I went to the El Rastro, the weekly flea market and walked around a bit. Here’s what I saw.
Vendors set up tables and racks all along this tree-lined street in addition to a couple surrounding ones. I wasn’t going for the shopping, but there were a few thousand roaming among the hundreds of tents.
What!? He’s reading a newspa-what? Newspaper? Is that one of those things that come from trees and have yesterday’s news? How’d he find one of those? That’s definitely worthy of tossing a few coins in his cup.
The following frames are from various outings from previous weeks, not El Rastro.
I was taking a break in front of the Prado museum during a walk and noticed some pretty tame, hungry birds hopping around. I set up my camera with a MF 55mm f/3.5 macro lens and attached a cable release. While on continuous high speed, I lined my hand up with where I had the focus set. Once one of my feathered friends slipped into the sliver of in-focus area and came in to grab the food from my fingers, I hammered down on the release. This is the result.
Snap from my grocery store, Alcampo, in Madrid.
This is Comillas Pontifical University’s most recognized architectural feature. It’s equivalent to UD’s Immaculate Conception Chapel.
I went out for a walk around town looking for lines. I found some.
These arches were one block away from my flat in Madrid!
This is the Puerta de Atocha train station in downtown Madrid. It was the site of the terrorist bombing back in 2004 that killed 191 people.
I saw a picture online of this station when I first came to Madrid, and it took me months to finally get to the area. The station and surrounding buildings have lines, lines, and more lines. I highly recommend it to photographers visiting Madrid. And I didn’t even get talked to or stopped by any overzealous, First Amendment-trampling rent-a-cops or police officers like I would surely have encountered in the States! Fantastic!
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Easter Sunday Mass at the world’s largest Gothic cathedral? OK, I guess so.
After staying up late with my friends (coincidentally ran into them at the hostel), we were out the door before the sun was even through its last REM cycle. The mission objective: (good) seats. Our recon reported that Mass started around 9. We figured we’d need lead time of maybe an hour to beat the crowd on the most important day of the year at the third-largest church in the world within a very Catholic country. We wound our way through the streets of Sevilla and made it to the cathedral with plenty of time. By this time, the maintenance man was still doing his last-minute power washing of the side entrance.
By 8:05 a.m., our side entrance finally opens. We’re there in plenty of time. We walk in and boom. This place is huge! While I haven’t seen the other biggest churches in the world, this one was certainly not your grandmother’s church.
It even is the home to Christopher Columbus’ tomb? Not too shabby.
After a few minutes of ohh-ing and ahh-ing at the tall, vaulted ceilings and seeing the processions pass through the church (see below), we started to think something was up. Why haven’t any priests been seen? There are only 40 people coming to Mass? It is Easter, right? After some murmurs move through the small congregation, we finally get word that our Internet-recon was bad. God gave us bad intel!? Mass starts at 11?! You mean we didn’t have to wake up at 5 a.m.? Awesome.
After blowing some time by filling our grumbling bellies with food and coffee at a restaurant around the corner, the time had finally come.
This time around, a familiar incense fragrance floated throughout the church as people were packing in and the organ began to bellow.
This time the two girls (two of our friends bailed after breakfast for naps back at the hostel) and I got seats in the second row on one of the wings. Not too shabby.
After songs- some familiar, some not- a few bows, a handful of handshakes, and a few faintly muttered Spanish phrases, I made it. First Spanish Mass= mission accomplished. Bonus points for it being on Easter… even if it does perpetuate the “Christmas and Easter Catholic” stereotype. If only Fr. Gene was still leading Sunday Mass at UD…
After some lunch and relaxing, I decided I had to find a place called Plaza de España that everyone was raving about. (I had hoped to stumble upon it the day prior.)
I could have spent hours there watching the light and shadows change. So many great lines, colors, and architecture. You might have recognized it from Star Wars Episode II.
After sweating it out in the Plaza, my friends and I had reservations for a flamenco show at a museum. Yes, the purists out there will scream and shout about that not being real flamenco, but hey, finding the authentic stuff was harder than it seems. While it probably wasn’t the world’s greatest, it was still an enjoyable way to finish up our last evening in Sevilla.
