Paul M., one of our travelers, had the opportunity to explore beautiful coastal cities on our Barcelona, Southern France & the Italian Riviera tour—and he captured some gorgeous photos along the way. We caught up with Paul to hear about his favorite photos, what inspires him and what he loved most about his trip.
Go Ahead: Had you ever been to Spain, France or Italy before?
Paul: [My wife] Donna and I had been to several of the places on this tour before as part of various earlier trips to Europe. We had been to Barcelona, Nimes, Pont du Gard and Florence. We had not been to Montserrat, Nice, Monaco, Rapallo, Cinque Terre or San Gimignano.
GA: Why did you choose this tour?
P: We really enjoyed Europe along the Mediterranean. This trip allowed us to enjoy the areas we had seen before in a more relaxed state, and discover new places that we didn’t have the opportunity to see before. Plus, we knew we would be traveling with friends we had first met on our Jewels of Alpine Europe tour.
GA: What city surprised you the most? Why?
P: We found Rapallo to be very nice. It is a quiet city off the beaten tourist path, where we stayed to explore Cinque Terre. It was one of those places where you could just sit back, kick up your feet and enjoy watching all of the city’s activities. It was very refreshing after our stay in Nice, which was just the opposite. These three gents just seem to capture the mood of Rapallo, sitting back and relaxing.
GA: What was your favorite moment on tour?
P: We happened by accident to fall into a huge parade in Barcelona. There were thousands of people there going on for blocks down Passeig de Saint Joan. It seemed everyone was in the Catalan colors, either wearing them or flying the flag. There were drums everywhere playing a marching beat. In the march there were a couple dozen large colorful paper mache figures that Barcelona is so famous for. Spirits were high and lively. It wasn’t until later that we found out that it was a protest over Spain’s plans to make cuts in the education budgets. It was great to experience the heart and soul of the city.
GA: What were your three favorite photos? Why are they your favorites?
P: It is hard to pick just three. My first favorite is this night picture of Gaudí’s Casa Batlló. We had been in Barcelona before and took all of the “tourist” pictures— this time I wanted a different perspective. I like taking pictures at night because you can get some amazing photos that the camera sees, but that are not so obvious to the naked eye. It usually takes a number of shots changing your camera settings and trying different angles, but often you can get some neat artwork. The contrast in this picture makes this unique house take on an image coming from a Halloween display or a horror movie. After all, it is locally called the “house of bones.” To me, the picture jumps out at you.
The second picture I chose is this alleyway in Monterosso on our Cinque Terre trip. The photo draws you up the stairs to the policeman talking to the gentleman and then leads you to the top of the stairway. It is like its own journey into the heart of an Italian village. Your trip up the stairway brings you past potted plants, laundry, doorways, windows, balconies and a lamppost.
My third favorite picture may seem a bit weird, but in Barcelona and Florence you run into large number of these street “sculptures” who can hold a pose forever. When you take a picture of them it is customary to leave a Euro or two in their hat. That is when they come to life and do a brief performance. It is fun to see how children respond to this statue coming to life. In Florence, I came upon this one individual putting on her makeup in preparation for her long ordeal. I watched her for a few minutes, fascinated with all the work that went into creating her sculpture. I took several photos and really surprised her when I dropped a few Euros into her hat.
GA: How do you decide what to take photos of?
P: My original intention when I started this trip was to take the non-typical photographs. Donna and I had been to several of the places before and we took the “tourist” photos then. This time I wanted to focus on the “other” photographs and try to work in the “art” of photography. I am not the photographer who plans out his shots, I generally take them on the run. As I walk along I am constantly looking at my surroundings, trying to see everything as my camera would. When something jumps out at me, I stop and take a couple of shots. Sometimes I will change my camera settings to see if I can improve on things but usually I am moving on to see what is around the next corner.
I like to take night shots. You have to play with the settings a lot because the lighting will vary so much from subject to subject. But the results can be very surprising. I do also have a soft spot for nature shots, in particular flowers. But when you are on a trip, a close-up of a cactus flower looks the same in a garden in Cape Ferrat as they do in a garden in South Carolina. I still like to take them and I will include them in my Shutterfly album for people to enjoy, but I wouldn’t list them in my top ten.
GA: What do you use to edit your photos?
P: In my early days before digital photography, I found using film to be so crippling. But today, I shoot a thousand shots on a trip—for this one in particular, I used a Nikon D5000. Once I get home I sort out the good ones and use Photoshop to do some minor touch-ups on them.
Have you ever been on tour to Barcelona, Southern France and the Italian Riviera? What photos did you take that you found most inspiring?