Following the 1st real, hands-on day of the Porto Photography Experience, we head out for the 2nd day, with plans for lots more street photography, more walking, more food, another great venue, and two new models!
A very special tour
Day 2 of the Porto Photography Experience started with the hearty hotel breakfast that had shown itself to be so useful the previous day.
Once everybody had refuelled their bodies and got ready for another day of shooting, we were greeted by Pedro, from The Worst Tours. Pedro is an architect that runs unique tours in Porto, revealing the true heart of the city – the one that you can only see once you turn your back to the “tourist traps” and shiny buildings in clean faced avenues, and dare to tread into the back streets and alleys that you will not find in the tourist guide books – the ones that reveal the real character of a place. And so we did.
But very quickly we came to a slightly disconcerting realisation: having models with us on this tour created a bit of a conundrum for the group – on the one hand, they wanted to follow Pedro’s brilliant tour and explanations, but on the other hand, they also wanted more time to shoot the models in each location we walked past – because Porto!
Shooting while trying to catch up with Pedro became difficult, so a swift plan adaptation was in order: we slowed everything down and create some unplanned stops along the way to give everybody their shot at the models in each location (no pun intended, honest!).
(This is by no means a reflection of Pedro’s work – his immense knowledge of the city shines through at every step, and the tour was exactly what we had asked for in the first place: a “character” tour. We just forgot to factor the “shooting time” thing in… oops. In hindsight, we should have seen this coming: gorgeous models, great locations and eager photographers aren’t exactly compatible with tourist-paced city tours – but this is the main reason for test runs: to find out what works and what needs adjustments, and this segment clearly falls in the latter category.)
Tweaking the plan
The Sé do Porto provided one of the unplanned stops, allowing our group to take their time shooting against the backdrop of the town’s main cathedral and the charming streets surrounding it. Our models for the day, Iana and Geraldine, were styled in relaxed casual clothing for the first part of the day, matching the feel of the streets. It didn’t take long for the group to find out about Geraldine’s dance background. You can guess what happened next…
It was really interesting to see Tammy and Carina, who, by their own admission are not “people shooters”, come into their own. Watching them direct models and translating their vision into their images was really inspiring. You could feel their confidence in directing growing by the minute, and being able to review the back of their camera straight after their shoots just confirmed their progress.
After the sound of clicking shutters subsided and everybody was done (or at least they said there were, because photographers are never quite done…), a quick stop into a traditionally small coffee shop provided a short break for coffee and icecream.
The weather was certainly on our side and brought with it the wonderful light that only the streets of Porto will give you – the kind of light that bounces around from walls and floors in dark, shadowed alleyways, coming from nowhere and everywhere at the same time, and allows you to keep shooting in full natural light. This was the perfect way to develop each and everybody’s light searching skills, to capture the light bouncing off the natural features, without having to take out a single flash unit.
A short but intense walk was next, and up, up, up was the name of the game – taking the route through the oldest staircases in Porto to get to our lunch stop. The walk up provided the quintessential views across Porto’s orange rooftops, scattered with sky lights that are fitted into the oldest of buildings.
Lunch at Cooperativa Árvore
Saying goodbye to Pedro, we arrived at Cooperativa Árvore for a much needed lunch break.
The Cooperativa Árvore was founded in 1963 for a group of artists, so it seemed a fitting place for this particular group of modern, starving artists to have lunch. Add to this fact that the food is really good and the staff are great, and this place is simply a no-brainer. Overlooking the restaurant is the Horto das Virtudes garden, with its magnificent trees all out in their lovely spring coats (have we mentioned the weather was simply perfect?… yeah, it really was).
As we entered and walked down the beautiful building outdoor staircase to the restaurant, it was clear that the group was already headlong in love with Porto and its charms.
This was also a very special day for Iana, our lovely model, as it was her birthday! And because no birthday would ever be complete without cake and singing Happy Birthday, we did so in style: starting in Portuguese, we then moved on to English, Ukrainian, then around the table to sing a verse in everyone’s native language, finishing with a delicious cake in yet another demonstration of Portugal’s mouthwatering patisseries.
A quick model style change and we were off to the next shooting location, at the Palacete dos Viscondes de Balsemão. This wonderful building dates back from the mid-eighteenth century and is very famous for housing the exiled King of Sardinia. Very understated on the outside, but as soon as you enter the amazing staircase you appreciate that this is indeed a building fit for a king.
Once again we split the group in two, so that they were able to work in two areas of the building at the same time with a model each.
To see Geraldine dance in the windows of the piano room under the photographer’s direction was wonderful – as if there was silent music coming out of the old piano, music that only the people in the room could feel.
Meanwhile the second group took to the staircase with Iana, as she walked up and down the steps with all the grace and poise of the real lady of the house. Shooting indoors meant that the beeps and pops of lighting equipment were now responding to the shutter clicks, and once again the two groups were able to work separately without interference.
And because time really flies when you’re having fun, suddenly it was time for another quick model change – this time into ball gowns and big dresses. Resuming the sessions, all you could hear in those great halls were the instructions being softly whispered to the models, followed by more sounds of shutters and flashes…
…and then a lot of laughter in the hallways, as Thomas discovered that he looked really good in the pair of wings that we had brought for the models.
Wrapping up the shoot, we headed out for the coffee shop around the corner, another quick model styling change, and to get ready for the last part of the day.
Another brief walk with the models around Porto during golden hour allowed us to capture the essence of this beautiful place bathed in gorgeous light – just the perfect recipe before dinner.
A different kind of restaurant
We had dinner at a traditional Portuguese type of restaurant known as “tascas”. Better known for the quality of their food rather than the decoration, the tascas are pretty bare to look at, and worlds apart from the fancy restaurants we had visited the previous two evenings. But the Porto Photography Experience is all about experiencing different things, and with all of us sat at one long table at the Petiscaria de Sto António, filling the whole place with laughter, it became obvious that it was the perfect place to wrap up the day at.
As the amazing food and wine appeared on the table, everyone was in high spirits reflecting on such a great, packed day. We were even treated to a firework display right outside the Tasca, in front of the old Clérigos church, as the students in their traditional capes celebrated the end of their school year.
Cake and coffees to finish the meal, and soon we all got back into the vans for the transfer back to the hotel and a quick port before bed to top off yet another fantastic day with great people!
More to come …