The AWAI Travel Photography Workshop, Seville (Day 1)

The rooftop bar at the Hotel Doña María

I am now back in Istanbul, having had a wonderful time in Seville attending an AWAI (American Writers and Artists Inc.) Travel Photography Workshop. There were only seven people in our group, which meant that we had lots of individual help from our Guru, Efrain Padro, a professional travel photographer and writer. We were also blessed to have Jackie, from AWAI, who organised everything with such efficiency. Those few days in Seville changed me from a would-be photographer into someone who has mastery over her camera, who can now take professional standard photographs (well almost!).

We stayed at the Hotel Doña María in the old historic centre of Seville, facing the Cathedral and the famous Giralda Tower. The Hotel was originally a XIV Century palatial mansion, belonging to one Samuel Leví (that should amuse the Zimbos among you). This particular Samuel Levi was an advisor and confidant to King Peter I, "The Cruel". One of the features of this hotel is its rooftop bar and swimming pool with a stunning view of the Cathedral and the Giralda Tower.

Not that we had much time to admire the view! We spent an exhausting, but thoroughly enjoyable, time learning about photography, and travel photography in particular. Our first full day began with a classroom session on composition and checking our understanding of the various camera functions. We then set off for our first shoot, in the Reales Alcázares (Royal Fortresses). This began as a fortified palace, built for Abd al-Rahman III (891-961), in 913, and was gradually added to, over the centuries, by the many monarchs that followed. It now is the official residence of His Royal Majesty Juan Carlos when he visits Seville.

An inner courtyard, showing the decorative stonework.

The Ambassadors' Room, decorated with gilded cedar wood.

The Reales Alcázares has many rooms, patios and halls, in many different architectural styles, reflecting different periods from ancient Islamic to Neoclassical. There is also an array of beautiful gardens and fountains, so we had lots to photograph. The seven of us workshop attendees spread out in every direction to see what we could achieve in the short time available. To his credit, Efrain managed to find each one of us in that vast space so that he could check our images, and critique them, enabling us to benefit from his considerable experience.

The elegant tapestry room. On the right is Lynnia (one of our group), photographing the exquisite tiling along the walls.

This fountain, showing Mercury the winged messenger,  
is in the Jardin de la Alcubilla (Garden of the Reservoir), 
which dates back to the time of Charles V.

After a quick lunch, we were back in the classroom for a group photo review. We each had to choose 3 images for Efrain to appraise on a large screen. This was a little nerve-wracking, but Efrain was kindness itself (although we discovered that when he used the phrase, "This is not your best work.", it was time to junk that particular photo).

The Plaza de España is built in a semi-circle, 
with a diameter of 200m.

Our afternoon assignment took us to the Plaza de España, built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, to showcase Spain's industrial and technological exhibits. Today, it houses government offices in magnificent splendor. Those who had tripods were encouraged to bring them along. This was my first time using a tripod. At first I must have looked strange as I battled with the contraption, but gradually I felt more comfortable as I moved around. The resulting shots were impressive as I was able to achieve perfect focus (for once in my life - ie no camera shake!).

Here, Efrain is advising, Brent, one of our group.

The canal is a great place to go boating.

After a quick dinner, we were out again with our tripods, taking photos of the Giralda Tower, lit against the evening sky. Here the tripods were essential, as long exposures were needed to compensate for the fading light. So ended day one, well almost - we still had to download our photos and get our kit ready for the next day. I went to bed exhausted, but happy. What of the next day? Wait for my next post!

The Giralda Tower at night.


  1. You are an inspiration Mum, Sounds like you had a blast :) Mwah!

  2. I did. It was an amazing experience. So much so, I have decided to go to another workshop in Venice, in September!

  3. Good to se it was money well spent Liz. The photos are stunning. Any course I do in education is in a musty room on a housing estate. You know how to live it up even when 'working'. ;-)


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