Pedralbes Monastery (Monestir de Pedralbes in Catalan) was founded in 1326 by King James II of Aragon for his wife Elisenda de Montcada. The Gothic monastery (and the nuns who lived there) were granted protection by the queen through the Consell de Cent (the Counsel of the Hundred)…
But hold up, we’re not here for a history lesson, far from it. In fact, any desire I might have had to learn about the history of the monastery was not catered for on this tour. This was a photography tour. And not just a ‘come along and take some snaps’ photography tour. There was some professional shit going on here.
My time with an SLR before I met Martín at Maria Cristina metro could be distilled into a few seconds. I had held other people’s on occasion, very gingerly let me say. I might have even pressed the button (technical eh!) just to hear that authentic old-school noise it makes. But as far as look through the lens, adjust any settings, nada. I was a novice, a Luddite, as green as they come. This was immediately obvious to Martín when I turned up with my usual bit of kit on these things, my iPad Mini.
Luckily for me, the monastery, and the sanctity of photography tours, Martín very kindly let me use his camera. It was a revelation.
I guess now is the time to say that all photos in this article are by me, apart from when I’m in them, then they’re not.
After a short walk uphill from Diagonal we reached the monastery. Here the lesson began. We talked about how to hold the camera safely (which Martín was keen to stress as it was his camera I was holding after all), framing, stance, what to look out for, the importance of light – it was a lot to take in, but it was fascinating nonetheless.
We crossed the road and entered the monastery through the only remaining gate of the original outer walls and stopped on the cobbled street leading up to the monastery.
We looked at details: doors, keyholes, and ornate street lamps. We talked about lines and perspective.
We entered the monastery cloisters, a stunning interior courtyard and the ideal place to learn about light and shade, shooting from shade into light and vice versa.
I learnt about the aspects of focus and how to use the camera to focus on an area that wasn’t necessarily in the centre of the frame. I think the photo below might be my favourite from the whole tour.
It’s clear that a professional camera gives you so much control, although there are automatic settings if need be. It is the only piece of kit to use in bad light, and as we all know the results can often be simply stunning (or in my case, passable).
My only wish is that the whole thing was twice as long. By the end of the tour I felt like I was beginning to get the hang of the basics. All I wanted to do was go out and buy a proper camera and continue snapping, my Dropbox storage requirements would have gone through the roof!
So in the case of ShootCities (with a special mention for the main man Martín), it was a job well done. One satisfied customer. Now I just have to convince the wife!
If you’re interested in improving your photography skills then I am happy to recommend ShootCities. They cater for all levels from novice (as I think is clear in my case) to professional with the tours adapted accordingly. Check them out at ShootCities.com or on Facebook!
P.S. If you’re interested in learning about the history of Pedralbes Monastery, then get the audio guide.