Many years ago on a holiday trip to northern Spain, I drove on the return journey from Santiago de Compostella on the highway that led along the Bay of Biscay. Already from the highway, I could sense that the landscape was extremely photogenic. I wondered – > ‘How beautiful it would be when I actually explored all the little mountain or coastal roads?’ When the north of Spain came onto my travel program again, it was clear that Galicia, Asturias, and Cantabria were my destinations to fulfill this unanswered question lingering in my mind. Indeed, the Basque Country is so fascinating that this is worth a trip of its own.
As I often do when investigating a new location, I poured a glass of wine and opened up 500px (a photography website) and Instagram, to see what other photographers had posted among the three regional hashtags. Two things quickly became apparent to me a) it is a stunning region b) Las Cathedrales is THE photography hotspot.
There were already many wonderful photos of the Las Cathedrales on the platforms. It was a classic angle to look through the arches, on the edge of the cliffs, which give the impression that you are standing at a Gothic cathedral on the outer arches and looking through them. I just had to see that and create my own interpretation of it.
When I arrived at the parking lot at the natural spectacle, it was just before dusk and the rain was pouring down already, it was immediately clear to me that it was a ‘classic’ tourist attraction for the region. It was a large car park and about 20 cars, most of the campers also planned to spend the night. Well, that can be fun. A quick and humid first reconnaissance confirmed my first impression; that the cafeteria, toilets, knick-knack stands and well-paved paths with explanatory signs confirmed my first thoughts: tourist trap!
As the night set in, the rain stopped for a moment and I grabbed my gear for a few initial captures. The clouds slowly cleared and gave away the first stars, but without completely disappearing (I love clouds :-)). As I descended some steep stairs to the beach, I noticed a wide gap between two large rocks that led to the Las Chathedrales. A look at my “My Tide Times app” told me that the tide will soon return to the beach. Rather than surfing my lens filter back to camp, I stopped exploring further and headed back to the car park.
I looked around and found a beautiful composition in which a rock spur pointed directly into the gap described above. This could be interesting!
I carefully climbed to the end of the rock spur and crouched in a position where I got the guidance into the frame. I ended up in a strange yoga-type position as I tried to maneuver without being hit by the waves that slammed harder and harder on the left side of my location.
It was well after 9pm and there was not another soul on the beach. Everyone had made themselves comfortable in their campers and other vehicles and probably waited for a new exciting tomorrow.
The end of the evening Blue Hour, the first stars started to sparkle out. I chose a wide aperture (f2,8), ISO over 1000 and the exposure time initially set to 20 seconds. The monitor of the camera suggested that I should continue in this direction. I installed the remote release and tested a few variations. The ISO and exposure time went up and down while keeping the aperture the same.
As I had arrived at dusk at the location, the focus was a bit difficult. The autofocus was overwhelmed and the manual setting was not easy. But with the live view on the camera, it was finally possible. At first glance, I was very satisfied with the result, especially as it was more or less an exploratory trip. More on that later!
A location by the sea and a vibrant surf is always something special. The wave crash on the rocks and the air is fresh and heavy with moisture. The joy of having found beautiful scenery is clearly enriched by the experience of being there. Just lovely!!!
Unfortunately, many pictures were not 100% sharp and I thought it was because of my tripod. I thought it might have been the waves hitting the rock and destabilizing my set up. However, after reviewing the photo data, I that I had not turned off the image stabilizer of the lens! The balance attempts of the lens will then blur at the long exposure time. Thank God not all pictures were affected.
I think others make this mistake too, so I made a mind map about my optimal settings for camera and lens you can find here for free if you want to recreate the fun! Do let me know how you go and share improvements or ideas via emailing me over this website, or on social media.