Photography in Spain

Discussion in 'Travel' started by james_doherty, Apr 1, 2011.

  1. My wife and I are planning a trip to Spain this summer and I would like to hear any tips and/or advice as to what type of lenses, carrying of equipment while walking throughout the city, carrying a backpack with an extra lens or two and how the local people feel about being photographed.
    Also, I would be interested in some less than common places to photograph. The secret places not everyone knows about.
    Thanks in advance
  2. I lived in Barcelona for a year and we often go back for visits (my wife is from there), and this was my experience...Spain is such a touristy country that carrying a camera and photographing locals is usually not an issue. I actually think it is a better place for street photography than the often paranoid USA. It could be an issue if you get off the beaten path, but then just use your best street photography techniques plus common sense, smile and be polite. I would typically walk around with my D90 (crop factor) and one of two lenses depending on my "eye" for the day--my Tamron 17-50 F/2.8 (especially when lighting was not good) or my 70-300VR (good for reaching out and isolating people and odd things you see). The other lense I would use now and then for very wide angle views was the 10-24 Nikor. I didn't really switch lenses very often--only when I absolutely couldn't stand it. In very early mornings (sunrise) I would often take a tripod, but not during the day when I was among crowds of people. There is lots to see and shoot just about everywhere. I'm partial to barcelona, but you can't really go wrong anywhere in Spain--it's a beautiful place. Have fun! (Oh, BTW, we are going back for a visit this month for two weeks and I think I'll try a little experiment and just carry my tiny Canon S95 P&S.)
  3. Daniel, do you think it's safe to carry an extra lens or two in a backpack or just keep it to the camera body and a lens attached? I read so much about Pickpockets and Street Robberies that I'm worried about walking around with my Nikon D300 and lens attached. I have traveled some and know when to turn around or sense an area is not the right place to explore. I don't want to limit myself to my P&S and want to use my best camera. After all, that is why I forked out all the money for the camera and good lenses, right? I have a good range of f/2.8 lenses, 14-24, 24-70, 70-200. I also have a 70-300 VR f/4.5. Based on your response, it sounds like the best scenario is to just carry one camera body and lens attached.
    Thanks - Jim
  4. Barcelona, and all big cities really, do indeed have a reputation for pickpocket-type crime, so, yes, petty crime is a factor, but if you use some common sense you should be fine. I personally never had a problem, although I did witness a man's wallet being lifted (and him giving chase) as well as an attempted bag snatch on the subway. I used a standard day pack with a small camera/lense bag inside to carry my extra camera stuff rather than a recognizable camera bag--you might consider that. I would only change lenses after making sure I was someplace secure or no one was really watching me. If you can, go out with at least one other person, keep alert to who is around you and who may be observing you. Be aware that one technique is to jostle against you and then rob you (subways are great for this)...sometimes a group of thieves may surround you and do that (never happened to me, but I heard of these techniques). In crowded areas, I would put my day pack on my chest rather than on my back--makes a helpful brace platfrom for shooting, too. I always had my camera strap around my neck. When I'd shoot with a tripod, I'd pick places and times where there were very few people--dawn seems to be a time when few thieves are about. No need to be overly paranoid--the main thing is to always be aware of your surroundings...which can sometimes be difficult if you find something interesting to shoot and you are concentrating on that. Like I alluded to earlier about how many lenses...I tend to put a lens on my camera and "see" that way for most of the day...but there are many, many opportunities to change lenses where it is safe, so no need to restrict yourself unnecessarily. Does that help a bit?
  5. I read so much about Pickpockets and Street Robberies that I'm worried about walking around with my Nikon D300 and lens attached.​
    There are pickpockets and street robbers in almost every country. It is paranoia to think that you are going to be targeted more when you are in a country other than your own.
  6. The US State Department provide useful information on what to look out for:
    While most of Spain has a moderate rate of crime and most of the estimated one million U.S. citizen tourists have trouble-free visits to Spain each year, street crimes against tourists occur in the principal tourist areas. Madrid and Barcelona, in particular, report incidents of pick-pocketing, mugging, and occasional violent attacks, some of which require the victim to seek medical attention. Although crimes occur at all times of day and night and to people of all ages, older tourists and Asian Americans seem to be particularly at risk. Criminals tend to frequent tourist areas and major attractions such as museums, monuments, restaurants, outdoor cafes, Internet cafes, hotel lobbies, beach resorts, city buses, subways, trains, train stations, airports, and ATMs.
    In Madrid, incidents have been reported in all major tourist areas, including the area near the Prado Museum, near Atocha train station, in Retiro Park, in areas of old Madrid including near the Royal Palace, and in Plaza Mayor. There have been a number of passport and bag thefts reported at Madrid’s Barajas Airport, local hotels, as well as in El Rastro (Madrid’s flea market) and in the Metro.
    In Barcelona, the largest number of incidents reported also occurred in major tourist areas-- on Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s El Prat Airport, Sants train station, Metro stations, in the Sagrada Familia Area, in the Gothic Quarter, in Park Güell, in Plaza Real, and along Barcelona’s beaches. There have been a number of thefts reported at the Port Olimpic Area and nearby beaches.
  7. To emphasize what Steve said--don't get paranoid. All of what everyone has said here is mostly worst-case stuff. Just use common sense, be aware of your surroundings and who is around you, and you'll be just fine. Like Steve alluded to...I sometimes feel more uncomfortable doing street photography here in Boulder, Colorado than I ever did in Barcelona.
  8. SCL


