain
June 2016, panorama from 3 horizontal images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 30mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 6 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.

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Lloret de Mar is regarded — somewhat unfairly — as a contrived town built solely for the purpose of attracting tourists. It’s true that the area reigns supreme in the world of packaged holiday tours, and for that reason, its image suffers in comparison to other, more authentic Spanish towns.

But I found LLoret de Mar and the whole of the Costa Brava unfailingly lovely. I was charmed by its wooded coves, rocky cliffs, and walled medieval towns. I found that beneath the tourist-friendly veneer is a region rich with history and culture, as well as abundant natural beauty. I don’t think it’s at all coincidental that the area inspired two of the twentieth century’s great artists — Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.

It was an uncommonly cool morning for summer when I prepared for the shot. The early hour and the full moon, still visible, gave the shot a blue-hued, mystical quality, a very different view of the town than one normally sees. I again used a panoramic shot to capture the expanse of Lloret de Mar’s lovely promenade.

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Lloret de Mar Seafront in the Evening

It’s a place of paradoxes. Encompassing some of Spain’s most popular tourist destinations, the very places one thinks of when picturing “Spain,” Catalonia is also a region that is fiercely independent, where citizens still see themselves as distinct from the rest of the country.

Panorama of Lloret de Mar Seafront in the Evening, Lloret de Mar, Catalonia, Spain
June 2016, panorama from 3 horizontal images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 25 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.

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Even its geography is etched with stark contrasts: the peaks of the Pyrenees and the sun-drenched resort areas of the Costa Brava.

I came to the Costa Brava for a family vacation during the summer. With so much natural beauty, however, I knew I would spend a good deal of the trip photographing the area’s sights. The Costa Brava is famous — and with good reason — for its beaches and its resorts; as it’s only a short drive from Barcelona and a quick flight from most of the rest of Europe, it’s a consistently popular holiday spot.

But there are paradoxes here, as well. For all of the modern resorts and its buzzing, nonstop party atmosphere, there are glimpses of an ancient past. Lloret de Mar, in particular, has a history spanning a millennium; the first written references to the city date to 966.

I chose to photograph Lloret de Mar on my first evening in the city. I centered the shot on the city’s iconic seafront. I set up my tripod at the western part of the main promenade — the Passeig d’Agusti Font — just as a spectacular sunset fell over the city. Using a panoramic technique, I was able to capture the full expanse of the seafront and the pastel hues of the fading sun.

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Grossmunster Church in the Morning, Zurich

On my last day in Zurich, I decided to photograph Grossmunster again, this time from a different vantage point. This time, I wanted the statue of Hans Waldmann in the shot.

Grossmunster Church and Mayor Hans Waldmann Statue in the Morning, Zurich, Switzerland
June 2016, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 5 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.

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A hero of the Burgundian Wars, Waldmann led the Swiss Confederates to victory against Charles the Bold. From a humble background, Waldmann eventually became one of the leading citizens of Zurich and was elected mayor of the city.

The statue, of a lordly Waldmann on horseback, would have been unthinkable at the time of his death. Though once a military hero, Waldmann’s imposition of high taxes made him unpopular and in 1489 he was overthrown by peasants from the surrounding villages. In April of that year, he was sentenced to death and beheaded.

By the twentieth century, Waldmann’s reputation improved. A number of Zurich citizens saw his death as little more than a political assassination. The statue of Waldmann, which overlooks the Munsterbrucke, was unveiled in 1937.

I went back to Grossmunster early in the morning. This time, I wanted to photograph the church will all the lines leading to it, making it the focal point of the photograph. The bridge, its railings, and even the eternally riding Waldmann all focus the viewer’s attention towards Grossmunster.

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Panorama of Zurich in the Evening

At night, Zurich sheds some of its serious, business-minded facade.

Zurich Skyline and Limmat River in the Evening, Zurich, Switzerland
June 2016, panorama from 3 horizontal images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 26mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 15 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.

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Though it’s a city of more than three hundred banks, it’s also a city which has been transformed by youth movements in the latter half of the twentieth century, and Zurich by night is a far different place than Zurich by day.

Still fascinated by Zurich, I decided to take another photo of the city’s skyline, this time from a different angle. I wanted a view of the city at night, with light reflected in the Limmat River. I found a spot further along the river, from a different bridge, with a more distant view of the city’s landmarks.

Though taking the photo from a different vantage point, I again framed the shot so that the iconic steeple of Fraumunster is central. I used a long exposure to smooth the water of the Limmat so that the light is reflected nicely. Against a deep blue sky and gathering nightfall, I found the city particularly lovely, with just the suggestion of the energy that hums beneath its staid exterior.

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Zurich Skyline and Limmat River

After spending several days in Zurich, it’s a bit strange to me that it doesn’t get the attention of other European cities.

