Bilbao: A Basque Experience à la carte

Frank Gehry once famously said that “Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.”. The city of Bilbao seems to achieve this goal with every day passing by.

Curvy Front
Curvy Front of the Guggenheim Museum

I wanted to make a trip to Bilbao for quite some time and for some reason a number of people seem to believe that Bilbao is located in Brazil. I earned some funny comments for “enduring” such a long flight for only 4 days… But obviously this is false. Bilbao is located in northern Spain and is also the largest city in the province of Biscay and in the Basque Country. Strolling the internet will bring up many mouth-watering images shot there, hence, my plan to make a photo trip came together easily. Also because the flight actually is only ~2,5h from Germany. 😏

Guggenheim And The Spider
Guggenheim And The Spider

Coming into the city from the airport via Puente La Salve, you are immediately greeted by the Guggenheim Museum. It is undoubtedly the most famous building in Bilbao, created by Frank Gehry in 1997. The museum was opened as part of a revitalization effort for the city of Bilbao and almost immediately after its opening it became a popular tourist attraction. The museum has helped to generate about €500 million in economic activity in the first years and this positive effect is often referred to as the “Bilbao effect“.

In Water Vapor
Water vaporised every now and then in front of the Guggenheim

But there is so much more to see and shoot. Bilbao has more than a dozen museums covering a range of fields including art, science, and sport. Bilbao is said to have the highest concentration (with regard to residents) of star restaurants while keeping the lowest concentration of fast food places. The food is fantastic and you can try to taste all the different variations of pintxos, but you will most probably fail. There even is a street in the old town (Calle Somera) that basically consists of bars. Not that the other streets in the old town really lack possibilities to eat and drink but this street will be filled with people during the weekends (actually also during the week), sitting and standing everywhere, which creates a unique buzz and is a great experience.

Arrow Martzana
Calle de Manzana, close to the Casco Viejo in Bilbao

The old part of the city also is a hot spot for fantastic graffiti and street art. The beginning of Calle Bilbao La Vieja close to the Plaza de Saralegi is famous for that and also has a number of restaurants and bars everywhere. It also used to be the centre for the Basque underground fighting for the independence of the Basque Country.

The Girl From Bilbao
The Girl From Bilbao

In addition to all this, there is obviously the river with its “Bilboats” that bring you to locations along its path and the Mount Artxanda. Walking up offers some new perspectives of the city – not only for photographers. If you prefer to not walk up, you can also use a little cable car that will bring you to the top.

View at the Mirador de Artxanda

Going to the beach via public transport on a sunny day is just as typical for Bilbao as eating pintxos with your fingers. On the way to, well, basically anywhere in the city, you have to pass some of the many bridges across the river. Some of them are old and famous as the Vizcaya Bridge, a World Heritage Site, also known as the Hanging Bridge of Portugalete. Some of them are modern and stylish as the Zubi Zuriwork of architect Santiago Calatrava.

Zubizuri Night Perspective
Zubizuri Night Perspective

Writing up all this makes me wanna go there again! The unique mixture of culture, architecture, food and people is worth a trip and I can promise you that you will use your camera heavily. Eskerrik asko, Bilbao!

View At San Mamés
View at San Mamés Stadium

On Photography: The Canon EOS R

So I got a mirrorless full frame camera. The EOS R from Canon. But this is actually not supposed to be about the EOS R (only a bit), but the camera may help to make a point here: It is about photography.
Let me get this out of the way: The EOS R works beautifully, the images are crisp & sharp and everything I wished for. You can check out some of my impressions from the camera below.

Wartburg Night Parking
Wartburg Parking at Night in Munich

I was shooting with the Canon 6D until now, which is also full frame and also a great camera. I travelled quite a bit around the world with my 6D and I enjoy looking at all the pictures I took. People back than basically where asking the same questions about the 6D that people are asking now about the EOS R: “But it misses feature xyz”, or “It has not enough MP…”, or “Why didn’t they do this and that…” – all the bla bla you can read in many posts that basically seem to justify their own existence by finding something they can bash.