    Not sure where you're headed in Spain - Barcelona has lots of photogenic sites and Mallorica too is full of opportunities, the 14-15th century windmills in a mist are very appealing. Last time I went I took mostly film gear and a 35 & 90mm lens did just fine for me. One the digital side I'd say go reasonably wide especially if you are interested in shooting architecture and churches. Yes there are pickpockets, purse snatchers, hookers, and mostly nice friendly charming people. Take normal precautions and you should be fine...just don't challenge the system.
  9. Wow, thanks to all of you for the advice and sharing your experiences. I am a city person and not naive to the streets, but I just wanted to hear from people that have been to Spain and how they perceive things.
    Daniel - Yes, that did help me. I intend to carry an extra lens in a lens pouch and then placed in a regular day pack as you stated. I will just carry my camera and attached lens around my neck. As far as turning the day pack around to the front in busy areas, I learned that technique traveling through Rome and Naples. Those areas seem to be very similar as far as the Pickpockets and such.
    Stephen - We are planning to fly into Barcelona and stay for a few days and then to Mallorca. I will definitely remember the Windmills in the mist idea. Yes, I do like to shoot architecture and churches and will have my 14-24 lens close at hand.
    I plan to keep my 24-70 on my body around my neck most of the time. I will be traveling with my wife and 15yo son, both are great travelers and are pretty good about remaining aware of their surroundings. Again, thank you all for your advice. I really look forward to visiting Spain.
  10. Without any more information about where in Spain you're going, it's hard to offer any concrete advice. Barcelona, much like all big cities, has it's own crime levels to deal with, something whcih is, for example, much less of a problem in Sevilla or Granada or Marbella. Even Madrid has less of a crime problem (if you can even call it that) than Barcelona.
    But that is all academic if you decide to go and explore, for example, the loading docks at 3am or if you feel that the brother area is a wicked idea to walk around alone at 5am...right? Also, sure the Albaycin in Granada offers SPECTACULAR views of the Alhambra after dark, but when you hear so many people saying that it may not be the wisest thing to do, then maybe you should not do it... So, common sense should prevail each and every time.
    As for carrying a bag, seriously????? You will see literaly thousands of tourists with camera bags in every shape, size and configuration, from a D3x all the way to various small pocket cameras and from the small 18-55 all the way to the 200-400 f/4 beast! You do not need to concern yourself with this. I have been to Spain 6-7 times till now and have always carried a shoulder bag with anything from 3 to 5 lenses and from 1 to 2 bodies without a single problem...
    As for the local people...hmm, I'd say in large cities people will tend to be a bit more unwilling to have a camera pointed at them (at least that was my experience). However, the more you venture out into the south (especially all around Andalucia), you will find attitudes significantly more relaxed and casual. Again, use your common sense, be polite and you'll be fine. Mind the gitanos (gypsies) who may, while being a wonderful subject to photograph, ask for money afterwards.
  11. david_henderson


    I'm not a naive or fearful traveler, and there's no place I'd go to where I wouldn't take the camera of my choice. In general Spain is not a difficult country to be in. But IMO Barcelona is a little different. You hear so much about thefts on the street - and indeed I've spent an evening in a police station there myself reporting the theft of my wallet by what looked like a bunch of feral kids- that I'd be espeicially careful and watchful there, and I'd be very careful with a backpack that might be entered without you knowing in a crowd. Personallu I'd use a shoulder bag that I could swing in front in crowds.
  12. I was in Barcelona last year and other than keeping my eyes open as in any unfamiliar big city, saw nothing different than anywhere else. What always shocks me here at home in Washington, D.C., are tourists walking down the street with expensive-looking DSLRS slung causally over their shoulders, actually hanging around to their backs, while they gawk at the monuments and pay no attention whatsoever to their cameras. A thief could cut the strap and be two blocks away before they would notice. With easy targets like that, why would a thief bother with someone who actually has his camera is in hands and looks like he's paying attention to the world around him?
  13. hello this is my first post on
    I am from Province of Lugo, Galicia (although I live in NYC now for work) I have been all over Spain from the most remote villages in Asturias to the grand cities of Barcelona & Madrid. Photography is very much part of our culture, for example a common sight are road signs that have a bellows camera cartoon to indicate its a scenic view/point of interest! As far as safety, I have never had any issues, especially in the big cities as there are CCTV cameras and Police just about everywhere. The internet is big there, and there are even forums to trace stolen cameras. Just remember Spain is made up of many smaller regions and cultures, many speak Castilian as a second language, although English is the standard lengua franca for business, travel, etc; If you do have the oppurtunity to explore Spain, do check out Castilla y Leon, Galicia, and the Basque Country as well. Also I lived for sometime in Barcelona and yes like any other city there are some rascals out and about, but remember that there are just as many plainclothes police out there to get them! Also some things are different, for example police, upon proper identification, have full right to search your persons in a public place for whatever reason.In my experience Madrid at 5-6 am is more dangerous, common to see overly drunk partygoers (even on weekdays) and some like to start fights, toss garbage cans and others stupid things to prove their level of intelligence. Just remember there is a lot of burro-cracy (as we call it) so filling out a Police Report is a hassle, but in the end well worthwhile. Like in the rest of Europe, every Spanish corner is now getting a CCTV camera, there are even remote speed traps that take a pic of your plate if you pass the limit on eight lane highways! new meaning to why a picture is worth 1000 euros. also film is still very big there, most towns have a c-41 minilab as well as digital. hope this helps.

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