Barcelona: Photographer’s Paradise – Ben Evans Barcelona is a lot of things to a lot of people.

For many, the city is home to one of the best football teams in the world. For others, it represents Catalan Modernism with Antoni Gaudi’s Parc Güell, Casa Batlló and Sagrada Familia cathedral all ‘mustsees’. Of course, Barcelona is also just Spanish (Catalan!) sun, sea and sex centred on the Rambla Street and club zone. I’d like you to forget any preconceptions that you might have about Barcelona so that I can introduce you to the city I live in and love.

Photography is about seeing things without prejudice or preconception and capturing them without exaggeration or cliché. No matter which camera you use, your photographs will be improved by stopping to see w hat’s around you instead of arriving with ideas of what to photograph. That said, there are a few places in Barcelona that are naturally rich in photographic opportunities. Less overlooked than before, the Placa Sant Felip de Neri is a charming little square near La Seu Cathedral with a monstrous past that’s written on the wall of the church there. The fountain is shaded by Acacia trees, and has recently been refurbished. Film and music fans may recognise the square from Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona and an Evanescence music video. The surrounding Barri Gotico (Gothic Quarter) is a delightful maze of ancient streets.

The two main Barcelona Cathedrals, the Gothic La Seu and the Sagrada Familia employ guards to ensure that photographers don’t use tr ipods (or monopods), despite the entrance charges. Don’t be too put off; modern cameras with higher ISOs make hand-held low light photographs more feasible. I recommend visiting the Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral in the el Born neighbourhood, which is beautiful and much more welcoming. You can make do without a tripod. For this photograph of the Cathedral arches , I’ve used the camera strap as a sling to secure the camera; but I can’t recommend doing this. Instead, choose an aperture of f8 set your self-timer, focus on the ceiling and put the camera on its back. When you press the shutter, the camera will wait a few seconds so there’s no camera shake, then take a (hopefully beautiful) photograph. Try it and see.

Barcelona is also home to one of the oldest and most colourful covered markets in the world, the Mercat de Boqueria. Situated by the Liceu Metro stop on La Rambla, this really is a photographer’s paradise. It is best visited early when the locals are buying the fresh fish and fruits available for sale. The sashimi (raw slithers of salmon and tuna) here makes a healthy, good value snack.

The Boqueria, like a lot of Barcelona, is about colour. Whether bright and bold, or subtle and subdued, the market produce boasts a splendid spectrum of subjects for colour photography. Be sure to set your camera’s White Balance setting to the light-bulb symbol to compensate for the incandescent (tungsten) light when you’re inside. Elsewhere, make use of the other White Balance presets to ensure that you capture the rich colours of the Taxis and sunsets.

When you are photographing colour, try and create photographs with a really simple colour-scheme. Often, I’ll concentrate on just one colour; the resulting collection of photographs can look great when displayed together. For the artistically inclined, you might want to experiment with colour contrasts. Find a picture of a colour wheel and look for the colour you want to photograph; the colour on the opposite side will be the complementary colour. They look amazing together! Yellow and blue is a classic combination; but red and green and even orange and purple look very vibrant when they’re paired. You might want to play with warm colours such as red and orange in contrast with cool colours such as blue and green.

Looking for ‘Barcelona Photography’ on Google will bring up stories about the city’s reputation for petty crime. I’d disregarded this, and had a laptop stolen, so be well aware of your belongings. A good tip is to keep your camera strap underneath a strap for your bag so that it’s more difficult to remove, or have the camera strap wrapped twice around your wrist with the logo facing inwards. Thankfully, violent crime seems quite rare. Photographers looking for batteries and extra memory cards would be well served at the FNAC store, which is in Placa de Catalunya at the top of La Rambla. Arpi, a decent photography shop, is at the bottom of La Rambla in case you’ve decided to bring a film camera. There are some inspiring photographs nearby in the photography section of the MACBA – the Barcelona Modern Art museum near the top of La Rambla. Don’t miss the chance to photograph its graphic architecture against the background of a deep blue Spanish sky.

Heading out of the centre is particularly rewarding. Whether it’s through conscious planning or not, it does feel that the locals have attempted to concentrate the shirtoff tourism around the centre. A walk to the W Hotel past Port Vell (Old Port) and the Barceloneta beach is good fun, and the views at sunset from the Eclipse Bar situated at the top of the hotel are breathtaking.

If you’re only staying for a short time, then I recommend visiting the Poble Espanyol (Spanish Town). Located on the Montjuïc mountain, it was built in the late Twenties for the Barcelona International Exhibition. History aside, it’s a microcosm of Spain, attempting to bring a little of all the disparate regions into one place. It is an excellent location for photography, both as a set of backdrops and as a subject in itself.

If you’ve got an SLR camera, I recommend finding a 50mm lens. It won’t zoom, but it will give you much better quality and better photos in low light. Best of all, they’re light and great value. Barcelona is a special location, and benefits from a special approach. I’ve found that Barcelona is a city best viewed close up and through a wide-angle lens. The majority of the photographs at attest to that belief! A wide-angle zoom lens will obviously help capture the architecture and views of the Mediterranean Sea. But used for people and street photography while you’re here, you’re also sure to get some interesting pictures to take home with you. Smile, and ask permission in Catalan for best results, ‘Sisplau, puc fer una foto?’ I find I get the most natural pictures when I photograph for a little while until people get bored and go back to what they were doing before.

One final tip; you’ll find that visiting Gaudi’s Parc Güell is quite a walk from the closest Metro station, Lesseps. It’s definitely worth making the trip from the centre, but I recommend doing so about an hour before sunset. This ‘Golden Hour’ is great for photography anyway, but you’ll find that in summer, the sun will be in just the right place to take some really beautiful photographs.