Foggy Mountain View
A Foggy Mountain View near Lermoos

Faisal Yaqub has posted a review of the EOS R after two month of usage and points out a few features and what he really likes about the camera. It is important to note that he focuses on things that actually help him to take good photos. When I got my 6D I couldn’t help but notice how well Canon seemed to understand what I really really needed in a camera and what features I basically do not care about so much. Possibly because they understand the fundamentals of what is necessary to take good photos. And they left those additional features out in the 6D.

The Zugspitze (on the very left, 2963m), the highest peak of the Wetterstein Mountains & the highest mountain in Germany.

And they did something similar with the EOS R. The EOS R combines many things that are actually helping me to take photos and/or support my workflow with the camera. The excellent ergonomics of the EOS R is only one of the many points. Or the “FV” mode that makes it so easy to control e.g. exposure compensation when you do not have an R-mount lens on with the brilliant additional ring on the lens (e.g. one of your old EF lenses). But many of these things are not mentioned in most of the reviews, maybe because they can not be compared on paper or against other cameras or brands. It is personal.

Cold Munich Morning
Very cold morning drive in Munich, Germany.

Jamie Windsor makes a wonderful point in his video on how photography can make you unhappy (Disclaimer: I think his channel is brilliant!): “The pursuit of gear is not photography!”. And it is actually why I am writing up this EOS R post: Having a good camera that actually helps you with the little things and (I think) purposely misses out on certain features is maybe the better camera for you because it focuses on you as a person taking the shot and not on other cameras, other brands or things to be compared on paper. It is a tool and, hence, has to take a step back for us to be able to focus on what actually is important to us: The art of photography!

Graffiti Sundowner
Import/Export Compound in Munich, Germany.

Aurora HDR or how my HDR processing evolved

I got into HDR photography quite some time ago (see e.g. YAHTC) and the capability to recover so many details/colours from an image or a bracketing series still fascinates me. But, maybe like many other HDR photographers, I have grown from liking rough (almost brutal) HDR edits to more photorealistic captures. I am still convinced that the Mantiuk preset from Luminance HDR in certain situations creates an effect no other tool that I have seen is capable of, but it only works in very few scenarios (e.g. inside churches like the one below). Hence, it is fair to say this is an artistic effect and nothing you can use regularly to process your photos. To give you an idea about my HDR tool journey, I have used or I am still using qtpfsgui->luminance, Digital Photo Professional, photomatix Pro, HDR Efex Pro, lightroom photo merge and now Aurora 2019. The number alone gives you an idea that none of them is

read more Aurora HDR or how my HDR processing evolved

Recap 2018: The Canon G1X mk III

In terms of gear 2018 was an interesting year. I moved to the G1X mk III as “second cam”  (replacing the G9X with 1 inch sensor) and had lots of fun taking photos. I was (actually still am) impressed by the image quality out of this camera. I was looking for a “small” camera that enables me to take it with me without thinking about packing but at the same time I did not want to make a lot of compromises in terms of image quality. This post is supposed to give you an idea about the cam and of course to recap some captures from 2018 at the end of the year.

No Diamond Forever
“Green Ice” 

The first opportunity for the G1X mkIII to shine was the green ice at the Munich Olympic Regatta Center, where after a period of extreme cold weather the sun came out and turned the ice on the water green. 

Nesselwang View
Auto Train From Munich
Auto Train From Munich

After the green ice impressions, the camera accompanied me on a number of short and often spontaneous trips in & around Munich. This included a trip to the Allgäu (via Nesselwang, see above). Finally, due to luggage restrictions, I took the cam with me to New York for a few days. This included a few iconic views of course but also some tricky shooting situations, such as low light hand held (no tripod!) and action street performance.

Fenced NYC View
Fenced NYC View
New York, Aye?
New York, Aye?
Happy Street Performer
Happy Street Performer