My daughter and I left Barcelona for Madrid. The following day we had plans to visit the Prado in the morning, but had nothing planned for the afternoon. The decision we had was either to stay in Madrid and visit the sights, or head out to either Toledo or Segovia, nearby cities that have their own unique draws for the visitor.
Segovia has an ancient Roman aqueduct in the middle of the city, as well as the Alcazar sitting on a bluff. And Toledo has a lot of Mudejar architecture and artwork. And I know that there is a lot to see in Madrid, but I really wanted to visit Segovia and Toledo.
Both have a particular charm that I loved and wanted to experience again. After all, it had been 30 years since my last visit and I wanted to see what changes had occurred since then.
First up though, was the Prado.
I love art museums, and the Prado is no exception. What I didn’t expect was not being able to take photographs. Every time I did anything with my camera I was reminded not take photographs of the artwork.
This was a change from the last visit when cameras were OK, just not tripods or monopods.
I figured it was more of security issue than anything else. But it did stand out as the Vatican Museums, the Uffizi, and the Academy all allowed photographs (without flash, tripods or monopods, of course).
In a recent (2017) Forbes post, the Prado was rated as the 8th most admired art museum. It was noted in the article that it was #8 perhaps due to the lack of familiarity among those in the Americas. I think it is in the top five at least in terms of the works of art that are housed there.
The Prado really does take a long time to visit. We were there at 9 am, and entered at 10am. We spent the next three hours wandering and admiring the artwork of the Prado.
If you love the Spanish masters – Goya, Titan, El Greco, and Velazquez – then you are in luck! You can see my blog post on learning more about my photography by studying the master painters here, many of the examples are from the Spanish masters.
Note that we purchased the General Ticket with “Guide book of the Prado” option for €24 apiece. What we didn’t know was that the guide book is 480 pages and is €18,53 to purchase on its own. So for only €24 you get both admission and a guide book that is coffee table quality!
And the book is really handy when viewing the various masterpieces as it gives a nice description of the artwork and the artist. The index in the back is critical as the book does not follow the galleries and displays, so it isn’t a true “guide” as much as it is a description of the works of art by the artists.
Which makes sense as you can move works of art around depending on conditions, and if the book followed the physical layout of the Prado they would have to frequently update the book.
After lunch at the Prado, and some discussion, we decided to head for Segovia. Segovia is a really nice small city, and the old city is on a bluff overlooking the river below. So after driving for about a hour, we found ourselves in Segovia.
One of the first features you see when driving into Segovia is the Alcazar. The Alcazar is the fortress that protected the old city, and was built in the 12th century. It later became the home for both Isabella and Ferdinand which led the way to unite both Castilla y Leon and Aragon to form the country that would become Spain.
The Alcazar as we see it today was built largely in 1258 by King Alfonso X of Castile y Leon and added to by King John II who built the now famous “New Tower” or “John II Tower.” Walt Disney is reported to have modelled Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland in California on the famous Alcazar of Segovia.
One can visit the Alcazar and view the various rooms, including the Throne Room and the great hall. There are a lot of possibilities for photography in the Alcazar, but all have to be taken without the use of tripods or monopods.
And the lighting is not good, so high ISO settings with lens wide open regarding aperture is critical to get decent shots.
I had a Sony A7RII with the Sony Fe 24-240mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens with me, so many of the pictures I took were shot with the aperture set at f/3.5 and the ISO set at 400 or 800. Even then, there were a number of shots that I just didn’t like.
I am primarily a landscape photographer, so I really have to overcome a lot of internal angst when setting my ISO higher than 100! So even setting my ISO at 400 or 800 I am super critical of the results. It is just who I am.
[Tweet "I am primarily a landscape photographer, so I really have to overcome a lot of internal angst when setting my ISO higher than 100! So even setting my ISO at 400 or 800 I am super critical of the results."]
The second feature one sees when driving into Segovia is the ancient Roman aqueduct. The date of its building is unknown, but suspected to be in the later part of the first century, and the dates of either 98 C.E. or 112 C.E. are typically given.
When I was there 30 years ago, I believe that it still transported water to the upper sections of the old city. But no longer due to some leaking and resulting structural damage.
It is one of the longest surviving aqueducts, measuring over 15 kilometers from the Frio River to the old city. And it is awesome to behold, as it comprise over 160 arches into its design and construction.
But photographing it is just as difficult as it is awesome. It is a very large and very long structure, and you really have to work the scene to get a good composition.
[Tweet "But photographing it is just as difficult as it is awesome. It is a very large and very long structure, and you really have to work the scene to get a good composition."]
You will have to shoot with as wide a lens as possible to capture the sense of the immense size of the structure. And if you have a zoom lens like I had, the Sony FE 24-240mm you can also go long for some nice close-up shots.
Old City and Cathedral
As one passes under the aqueduct and head into the old city, one is struck by the narrow streets that comprise the old city. Everywhere you look there are photographs to be made. From windows to doors to small side gardens to beautiful small plazas, there are things to delight the photographer.
Even street photographers would enjoy the ability to photograph those who wander the small and narrow winding streets, or visiting a small shop.
And the heights of the bluff on which the Alcazar sits provides a great view of part of the old pathway – now a road – which led into old Segovia.
[Tweet "And the heights of the bluff on which the Alcazar sits provides a great view of part of the old pathway – now a road – which led into old Segovia."]
Along the way into the old city heading towards the ultimate goal, the Alcazar, is the Cathedral of Segovia. It was the last gothic style cathedral built in Spain and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
The cathedral is definitely worth a stop to visit, and for the photographer, provides plenty of photographic opportunities. Worthy of photographing is the choir, and the various chapels (there are 20 to visit or view). Each provides its own subjects for the photographer.
All in all, Segovia is a wonderful place to visit and an even better place for the photographer. If you ever get the chance to go to Segovia, take it, you won’t be disappointed!
Some of my Favorite Photographs from Segovia
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