Tag Archives: Spain
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.
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.
A bit later, after photographing the Biblioteca Municipal, I walked further out along the beach.
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.
It’s fitting that in 2016’s San Sebastian is European City of Culture, I chose to take a photograph of the Biblioteca Municipal.
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.
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.
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.
I awoke early one morning to photograph the Plaza del Pilar and Basilica of Our Lady of the Pilar.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.