Zurich Skyline and Limmat River in the Evening, Zurich, Switzerland
June 2016, panorama from 4 vertical images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 8 seconds, ISO 31, tripod.

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It’s Paris, London, and Barcelona that the tourists flock to. Even in Switzerland, Zurich is often unfavorably compared to Geneva, Lucerne, and Lugano. Perhaps it’s because of Zurich’s role as the country’s business and financial center; there is no mistaking the city’s buttoned-down, serious vibe. But I found the city to be lovely and was charmed by it immediately.

After photographing some of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, I decided to return on another evening and take a panoramic shot of Zurich at dusk, when clouds and the fading daylight made for a particularly lovely light. In my research on Zurich, I’d found few panoramic shots from the river, which is an especially beautiful view of the city.

I wanted to capture this beautiful city and its landmarks in one photograph, and frame it in such a way that it’s those landmarks that viewers notice, rather than the sky or the river. I wanted the verdigris spire of Fraumunster and the iconic double towers of Grossmunster to be the focal point of the photograph. To capture this view, I used a 5-stop ND filter to achieve a long exposure so that the river would be smoothed, focusing the viewer’s attention on the skyline. I am happy with the results of my experimentation, and I think viewers can see why I find Zurich so charming.

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View of Zurich from Lindenhoff Hill

While I found Zurich enchanting by either early morning light or in the faint shadows of early evening, on this day I chose to photograph the city in midday. I chose to set up my tripod on Lindenhof Hill, the famous point that overlooks the city.

View of Zurich and Limmat River from Lindenhof Hill, Zurich, Switzerland
June 2016, single image, focal length 16mm, aperture f/6.3, shutter speed 251 seconds, ISO 100, 15-stop ND filter, tripod.

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Lindenhof has been the site of a Roman fort and palaces built by a grandson of Charlemagne, but now it is one of the city’s most popular spots. It offers one of the best views of the city and is almost always crowded with people — locals and tourists alike — enjoying Zurich from its best vantage point.

Although it was midday, the weather was overcast and heavy, lavender-gray clouds hung low over the city. They made a dramatic backdrop for the city skyline. I wanted to make the most of the dramatic sky, so I decided to use a very long exposure of about 250 seconds. To get the shot, I used a 15-stop neutral density, allowing 32,000 times less light into my lens. With such a long exposure, the hustle of a city at midday is barely noticeable; instead, it’s still and ethereal. The river is mirror-like and the clouds are blurry and evocative.

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Fraumunster Church in the Morning, Zurich

After photographing Fraumunster Church by twilight the day before, I decided to go back and photograph it again in early morning light, before the city awoke and the tourists descended.

Panorama of Helmhaus and Fraumunster Church in the Morning, Zurich, Switzerland
June 2016, panorama from 2 horizontal images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 17mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 13 seconds, ISO 100, tripod.

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It’s difficult not to be impressed by the lovely church, its spire instantly recognizable over Munsterhof Square, a lovely public space built improbably on the site of a pig market.

Aside from its blue-green spire, it’s the windows of Fraumunster that capture you; long, thin panels by Marc Chagall, each done in a predominant color. A person can’t help but be awed standing underneath those windows, bathed in blue light created by the hands of Chagall.

I woke early, while the city was still dark, and while most of Zurich still slept, I carried my equipment along the Limmat. The sun was beginning to break by the time I reached the Helmhaus and began to set up for the shot. For this one, I wanted a wide shot with the Helmhaus in the foreground and the lovely, green-spired Fraumunster in the background. Shooting from a slightly elevated position, I used a panoramic technique to capture the old city from this vantage point. In the faint light of a new day, the church was particularly charming.

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Fraumunster Church in the Evening, Zurich

It’s not the largest or most elegant church in Europe. It pales next to Notre Dame or Westminster. But among the churches of Zurich, it is certainly one of the loveliest and most recognizable, its thin spire dominating the skyline over the Limmat River.

Fraumunster Church and Limmat River in the Evening, Zurich, Switzerland
June 2016, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 5 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.

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The church has occupied this spot near Paradeplatz since AD 853, when it was built by King Louis the German as an abbey for aristocratic women. Perched at the west end of the Munsterbrucke, the pedestrian bridge crossing the Limmat, Fraumunster is a landmark in the medieval part of Zurich.

Though the church has ancient origins, its most characteristic feature (aside from its verdigris spire) is the stained glass windows by Marc Chagall installed in 1970. The artist was in his 80s when his five windows were installed in the church, each one depicting a different Biblical story. Each long panel was created in a dominant color, which has the effect of bathing the church in brightly colored light.

In the late evening, when I came to Fraumunster, the bridge and the church are draped in the soft glow of twilight against a backdrop of dramatic clouds. I photographed the church from the behind the gentle curve of the Munsterbrucke and let the church’s spire form the focal point of the photograph, with the lighting of the bridge and the street for subtle illumination.

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