After a pleasant dinner at an Italian restaurant near the cathedral, we ended up walking to Plaza de España again. I was only able to squeeze off maybe a couple dozen frames while trying to cradle my camera on the curved, colored, ceramic railing before a security guard scooted us out of the park due to closing time. I would have really liked to have had time to run to the hostel for my tripod and spend some quality time playing with the lights and water reflections. Next time, perhaps.
With that, it was back to the hostel for some sleep, packing up and riding the high-speed AVE through the beautiful southern countryside to Madrid.
Spain = superb.
On the heels of a nice day trip to Cadiz, I found myself on another beautiful day in Andalusia with plenty of time. Excellent. Let’s shoot, shall we?
While this may not look like much food, this is my impression of an average Spanish breakfast. That’s a cup of café con leche (coffee) and bocadillo de jamón (Iberian ham on bread).
Before coming to Spain, I had only ever purchased/tried to drink a cup of coffee once before. It was a terrible experience, and needless to say, I didn’t finish the cup. When I got to Spain, I saw everyone always drinking café con leche. Hey, I came abroad to see how people do it over here. One day at school a few weeks back, I mustered up my courage and got myself a cup. After the first sip, my face cringed like a baby that just poohed his diaper. “How can you all drink this stuff?” In a spirit of penance, I finished the cup.
Right before the rain came in Cadiz yesterday, I ordered another cup hoping my mom’s assertion that ‘taste buds change over time’ would ring true. It did! And who knew, sugar helps! So on this morning, I ordered it again. I’m learning to like this tasty way of jump-starting the morning.
These floats aren’t driven by machine power; it’s all man power. As the floats wind their way through the brick streets, new groups of men trade places with the sweat-soaked ones that have been giving the float its feet.
One more post remaining from spring break! Stay tuned!
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If you missed part one, it’s here. I made a friend on the bus coming back from Granada. Mar lives in Madrid, but she’s originally from Cadiz. She offered to show me around Cadiz if I was in Cadiz the same day she was in the area. Personal tour guide? Yes, please! So on the second day in Sevilla, I was off to Cadiz.
I thought I woke up early, but after speaking with the front desk folks at the hostel, they said I’d have no chance of making it to Santa Justa station by foot in time. With many of the roads blocked for the Good Friday procession routes, my choices were take a cab or miss my train. Cool. Although the ticket wasn’t expensive, I didn’t to miss the train. As I was running to the cab corral a few blocks away, I grabbed this frame as the sun was throwing out some amazing light as it was streaming through the streets of Sevilla downtown.
After a cab ride that seemed to take forever with all the traffic and road closures causing more than enough congestion around the city, I made it to the station, and all-out sprinted to my train. Made it. Whew.
Once I got to Cadiz, within my second cup of café con leche, the ominous clouds that had been rolling in finally exploded. It rained, and it rained hard. Luckily within an hour or two, it cleared up and gave way to some beautiful light and a bright blue sky for me to play with all day.
Deep blue skies courtesy of the Nikon 77mm circular polarizer.
After a solid day of picture making and walking around, I was headed back to Sevilla on the last train from Cadiz. It was definitely worth a day trip, but it’s by no means big. One day was enough for me.
After a two hour train ride, I was back at Santa Justa station. I finally took time to work with all its symmetry and lines.
On my way back to my hostel, I ran into a paso (procession). This is what Sevilla is famous for. I’ll let Wikipedia do the talking here. What they don’t tell you on Wikipedia is that if you get caught in one of these processions, you better not have to go to the bathroom or have anywhere to be. A tour guide said he was trapped for hours during one of the pasos. They happen all week in Sevilla, but also to a lesser extent in other cities around Spain.
After a long day of shooting and walking (that seems to be the theme with my trips around Spain), I was beat and ready to hit the hay.
Next up will be from my second day in Sevilla.
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Spaniards call Easter break “Semana Santa” (Holy Week). I was off to Sevilla and Cadiz in Andalusia in the south of Spain for a few days of picture making. This is day one and part one of the trip.
