Sunday, May 09, 2010

Southern Spain

Spain.. how to summarize 10 days of a fabulous trip. I'll write a very brief synopsis of highlights.  You will just have to insert your own oohs and ahhs and imagine the happy smiles at all of the wonderful scenes, horses and people that we met.  We arrived and left with warm feelings about our adventure.  It was definately worth the long trip and the risk of stranding by the volcano in Iceland.
  Myself, several photographer friends, and a variety of photographers that were new to me had all signed up for the  photography workshop "Andalusia in Focus"  Organized by photographer Michael Steiger and given by Paula da Silva from Italy.
My trip was scheduled during that whole massive volcano airport shut down across Europe.  A couple of my traveling companions elected not to go, fearing being stuck in an airport somewhere. A few had to cancel because their flights went through London and that airport was totally shut down.  The rest of our group of intrepid adventurers elected to go as planned.  If a plane would get us there, we would worry about the rest as it came.  On the flight out of New York to Madrid I watched the movie Amelia Earhart. One quote attributed to her was that she could not live her life in a cocoon of safety.  I tend to agree.  Its nice for daily living, but sometimes you just have to go with it and 'get out there'.

I flew out of Portland to JFK at 6:30 am PDT, made my connecting flight and landed in Spain at 7:30 AM Madrid time with about 4 hrs before boarding the plane for the one hour flight to Jerez de la Frontera. By the third plane I was thoroughly tired of flying, but with a one hour flight, I could find a way to manage.  Once in Jerez, we picked up a rental car and headed south towards the coast of southern Spain and east towards Vejer.  The farther south and east we went, the fewer inhabitants we saw.  Soon we were in rolling green hills and fields as far as the eye could see.  The trees were beautiful.  a few farms, herds of cattle, horses, a few old farm house ruins tempted us as we drove. Things here are SO OLD compared to what we are used to.  Our first missed shot was of a white horse in a green field next to some ruins.  We wimpered and drove on.  Soon we saw the town of Vejer de la Frontera up on a hill, gleaming white like a big castle city.  We drove around the bottom of the big hill and just a couple of miles beyond, we found our lodgings and the restaurant el Valenciano, our "command central" for next several days.     We were happy to be here, impressed and excited by the surroundings and eager to find out what the week would bring. 
With a day to adjust to our jet lag, some of us went to the beach and toured some ancient Roman ruins and on to the ancient port city of Tarifa where we got a super view of Africa just 7 or 8 miles away.  The Mediterranean and the Atlantic converge at Tarifa. On this day we discovered just how valuable Michael Steiger's associate Herve Bonnaud was in showing us the less traveled parts of the area as well as acting as interpreter, guide, driver and just general wonderful friend to us.  He also is a very good photographer.
The week brought us a solid schedule of photographing breeding farms large and small as well as a training center for bullfighting horses, we attended a feria in Seville, did some photo shoots on the beach and in other areas with beautiful models and horses. We took a trip to Gibraltar, a tiny piece of land under UK rule. It was so strange to cross an imaginary line and suddenly go from listening to Spanish to British accents.  We went from the sunshine of Spain to the fog and gray of England as the clouds hung around the large monolith of Gibraltar.

We had a wonderful time photographing and sharing at the workshop.  Paula encouraged us to work out of our comfort zone at times, and at other times, to center our selves and tune into the horses that we were photographing.  I used my wide angle more than I normally would, and it worked well for getting a different perspective on a herd of PRE mares and foals.  One morning a few of us went back to a pasture that consisted of yearling to 3 yr old fillies in a lush green field with a grove of trees and the ruins of a stables.  So scenic!  We enjoyed sitting with the horses and seeing which ones wanted to be our photo subjects.   Sometimes we would get mobbed as they were quite friendly.
To be continued...

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