Ermita de la Virgen de la Peña

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.

Ermita de la Virgen de la Peña

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.

Virgin and Belfry gable

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.

La Virgen de la Peña

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.

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