From the terrace of the Ermita de la Virgen de la Peña, I enjoyed a great view over the Mediterranean Sea. Far in the distance, a thin layer of clouds was disappearing for the day and in the front, under the very long shadows of a street lamp and some trees, a bed of flowers was growing.
Every morning, when I was leaving town early, I encountered a couple of city workers who were watering the plants. If they wouldn’t get watered every day, probably not that many beautiful plants would be able to grow in that climate.
The city’s main street is a long and rather small road where you have to drive really slow. There are lots of tourists walking around during the day, and you frequently have to stop for them to cross the road or you get stuck behind a donkey carriage. Maybe I’ll post a picture of a donkey carriage tomorrow if I can find one that I like.
From the top of a building above main street, I could look just over the buildings on the other side of the street and from there straight down the mountain all the way to the sea. I know I keep going on about the view but it is something I don’t normally get to see or pay much attention to.
When driving through Mijas in the evening, looking for a place to park, I noticed this little chapel that looked like a cave on a little ledge near the center of the city. I decided to take a closer look during my morning walk.
The Chapel is called the Ermita de la Virgen de la Peña and was caved into a natural rock formation by a Carmelite Monk in the 17th century. A few years later, a belfry and a room next to it were added, but built out of natural bricks outside the cave. Above the entrance, there is a statue of the Virgin de la Peña. I took a look inside, and it really did look like a chapel in a cave. And it was full of the only types of people you would expect at a historical site in rural Spain at 10 in the morning – Japanese tourists. So I skipped taking photos of the inside. Also because my camera didn’t perform well in low light situations.
Taking photos of the outside, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to go ultra wide angle, use a normal lens or do a detail shot with a telephoto lens. I ended up taking all three shots so I could decide later which one I liked best. However, I still cannot decide which one I like most, they all show different aspects of the chapel in their own way. I guess I like the middle one most because it shows the statue, the old belfry and a little bit of the cave without any distractions in the frame.
For the last shot, I wanted the sun to look like it was the statue’s halo, so I had to shoot with a telephoto lens directly into the sun. This is something you should never do! Most of the optical elements inside a camera lens are magnifying glasses, perfectly tuned and adjusted to collect a large amount of light and focus it on a tiny area. When looking through the optical viewfinder of a camera, this tiny area would be your eye, which might get severely burnt or otherwise damaged.
Instead, I used my camera’s live view function. Probably not the best for the camera sensor either, but unlike my eye, it has a heat sensor and shuts down before burning up. The downside is that I can’t press the camera to my face when using live view which makes it harder to hold it perfectly steady. With a shutter speed of 1/8000th of a second, this is not necessary to prevent motion blur, but I had to keep the camera perfectly aligned in the shadow of the statue’s head to avoid a bright spot next to the head as well as lens flares. It took ten attempts to finally get the photo right.
When you think about the Mediterranean Sea, you usually think about dirty water and loads of drunken British and German tourists as well as screaming children. At least that’s what my experience had been like. But if you keep a distance of a couple of kilometers, all you see is a beautiful wide plane of blue water. And when you’re a little bit up in the mountains, the climate doesn’t get so hot either.
Walking around the city in the early morning was a very calm experience. I guess most of the other people living here and the few tourists were still sleeping. Only some shop owners were opening their stores, getting their merchandise out and cleaning up a bit. The view down the mountain and over the other cities beneath was spectacular. I could look very far in either direction and in the middle, the Mediterranean Sea was stretching towards the horizon.
Even though the sun was still rising, it was already high enough in the sky to not be directly visible inside most pictures. And it still wasn’t high enough to kill all shadows or make the sky appear too bright. At home I don’t normally get the chance to take pictures in the morning hours because I’m either getting ready for work or still asleep.
It’s not like I don’t have any more pictures from Belgium, it’s just that I feel like it’s time for something a little brighter. Most of my trips to Belgium have been in the winter months, so the pictures don’t have much sunlight in them. Of course, I also like traveling during the summer. Towards the end of the summer last year, I went to Spain for a week and a half. And I did get to see a lot of sun.
Before even planning the trip, I had collected a random list of places I wanted to visit in the area. I decided to stay at the same hotel for the entire trip and drive around with a rental car. The city I chose as home base was Mijas, a small city in the mountains between Marbella and Malaga. The main reason was that it is pretty much in the middle of all the places I wanted to visit, the hotel was reasonably priced and the area seemed quiet enough for me to expect being able to actually sleep during the nights (which is helpful if you spend all day walking around).
With all the driving around and visiting other places, I never spent an entire day in the city itself. But I wandered around a bit in the early mornings and late afternoons, before driving away or after returning. The houses all looked pretty old but were in excellent shape. I saw people applying fresh white paint on more than one occasion, I guess keeping these houses clean requires quite some maintenance work. But especially in the morning sun that did pay off and made the city look very calm and beautiful.