Tag Archives: Spain

The Gate Of Knowledge, Bay of Biscay

Asturias is a region that continually rewards travelers. The contrast of the area’s rich green coastline as it reaches the deep blue of the Atlantic is breathtaking and the Picos de Europa — a little-known mountain range — is profoundly beautiful. Every day seemed to reveal another hidden treasure to me and I hated the thought of leaving.

The Gate Of Knowledge, Playa La Vallina in the Evening, Asturias, Spain
March 2018, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 21 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 141 seconds, ISO 64, ND 10-stop filter, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>

One of these treasures was Playa La Vallina, one of the area’s least occupied beaches. It’s a pebble beach and reaching it requires a bit of a trek. There are no amenities at Playa La Vallina and tourists are scarce, which made it an even more attractive subject for photographs.

The walk from the car park to the beach was something of a hike. I walked a long way through a eucalyptus grove and that distinct aroma permeated the air. Along the way, there were several waterfalls — more hidden treasures — and since I was in no hurry, I stopped and swam in one. Before I even made it to the beach, it was one of the best days I had in Spain.

By the time I got to the beach, it was well into the afternoon and the sun was low over the horizon. The isolation of Playa La Vallina and the characteristic rock formations of Spain’s coast made it a great place to shoot. I found what I think was the most remarkable rock formation along that stretch of coastline — a jagged, triangular slab of rock that reminded me of the Delta character from the Greek alphabet which is widely used in math and physics. I began to think of it as the Gate of Knowledge.

After a leisurely, eucalyptus-infused afternoon, I set up my camera as the sun began to set. A fine mist was emerging from the water’s surface and pink tendrils of sunlight hung gently over the sea. It was the end of a memorable day and I think the photograph captures what I felt at that moment — complete peace and contentment.

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No Man’s Land, Bay of Biscay

My travels along Spain’s northern coast continued with Asturias. Here, the lush green hills of the area sloped down to the sea, where time and the Atlantic carved the coastline into rocky coves and curious formations. It’s a remarkably picturesque part of Spain, where the Picos de Europa Mountains form a backdrop for the coast.

No Man's Land, Playa de La Gueirua in the Morning, Asturias, Spain
March 2018, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 26 mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 122 seconds, ISO 64, ND 10-stop filter, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>

As I traveled along Spain’s coastline, I was drawn repeatedly to the rock formations at the sea’s edge. I was continually amazed by what nature was capable of and the power that the Atlantic could exert on the landscape.

Here, I was particularly entranced by the Playa de La Gueirua, one of the more remote beaches in the area, but also one of the most photographed. It took some effort to reach the spot, but it was worth the time and trouble — the rock formations here are particularly striking and it came to be one of my favorite locations along the northern coast.

The rock formations here are remarkable. Beautiful but somewhat menacing, the jagged spires seem to guard some unwelcoming kingdom beneath the sea. I wanted to capture just the right mood here — both the beauty of the place, but also the suggestion of danger and the sense of something ominous beneath the waves.

I tried several different compositions to capture what I felt at Playa de La Gueirua, but ultimately, I decided the best way to capture the coastline here was to photograph it in early morning. Early morning was a particularly magical time along the coast — I didn’t have to share the space with tourists and with the last of the night’s mist still in the air, it felt mystical, as if I had stepped into a distant world.

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The Gate of Math, Bay of Biscay

I found myself becoming more and more charmed by the northern coast of Spain with each day that passed. It was an unexpected kind of place — not the sunny, languorous Spain of the Mediterranean coast, but a jagged, slightly forbidding place that felt very different than the Spain I’d imagined for years. It felt remote, as if I were standing on the edge of the world.

The Gate of Math, Urro del Manzano Rocks in the Morning, Liencres, Cantabria, Spain
March 2018, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 32 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 21 seconds, ISO 31, ND 5-stop filter, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>

It’s a place where the Atlantic and the Bay of Biscay have, over millennia, carved the coastline into sharp, unlikely formations. It’s less well-known than Spain’s Mediterranean coast and the tourists here are mostly locals taking short holidays. The comparative lack of tourists just added to my sense of being alone at the rough edge of civilization.

One of the more interesting rock formations along this stretch of the Cantabria coast is the Gate of Math, which I named so because of its resemblance to the symbol for Pi. Easily one of the most picturesque spots along a singularly beautiful coastline, I was determined to find the best angle to capture the formation.

After trying several different views of the rock, I settled on the most straightforward, with the Gate of Math centered in the photograph. A storm was coming in, and I focused the formation with the clouds in the background, with just the faintest suggestion of danger on the horizon. I used a long exposure and an ND 5-stop filter to smooth the water and waves in the foreground to minimize distractions.

I think the end result is striking — your eyes are drawn to the curious rock formation, which seems to hover just above the water, and the clouds on the horizon give a hint of something ominous.

