As the days get shorter and the temperature falls, I remember the clear bright light of Comillas. It seems very distant now but it is only three weeks since we returned. The same evening I captured the Monumento we walked across to the adjoining headland, home to Cementerio de Comillas, a spectacular graveyard in an enviable location – tombs with a view.
The cemetery of Comillas is located on the site of an abandoned parish church from the 15th or 16th century and is guarded by the Ángel exterminador Fachada:
Tourists, like me, come to gawp; the locals come to place flowers and dust down their dead relatives. I am touched and envious. I have nowhere to go. Burned to ashes, my dead are cast to the four winds:
That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it …
The hint of the century
The slip that brought me
To my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
Now I’ve said too much.
For a small town, Comillas has much to interest without sinking to the depths of themed parks, experiences or visitor centres. Most of the information boards are solely in Spanish which is also fine by me – I can admire things for what they appear to be while idly scratching at my many mosquito bites. I don’t do in-depth analysis or consideration of other cultures, I struggle to keep up with my own. Suffice to say that Comillas is a quite spectacular place with some very fine old architecture and not too much of the modern, at least not at its centre.
On the headland above the bay stands Antonio López y López, the first marquis of Comillas; condemned, like Nelson, to spend eternity atop a stone column – he has the better view. Ubicación, ubicación, ubicación.
These variations on a theme were taken at different times across the same day – the cool winds above the bay relieve the itching 😉
I have time on my hands, life has slowed to the pace of a snail. I am not good at doing nothing. Consequently my blog output has suddenly risen and playing with the camera occupies a large part of the day. This is not necessarily a bad thing – life back home is always too full. Here in Comillas the opposite applies.
Days start too slowly – we skip mornings, arrive ready prepared for siesta time and finally hit the streets early evening. I could not do this for long, it feels like a life wasted but for a short time it is fine.
I avoid using flash – it has limited range, it is intrusive, it does nothing for facial features and the strong shadows are unnatural. As the light fails, the answer is to push the X100s to ISO 6400, change the white balance to incandescent, switch the film simulation to Provia Standard and then fade into the background.
Once captured, the images are cropped and the levels adjusted in Photoshop CC. ON1 is used to convert to black and white with a basic green filter, a minor vignette applied and a border added. Then a final dabble with sharpening, levels, brightness and contrast in Photoshop finishes the job. And, the real trick in all this? – remembering to reset the camera to its standard settings.
On the Run, Phoning Home, The Fountain and Church Door were taken out and about on the streets of Comillas last night. It keeps me amused and out of trouble 🙂
The narrow-gauge FEVE railway meanders across Spain’s northern coast between Bilbao in the Basque Country and Ferrol in Galicia. Narrow-gauge it may be but this is no museum piece, the rolling stock is modern and clean and the trains run to time.
Given my background, it was inevitable that we should find ourselves on the regular FEVE service between Cabezón de la Sal and Santander within just a few days of our arrival. The single track line carves a neat track through a rural landscape, crossing open fields, hugging shady river banks and diving into rough-hewn tunnels. Heading east, Torrelavega marks the boundary between the rural and the suburban, open country makes way for a semi-industrialised landscape as the line approaches Santander.
The line heading west from Cabezón de la Sal is even more spectacular but the services are less frequent and the day travel options more limited. Simon Calder explains the attraction in this extract from the Independent:
Here’s the issue: railway engineers in mountainous areas like to stick to river valleys. In northern Spain, these tend to run north-south. But the line sets itself the challenge of running east-west to link some of the biggest cities (plus countless tiny villages) in northern Spain. You are reminded of this with the occasional squeal of steel on steel as the train performs twists and turns that would be implausible even on a child’s train set.
Walking around Santander, I travel light – as ever I am carrying the Fuji X100s on a Black Rapid strap. It is unobtrusive and swings easily in and out of use. The downside is that this old-style, everyday workhorse is beginning to look a little rough around the edges. However, it is not just it’s retro looks and convenient size that appeal. Like many other Fuji enthusiasts I am convinced that the results you get from this little gem are more analogue film-like than any other camera I have used. This is a biased and entirely subjective opinion but this article adds some substance to the view – Why the Fuji Series Images are so film like – Dan Bailey.
Of course, by the time my JPEGS have been processed in Photoshop and ON1, any similarity to the original image is entirely coincidental 😉 A brief walk around Santander:
My good lady and best friend has been angling to go somewhere warm. These last few years I have taken her to the Arctic Circle in winter (minus 30 in Kirkenes), Lapland, the Inner Hebrides, the Outer Hebrides, the northwest and northeast of Scotland and various narrowboat voyages across middle England, renowned for its equatorial climate 😉 For penance I find myself in northern Spain, Comillas in Cantabria to be precise and very warm it is too.
A short slice of holiday life – a couple of hours after our arrival we walk down the steep track from the gîte to the town centre. Within a few hundred yards Pam finds a plastic driving licence lying on the ground and the strangest of things – it is mine, even though I have never passed this way before! A miracle say I. No says my beloved – that was the ‘angel of found things’ lending a helping hand, it was meant to be.
Of course if my fine lady hadn’t dropped it in the first place (on a wander looking for the gîte) and the ‘angel of careless hands’ hadn’t been asleep on the job, none of this would have been necessary – in the interests of a peaceful and serene existence, all of this goes unsaid. Maybe this explains everything:
From Iglesia de San Cristóbal we walked to the seafront and at the small port peer over the harbour wall to find a raging white water sea. I think I am going to like it here:
In the evening there are still stragglers on the beach, reluctant to let the long day close.
“In the reprieve at the end of the day, in the stillness of a summer evening, the world sheds its categories, the insistence of its future, and is suspended solely in the lilt of its desire.”
Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams.
Yes, my thoughts are still fixated on the north 😉