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The Architectural Charm of Porto


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Hello Fujirumours readers!

I was recently incredibly flattered by Patrick kindly publishing my (shot entirely with the X-Pro1 and X-T1) story about the stray cats of Porto, which you can read here

Someone in the comments section did lament that there were no actual scenes of Porto in that post.

It’s a fair comment, (because there weren’t) but the story was about stray cats!

However I fully understand, Porto is a charming city, and in my opinion a photographer’s delight.

Not only are there all the ‘street’ opportunities offered by a major city, but the very fabric of the city itself is a interwoven juxtaposition of old and new, shiny and faded.

So, as a follow up here’s a post about Porto itself.

Now I’ve got to warn you… this won’t be some postcard series where we just stand on the banks of the Douro and take some snaps of the Ribeira shoreline, nor we will we hang around the Dom Luís I bridge and shoot the Metro.

Today I’ll take you, ever so slightly off the well trodden track.

So sit back, get comfy and pour a moderate glass of Sandeman and we’ll begin!

After several visits to Porto, we decided to make it our home, can I offer any further proof of my love for this city?

Street photography may very well live and die by the people in the shot, or the humanistic nature of the image captured, but in a wider sense street photography often requires the context of the background.

But equally, some times the background is the shot!

Porto is no modern spring chicken, much of it is very, very old and parts of it have, well frankly, seen better days.

It’s this combination of people and scenery that will capture your eye when you’re here, so let’s take a look at the architectural charm of Porto.

All are shot on the Fujifilm X-Pro1. A camera that I love dearly, and a body that I find for me; ideally suited for the street/documentary/reportage subjects I like to shoot.

Old and New
Old and new, this side-by-side nature is so often seen here. I shot this with the XF35/1.5 @ F5.6. This was taken from the garden of Casa Branca, which is a healthy eating Café within Porto’s cultural space. (I don’t love salads… But I really enjoyed theirs!)

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River Banks
Down by the Douro, the buildings are centuries old, and extremely beautiful. The colours may be a little faded, but their aesthetic is without doubt. This area is known as Ribeira, it’s in the shadow of the Dom Luís I bridge, (which if you think looks slightly familiar it’s because the bridge shares its design with the Eiffel tower – as they were designed by the same person.) This area is very tourist focused, if you’re visiting Porto, don’t be shy about visiting these areas, they’re popular for a reason. Equally of course, don’t be scared to venture further afield and find your own Porto! This was shot with the XF18 set to F5.6 to give a deep DOF (I wanted everything in shot to be in focus) The X-Pro1 and the XF18 is a great reportage/documentary combination. Once that little 18 gets to F5.6 so much of your shot will be in focus, that you can pretty much ‘set and forget’ and just look out for the shots you want.

The Old Sign
Get yourself into the side streets and you’ll find places that have been unchanged for many years. This shop sign hangs outside of a place that closed 20 years ago! Note also the mustard coloured building in the background, this is a colour you’ll see a lot of here. Also note the glowing light (I took this quite late in the day), that’s not post production folks, that’s how things glow here! There’s a reason that I tag a lot of my photos with ‘Porto Light’ and (perhaps because I grew up in the UK !!) I find this golden light really magical. This street features some wonderful street art (it’s far to superb to merely call it Graffiti!) as well the usual bars and eateries, there’s a great burger joint here (because it’s not all about the salads!!) and you can find this street by venturing northwards (on foot) from the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal, which is a beautiful park, complete with magnificent views over the Douro. I shot this with the XF35/1.4, wide open at F1.4 because I wanted the signage to ‘pop’ against the light and the background. The X-Pro1 and the XF35/1.4 -in my opinion- work sublimely together.

Once you’ve exhausted your more touristy itinerary, you might want to explore ‘centre left’ not everything is beautiful or possessed of wabi charm. Some of the city is quite dark and foreboding… I think it’s good to see this contrast in the locations you visit. Another XF35/1.4 shot, this time at F4.0, so that I could get enough DOF to show context, but make the focal point the front of the image

Wrought Iron
Porto constantly reminds of the beauty of what once was there, while still showing you the beauty of what endures. As I said, Porto is no spring chicken, it’s very old! When places (and people!!) get old, the level of entropy that sets in is determined by external factors… I don’t feel this building has lost its looks, and it’s not to hard to imagine it in its heyday! I used the XF35/1.4 (again !!) and I’ve selected F1.4 to isolate the rusty wrought iron balcony from the background.

Now there’s something that I NEED to make clear here…. Please don’t think that I am telling you Porto is being left to crumble… Renovation and building work is constantly taking place, and local laws mean that many buildings cannot have their façade changed (a bit like grade listed buildings in the UK). This was also shot with the Xf35/1.4 (50ish mm eqv is just so versatile!) at F2.8.

Mercado Bom Sucesso
Having showed you some of the ‘ancient’ buildings, I think it’s time to see something a bit more modern… I don’t want you thinking that Porto is just for wabi affectionados!! This is an interior shot of Mercado Bom Sucesso, located near Casa da Musica.

Urban Surfer
The modern constructions have a entirely different look than many of the old buildings, but the beauty is always present. This was taken just outside of the Casa da Music building (which is in the background), this spot is popular with tourists, but also with skateboarders, the area features swooping designs of gradient that enable the skaters to practice their craft!

The last 2 shots and the next, were all shot with the XF35/1.4 (because I love that lens and use it a lot!)

Observing Change
(As the saying goes) if there’s one constant in life, it’s change. Taken near the São Bento railway station – the mind boggles at the many street scenes this statue must of seen (sic) over the years. Of course a statue cannot really see (!!) but you can, and I sincerely hope you get to use your eye and your camera to see and capture as much of the world as you can.

I hope you enjoyed a SLIGHTLY off the trodden path look at Porto, and how about that – not a single cat in sight. :-)

Do you live in or visit Porto? Always delighted to meet up with fellow photographers! Let me know (contact details on my website)

Warm regards / Um abraco !!

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