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Dragonstone, Bay of Biscay

You might have seen this place before. This rocky outcropping on the northern coast of Spain has made appearances in Game of Thrones as Dragonstone, the ancestral seat of the House of Targaryen. The filmmakers, of course, used computer graphics to add the Targaryen castle at the island’s peak, as well as the occasional dragon flying overhead.

Dragonstone, Gaztelugatxe and San Juan Church in the Morning, Basque Country, Spain
March 2018, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 242 seconds, ISO 64, ND 10-stop filter, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>

But even with that modern technology and computer animation can do, I was unprepared for Gaztelugatxe, crowned at its highest point by San Juan Church. The island wasn’t my primary interest on this particular jaunt; I went with the intention of photographing the rock formations for which this stretch of coastline is famous.

But it’s impossible to be near this part of Spain’s coast and not be entranced by Gaztelugatxe. That’s the effect that the island has on people — it simply isn’t possible to look away. It isn’t difficult to see why the filmmakers behind Game of Thrones chose this location; perched on a jagged sliver of rock on the edge of Europe, it feels far removed from the modern world. It seems to exist in another place and time.

I photographed the rock formations but soon realized that the island itself would make the best photographs. To get this shot, I climbed 50 meters up an adjacent cliff. It was a vertiginous climb up a barely-usable path and it involved a certain degree of danger, but it was worth it. It was early morning and the last of the mist was burning away. The tourists and hikers had not yet arrived. From my vantage point, Gaztelugatze seemed to hover just above the water, ethereal and beautiful, tethered to the mainland by a ribbon of rocks and a manmade bridge.

I got the shots, packed my camera, and prepared to climb back down the cliff and back into reality.

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The Gate of the Winds, Bay of Biscay

The Bay of Biscay, located along western France and northern Spain, is regarded as one of the world’s most treacherous bodies of water. It has long been notorious among sailors for its fierce storms and rough waters. But in my travels I’ve learned that incredible beauty is sometimes created from a combination of time and the elements, and this is especially true along the northern coast of Spain.

The Gate of the Winds, Praia das Catedrais in the Evening, Galicia, Spain
March 2018, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 221 seconds, ISO 31, ND 5-stop filter, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>

Spain’s rugged northern coast has been pounded for centuries by the sea. And the result is a breathtaking — and often hidden — masterwork of nature known as Prais das Catedrais, or Cathedrals Beach. As if taking a cue from Medieval Europe, nature has carved this rocky coastline into a series of arches and flying buttresses not unlike those that grace Gothic cathedrals. And just like those cathedrals, the jagged formations along Prais das Catedrais inspire a sense of wonder.

At high tide, the water from the bay comes in with such force at such a volume that these rocky carvings are completely inundated. It’s possible to stand along this jagged edge of Spain and have no idea of the formations below the surface. But when the water recedes, it reveals contours seemingly carved by a craftsman beneath the water’s surface.

When I traveled to northern Spain, I hoped to be able to photograph these formations from the beach, since that’s the angle that allows you to best appreciate arches like the ones at Prais das Catedrais. But it wasn’t possible — the beach was under water for most of my trip. Instead, I climbed to the top of a cliff 20-30 meters above the water for my photographs. Even at that height, the Bay of Biscay was fearsome, and more than once both I and my camera were lashed by waves. Remembering that beauty is often created from time and the elements, I decided to let nature have its way with the beach and I exercised patience in getting my photographs. The result is a photograph that captures the rugged beauty of the Galician coastline, and the majestic arch that I call the Gate of the Winds.

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Guggenheim Museum in the Evening, Bilbao

I was fortunate to spend the early part of this year traveling in northern Spain, where the city of Bilbao served as my gateway to the country. It’s a fascinating city filled with incredible architecture, and the countryside beyond Bilbao is equally striking.

Salbeko Zubia Bridge and Guggenheim Museum in the Evening, Bilbao, Spain
March 2018, crop from panorama from 5 vertical shots, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 5 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.

The coastline of northern Spain is as breathtaking as one would imagine — I find the contrast of intricate harsh rock formations against the deep blue of the sea to be especially beautiful. I was enchanted by this rugged edge of Europe and as you’ll see in the coming weeks, it was very much a working holiday for me. I was drawn again and again to the coastline, camera and tripod in hands, and I hope you enjoy my upcoming fine art collection as much as I enjoyed photographing that striking landscape.

Within Bilbao, it was the architecture that most interested me. Once an industrial city, Bilbao transformed itself over the last couple of decades into a sleek, modern city known for its innovative architecture. Principal among the city’s landmarks is the Guggenheim Museum, the work of acclaimed American architect Frank Gehry. With its shimmering titanium coating and soaring lines and curves, the Guggenheim is instantly recognizable, an iconic city landmark.

One of my first photographs of the Guggenheim was in early evening against a slightly overcast sky. I wanted a photograph that captured two of the city’s landmarks — not only the museum but the Salbeko Zubia Bridge as well — with night slowly falling over the city. I think the lights of Bilbao reflected in the facade of the Guggenheim are particularly lovely, and an appropriate way to remember this inventive city.

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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.

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.

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.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>

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.

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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