Floors and Ceilings


The Kraken of Seville. Massive buttress roots fan out from an Australian banyan tree in Seville, Andalucía, Spain.

Our penultimate photography day in Andalucía was spent in Seville. And what wasn’t spent in Seville was spent driving to and from Seville. It was about two hours each way—which made for a long day—but was well worth the effort.

We began with a short session with the banyan tree above. After about 20 minutes taking turns being in each other’s way, we were herded into a group photo with the tree. As no one had a tripod or other respectable camera support of any kind—a rather embarrassing predicament for a ten-strong covey of photographers—most of us spent several minutes shifting uncomfortably from one cheek to the other while seated on the tree’s roots during the delicate operation of propping a camera into place for the group selfie. And the reshoot.

Obligatory group photo complete, we headed on foot to the Plaza de España. It was a beautiful sunny day, perhaps not what we were hoping for photographically, but it was clearly what the citizens of Seville were looking for, as a goodly number of them were in the plaza and the entire place had a festive air. Consequently, it was difficult to get any wide views of the plaza without scores of people milling around in the foreground. That said, it is obvious why it is popular: it is simply beautiful. There is a huge arcade that surrounds the plaza in a 180° arc of arches; there are boat rides; there are flamenco dancers and music and giant bubbles. In short, lots to see and do.

Surprisingly, there weren’t that many people actually wandering around the arcade itself and, with a little patience, it wasn’t hard to find bystander-free compositions to photograph. This was a blessing because the ceilings and floors and stonework and stairwells were very beautiful, despite being rather youthful by European standards (1928):

Arcade View. An arch frames the tower at one end of the horseshoe-shaped arcade of the Plaza de España, Seville, Spain.
Ascent. Carvings and paintings decorate a staircase in Plaza de España, Seville, Spain.
On the Bias. Red and blue tilework criss-crosses the arcade floor of the Plaza de España, Seville, Spain.

After grabbing lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe Seville (only the second Hard Rock Cafe I have been to, ironically) we went to the Real Alcázars of Seville. While not as crazy-elaborate as the Alhambra, it was a very beautiful palace complex, if plagued by substandard signage for visitors: I eventually realized that the rest of the group was below-ground looking at the baths and I was completely unable to find them. In the end they kindly sent a search party to retrieve me. In the end I spent about 90% of my visit in about 30% of the complex with no idea there was a lot more to it! But I did get to concentrate on the part I did see:

Portal. A window reflects the sky in a courtyard in the Real Alcázars of Seville, Seville, Spain.
Crosses and Flowers. Elaborate woodwork and carvings cover a ceiling in Real Alcázars of Seville, Seville, Spain.

Our last stop of the day was at the most bizarre structure I have ever seen: Las Setas de Sevilla, originally known as Metropol Parasol until a copyright dispute encouraged a name change. Now, part of why I enjoy Europe is that there are so many interesting and, well, foreign things to look at and admire in virtually every city, but more than anything this is just weird. Weird and big. Very weird and very big. True, I think this particular structure only “works” because it is so big, but fabricating such a monstrosity of a curiosity to be a glorified gazebo and skateboard park is a puzzling reason to spend the better part of 100,000,000 euros. (Could there be a burial chamber inside…?) Regardless, lots of people were enjoying an afternoon of ice cream and chatter around the plaza, which is worth something. And it was, I admit, neat to look at and presented interesting photographic possibilities:

Tripe and Mushrooms. The massive gridded structure of Las Setas de Sevilla looms over the Plaza de la Encarnación, Seville, Spain.

Seville is very worth visiting if you have the chance. Along those lines, it is worth noting that Light & Land is currently advertising a 2024 repeat of this tour to Andalucía.

Technical notes. The photographs in this post were taken with a Nikon Z7. The first and last images were taken with a AF-S Fisheye Nikkor 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED, which sometimes is definitely the right tool the job. The image of the ceiling detail (Crosses and Flowers) was taken with a PC-E Micro Nikkor 85mm f/2.8D handheld, which is not the easiest way to use a tilt-shift lens, especially when looking up. The others were taken with the Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S and the Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S. All were processed from RAW in Adobe Lightroom Classic.