If one was to drive to Sevilla without stopping, it’d take just under 6 hours. I rode the high speed train on the right. At speeds near 186 mph, I was there in 2.5. Fantastic! These trains were smooth-riding, had more leg room than airplanes, two AC outlets at each couple of seats, bathrooms, a dining car, movies, complimentary headphones, and no small overhead compartments that I had to worry about getting my stuffed ThinkTank bag into. To top it off, there were no stops (at least on the trip there), and I got to see the countryside.
This was one of my very favorite parts of Sevilla. It is the world’s largest wooden structure. I watched a video about it a few days ago, and found out there’s a walkway on top. I wish I would have known that was an option when I was there! Oh, and it only cost a cool 90 million euros to build!
My next post will be all about my day trip to Cadiz. If you have comments, drop them below. Thanks for stopping by.
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29m, Huelga General.
I’m taking a politics of Spain class, and when my professor mentioned a nationwide strike, I got excited. He explained in his broken English that it had happened a couple times before with varying levels of effectiveness. As an adrenaline-seeking photojournalist, I was hoping for big things.
As most of my friends were prepping for their departures from Madrid and Spain for Semana Santa (Spring Break), I was planning how I was going to get downtown to cover the biggest protest Madrid has seen in years. Public transport was putting out notices of reduced services, flights in and out of the country were being canceled, countless businesses were closed, and at least one television station was not broadcasting regular programming.
As clocks struck midnight in downtown Madrid, there were already reports of protesters taking to the street to kick off the 24-hour strike. There were some reports of minor damage and fires, but people were definitely getting rowdy. Twitter was lighting up with hashtags of #29m and #huelgageneral.
Classes were still on at Comillas, but I figured that I’d have an alternate day of learning. I came to learn about Spain, Madrid, culture, and people not just in the classroom but in the streets too. I was just hoping the trains were running so I could to downtown. Madrid Metro said about 30% of the trains would be running.
This busted window was the most destruction I saw the whole day. It was a much quieter here than in Barcelona where riots and fires broke out amid the protests.
The protesters went where ever they wanted. There were police officers surrounding the group. Wherever the protesters went, the police just shut down the streets or intersection. Traffic was forced to turn around and try to find another route through the city. Regarding the police, they were very well behaved. They let the protesters do their thing with minimal interference. I was glad to see them keep their cool.
Protesters plastered what seemed to be every window and wall in the city with stickers regarding the Strike.
After a few hours of essentially taking a walking tour of downtown Madrid while photographing thousands of my closest friends, I went back home to unload cards, grab some food, and sit down until I head back out for the evening portion of the protests.
After I got a couple calories in me, I stumbled upon a website that had a safety advisory for Americans in Madrid. It said to stay clear of downtown because there were going to be an estimated 250,000 protesting around 6 p.m. Wow! It was maybe 5:30 p.m. and it takes a good 45 minutes by Metro to get to the heart of downtown (and that’s with all the trains running). Needless to say, I hurriedly packed up and started for downtown.
I’ve never seen more people stuff into one car than I did during the Strike. At Plaza de Castilla, wait times of 16 minutes weren’t uncommon. Normally, trains come every 4 minutes. This was the train I wanted to get on, but obviously, that wasn’t going to happen. It took me just under 1 hr and 30 mins to get downtown.
For people who know Madrid, this was taken in front of the Metropolis building. The crowd stretched all the way past Cibeles and started partially up the hill toward Puerta de Alcalá.
The unions that backed the nationwide strike said approximately 900,000 people participated in the evening rally that concluded with the speeches. The media reported numbers significantly less. Regardless, trust me when I say that there were a ton of people. This was the biggest crowd I have ever witnessed or been a part of. Those people all the way down this street had no chance of getting into the main area of Puerta del Sol as it was already completely filled. At left is the famous Madrid bear and tree being used as a platform by resourceful photogs. (One of those guys is from AFP. He had a nice frame from there.) Here’s a shot from AFP that’s one of the only pictures I’ve seen of me from the day. I’m right between the A and F wearing plaid with a red backpack.
