Seville is one of Spain’s most photogenic cities. If you’re visiting and want to get the best out of your DSLR, then you’ll probably enjoy a WithLocals Seville Photo Tour. Whilst I’ve got a fantastic camera that is fairly idiot-proof, there’s always room for improvement. My hubby is also a keen photographer so we were excited to get started. We booked our course via Withlocals, a clever site that enables you to have an authentic experience in 18 countries including Cambodia, France, Indonesia, Italy, Spain and Thailand. In Spain, they offer activities in Barcelona, Madrid and Seville. It’s not limited to photography – among the Seville offerings were dinner in a local home, a flamenco dance experience and a Spanish cooking workshop. As a peer-to-peer marketplace where travelers connect with locals, it fits perfectly with the trend towards experiential travel. We found the booking interface really simple to use and received regular updates which confirmed the name of our guide, his mobile number and our meeting point. You’re only billed once your experience is confirmed and payment is easy via PayPal or credit card. Our tutor Alberto had suggested a really interesting place to meet, Maria Luisa Park.
Seville was the final stage of our Andalucian road trip and we’d first travelled to Granada and the Alhambra, Jaen, Ubeda, Carmona and Córdoba. With only a couple of days in Seville, I’m not sure we’d have found time for the park ourselves, yet it’s absolutely stunning. It’s home to quite a few museums including the Museo Arqueológico and Museo Mudejar.
Alberto is very friendly, speaks perfect English but most importantly has excellent photography knowledge. He has his own photography company specializing in photo tours and photography workshops. Before letting us loose in the park, he patiently explained the manual settings that we needed to know. Aperture, shutter speed and ISO are the three key elements that we’d need to master in order to ace our Seville photos. Aperture or “opening of the lens” was the first We practiced taking shots of a tree trunk first with varying aperture settings or “f-stops”. Some shots came out overexposed, whilst others were underexposed, until we finally hit the right balance. This is also known as exposure compensation and is a sliding scale on your DSLR with plus and minus signs. You just need to adjust aperture until you reach 0 in the middle. These adjustments would be particularly useful in low-light conditions. We also played with the depth of field effect, taking pictures with an aperture of f/22 where all elements of the photo were in focus and others with an aperture of f/2.8 where only the tree trunk was in focus, leaving the background blurred.
Next we had a go at capturing fast moving objects, namely pigeons! They’re easy to find, as many people bring bird seed to feed them. Taking a shot wasn’t so simple though as they move so quickly. By selecting Aperture Priority, setting the aperture to f/8 with a high ISO, I eventually managed to get this shot. Alberto encouraged us to get down low to see things from a new perspective, and I think this would work well for many small subjects such as animals and children.
After this we headed to a picturesque, shady area with fountains. The Fountain of the Lions or Fuente de los Leones was created by Manuel Delgado Brackembury in 1913, although the lions themselves were only installed in 1928. We had a go at shooting a jet of water coming from this lion’s mouth. It’s best to use a fast shutter speed and a tripod, keeping the ISO settings fairly low too.
Alberto also showed us how to create a misty effect with water. These shots are easiest to achieve in the very early morning, and with a tripod as your shutter will need to stay open for a good few seconds. We used the lowest ISO setting possible and an aperture setting of f/16.
By now the sun was getting lower so we walked towards the Guadalquivir river and Isabel II Bridge. It’s most often referred to as Puente de Triana as it connects the city centre to the West bank neighbourhood of Triana. A little before sunset, Alberto explained how to capture the silhouettes of people on the bridge. For these, we selected a low ISO setting and a mid-aperture of f/8, as well as using exposure compensation until we got the desired effect. It’s surprising, the level of detail that you can get – bicycles, lovers – all human life is here!
As sunset fell over the bridge, it was almost the end of our workshop…
However Alberto had one final trick up his sleeve, some spectacular light trail shots…I’d admired these before on Instagram but not known how to recreate them. It turns out that all you need is an LED flashlight or a torch app on a smartphone, plus a friend to wave the light around, while you take a shot with your DSLR using long exposure.
I’d highly recommend the Withlocals experience, not only was it great to understand the workings of our DSLR better, but it was fascinating to see Seville through the eyes of an inhabitant. I’d only have one small suggestion, to give participants a cheat sheet at the end summing up what we had learnt. Alberto also runs photography sessions via the site, where he captures photos of you, rather than you taking the shots. So there’s no excuse not to bring back a great photographic momento of your time in Seville!