Exploring the Costa de La Luz for Konfekt Magazine
With international travel off the agenda, over the last year and a half I’ve been fortunate to see an uptick in assignments here in Spain. It’s been refreshing to travel around the country by car, exploring new regions, often with my family alongside me. The most satisfying development has been the opportunity to collaborate with my wife Francheska, whose writing career has taken off in 2021 who is now contributing to Monocle and its sister magazine, Konfekt.
Back in April, we spent 6 days discovering the Atlantic coastline in and around Cadiz for Konfekt magazine. Our commission tasked us with finding out how local entrepreneurship was helping to lift a region that is one of the most economically challenged in Spain, while also showcasing the landscapes, cuisine and architecture of the area.
Every assignment has it’s challenges, and this was no exception. As it’s name suggests, the Costa de la Luz is known for it’s year round bright and sunny weather. On average there are 6 rainy days in the Cadiz area every April – this year they all fell during the week we visited! This meant that we had to do a lot of impromptu changes to our daily schedules, rearranging appointments to coincide with gaps in the rain, and dashing to important locations when it looked like the sun was going to shine. On one occasion, a drive out to the white village of Vejer de la Frontera to catch the last 30 minutes of daylight was particularly fruitful.
Our desire to chase the light wasn’t without purpose – the story was due to be published in the summer edition of Konfekt, and our editors were keen for a ‘high summer’ feel to the images. We definitely had some luck with a couple of clear evenings spent in the ‘calas’ near Roche, and some hours of bright midday light to photograph the architecture of Cadiz’ old town.
While we had plenty of pre-arranged appointments that formed the bulk of our story, one of the things I love about working on travel stories is finding the surprise, unplanned photographs that can really enrich the visual impact of the final piece. We encountered Ramón outside his toy store on our first morning in Cadiz, and while his portrait didn’t get selected for the final piece, the warmth of his chat set us up for a day of meeting new people.
Our encounter with 15-yr-old Antonio, below, was equally fortuitous. Driving towards the beaches at Roche, I pulled over to photograph the late evening sun casting long shadows through the pine forests that characterise this section of coast to the south of Cadiz city. Antonio was leading his horse through a series of intricate drills and steps – he rides every evening without fail. Observing at first hand the symbiosis of horse and rider was quite something. Again this portrait didn’t make the final cut, but I’ve always found that it’s great to offer this kind of extra option to the creative team.
Another lesson I have learned over the past few years of travel stories is that every meal should be treated as a potential photo shoot! Sometimes an unplanned stop at a cafe or a rushed lunch at a restaurant can provide an opportunity. On our first morning in Cadiz, we took a 15 minute break at La Isleta de la Viña for a very late brunch – I ordered a couple of cañas and the Spanish staple of a pintxo de tortilla, only to be presented with a dish that exploded with colour – local samphire, cream cheese and cubes of crusty bread.
6 days later on our final afternoon, we stopped for lunch at a tumbledown chiringuito on Playa de El Palmar, where the beautifully layered tinto de verrano glowed in the midday sun.
Both of these impromptu photographs were chosen for the final edit, because of course what is travel without immersing yourself in the cuisine of a region?
While the weather on this assignment offered up challenges, when the clouds dissipated the clarity of the light on this stretch of the Atlantic coast was exceptional. My memories will be of the glow that seemed to emanate from every surface as the sunlight danced and rebounded through trees and over water.
The warmth of the light is reflected in the warmth of the welcome that we received throughout our 6 days in the region. After a long cold winter in our mountain home in the Sierra de Guadarrama, it was incredibly liberating to step out (full masked of course!) into a bustling city plaza, with kids chasing balls in all directions, while older residents paraded in their Sunday best. In spite of the Covid-19 curfews that were still in place, this trip was hopefully a glimpse of future adventures.