Eleven hours of shooting, numerous kilometers walked, half a million people or so, and over 2,600 frames later, I was done. I had a blast covering my first large-scale protest.
I emailed one of my professors the next day. He told me that out of the four groups he teaches on Thursdays, only 5 students made it (less than 1%) to class. I guess it was a good thing I didn’t go after all.
Lessons learned & keys to success for next time: 1. Bring twice the water you think you need. 2. Bring a monopod for the Hail Marys over the crowd. 3. Two camera bodies are a huge time saver. 4. Don’t forget to have someone take a picture of you in the sea of people. 5. Earplugs. Enough said. 6. If you know this is going to be history in the making, for a couple hours, rent a room in the hotel that surrounds the area to get a shot from this perspective. 7. Line up an editorial client beforehand so you can have a blast and get paid/published!
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Weather forecast: sunny and dry. School/work: none. Three day weekend: of course. Perfect recipe for a weekend out of Madrid.
My friend from Comillas, Avery, and I decided late on a Thursday night last month that we should get out of Madrid. Just a few hours later, we were sitting on a bus headed for Granada in the southern autonomous community of Andalusia for the weekend. The trip only took four and a half hours of actual driving and took us through scenic mountains and pretty countryside. Regarding the transportation, this bus wasn’t your average American Greyhound. In fact, this cruiser put all Greyhounds to shame. It was on time, very clean, had TVs throughout, had no unusual stench, no mystery stickiness on the floor, and had comfortable seats. Pretty great for around 25€ round trip. OK, I’ll let some pictures do the story-telling.
I asked the front desk at the hostel (White Nest Hostel– highly recommended. Clean, extremely friendly, good location, free Wi-Fi, reasonable price, hot water.) where the best photo spots were, and she recommended a few streets north of the main drag that had some nice graffiti.
The locals hang out and drink, while the artisans sell their trinkets and jewelry to the other tourists that hear about this great spot (and have the endurance for the hike up the hilly, rough streets).
We booked the ~14€ tour tickets for Alhambra. It was definitely worth the $18.75. If you’re planning a visit, book the tickets one day in advance and have a solid 3 hours to see everything. We bought tickets for the 2 p.m. slot, could see everything, and the light was great throughout.
I took a peek through the Granada postcards and a coffee table book of photographs when we were downtown. They gave me some solid ideas on where to shoot.
This kind of detail was everywhere. Whatever you’re imagining as “everywhere,” triple it. The intricate designs were amazing.
It’s amazing to be walking through and shooting a 14th century castle.
After Alhambra, there’s also the Generalife Palace that is included with the ticket. We had to zip through this area to catch our bus back to Madrid, but I still managed a few frames.
There are rows and rows of olive trees much of the way to Madrid.
We had a great sky and sunset as we were riding through the mountains back home.
It was a fun weekend of picture-making and exploring.
A few comments on street shooting. It ain’t easy. There seem to be infinite options. Props to folks that shoot it and shoot it well. It’s an ongoing challenge for me. Street shooting makes me miss my sport shooting days at UD.
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I finally visited Parque del Retiro in downtown Madrid in late February. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Let’s just say the park exceeded my expectations. It’s April now, and I’ve gone back a couple of times. More frames from those times coming in a later post.
There were some rollerbladers skating in the street in the park. They were doing some fun stunts, like the limbo, for a small crowd of park-goers that were watching.I threw out a couple Speedlights and tried to make some frames. It seems that many college-age Spaniards know a little English. It’s convenient and helpful. They were fun to shoot and watch.
I don’t know if I have ever found a BMX-er, rollerblader, skateboarder, etc. who wasn’t cool with me taking pictures of them doing his/her stuff. Cool folks.
Thanks to the skaters for letting me shoot y’all. I’ll see y’all around.
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A few friends and I took a day trip to Toledo, a quick 48 minute bus ride from Madrid, a number of weeks ago. We just stayed a few hours. This is what I saw.
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