When I was invited by London City Airport to take part in its #NoFilter project, I jumped at the chance, because I’m a big fan of taking photographs and resisting the urge to tamper with them. Instagram certainly has the ability to enhance your photos, but a lot of people are falling into the trap of taking photo editing a step too far and portraying images that are nothing like the real deal.
The aim of this project is to show cities throughout Europe in their natural beauty and to provide an honest and transparent glimpse of what it’s really like to visit.
The first city to be featured is Spain’s capital, Madrid, and the entries will be judged by an ex-resident Jade Conroy, from MSN Travel UK.
My #NoFilter Madrid Images
I was only in Madrid for a few hours either side of a volunteer placement, so I slipped on my running gear, grabbed my old compact camera and a map and set off on a whirlwind tour. My aim was not to capture magnificent, high-quality images but to take a snapshot of life in Madrid.
What struck me most about Madrid was its residents. There are restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating down every street, which encourages people to socialise. There’s a general air of contentment that rubs off on you the more time you spend there.
My favourite image from my trip is of a jovial older couple sitting on fold out chairs in the middle of a public walkway while the man plays his accordion. I love that the man is completely lost in his music while the woman appears to be lost in him.
With good Spanish music comes great dancing, and I was lucky enough to catch a Flamenco performance. The passion of the Spanish people for music really shone through during my entire stay.
As the sun set, the streets were still bustling with people and an area of the Puerta del Sol between the fountain and a statue of a bear and a Madroño tree is the meeting spot of choice for residents and tourists alike.
While I was in Madrid, there were also protests over teachers’ salaries. It was really interesting to witness a community combining forces and fighting for a cause they believed in, without resorting to violence.
#NoFilter Photography Tips
♦ Learn how to use the settings on your camera. It may sound obvious, but many of us rely heavily on the automatic setting. Taking the time to familiarise yourself with changes in aperture, ISO and shutter speed will reduce the time spent altering images later.
♦ Do some research on the place you’re about to visit. If you Google image the top spots you might get some inspiration for a great angle or unusual perspective. You can also consider factors such as where the sun will be at certain times of the day and plan your sightseeing around that. Don’t avoid bad weather; it creates atmosphere.
♦ Be versatile. Don’t just take photos of the obvious. Turn away from the main view and see what’s going on behind you. Zoom in on details you might have missed. Try shooting from a different angle. Take photos in both portrait and landscape.
♦ Reduce camera shake by using a monopod or supporting your arms. Having a higher shutter speed than the equivalent focal length of the lens will also help to reduce camera shake.
♦ Switch lenses. Wide-angle lenses include more in the picture, while telephoto lenses are for specific details. To emphasise something close but still include the background, a wide-angle lens is best. Very extreme wide-angle lenses (fisheye lenses) create a curved effect. Telephoto lenses should be used when you can’t get close to a subject. They compress things and make them seem closer together.
♦ Use the ‘rule of thirds’. Create more interesting compositions by imagining a nine-segment grid. Important elements should be on those lines and not in the middle. A horizon should not be in the centre, for example. The exception is when you are purposefully trying to create symmetry in a shot.
♦ Have something or someone in the foreground to create a sense of depth or magnitude, look for leading lines that lead the viewer to an object of interest, search for interesting patterns/bright colours and make them the subject of the photo or photograph reflections for a more unique image.
♦ Keep your camera round your neck to snap candid images of people; these shots are more natural.
Madrid’s Most Photogenic Spots
Plaza Major – elegant architecture with outdoor chairs around the perimeter.
Parque del Buen Retiro – beautiful gardens with poplar trees, mazes, lakes, fountains, monuments and palaces.
Palacio Real – the official residence of the Spanish Royal family and a spectacular building.
Puerta del Sol – capture the hussle and bussle of everyday life and check out the famous bear statue.
Campo del Moro – great for a different perspective of the Royal Palace and a peaceful place to rest.
It’s just as fun to simply wander the streets, getting lost for a few hours and admiring the architecture. Madrid is a city that offers ample opportunities to take interesting and beautiful photos.