A Photowalk through Alfama, Lisbon

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It's no surprise that the oldest neighbourhood of Lisbon, Portugal, is also its most photogenic. Because Alfama was not destroyed in the disastrous earthquake of 1755, much of the area is still intact with narrow cobblestone streets winding along their old routes. Lisbon's famous yellow trams trundle up and down the city's hills, past Miradouros with scenic views over houses and cafes covered in red tile roofs. And as nice as the views are, wandering through the alleys of Alfama was one of my favourite parts of this trip. 

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In early February, the temperature wasn't quite beach weather, but it was perfect for city sightseeing on foot (especially while carrying camera equipment!). We took the famous Tram 28 up to Miradouro das Portas do Sol to take in the views over Lisbon  and visit Castelo de S. Jorge before walking back down the hills through little streets and passageways. Take the tram - you'll undoubtedly take photos of it, so it makes sense to ride it at least once and get a better sense of what and why you're photographing. Just keep a close eye on your valuables - the crowded tram often attracts pickpockets.

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Even though it was winter, sunny skies were really bright. While this is great for holidaying (and feeling like we're emerging from hibernation!) it's not ideal for photography, especially landscapes or cityscapes where your image will include some amount of sky. Bright daylight tends to make colours look washed out, and fairly dull compared to what you see with your eyes. One of the easiest ways to make sure that the naturally rich colours of your scene also come through in your images is to use a polarizing filter directly on your camera. It's basically sunglasses for your camera! 

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The colourful cityscape of Lisbon stands out against dramatic storm clouds!

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Making our way along the old cobblestone streets engaged our senses. House fronts are decorated with tiles, plants, and art, while adults sell shots of sweet Ginjinha (cherry liqueur) in chocolate shot glasses, and notes of Fado music fill the air.

Keep your eyes open for Azulejos, the beautiful ceramic tiles of Lisbon that are found on many exterior walls. Not only are the tiles ornamental with a long history of craftsmanship, but they help protect structures against the elements, and make great detail shots to add variety in your travel photos. 

Speaking of details - many of the cobblestones are worn smooth (I mean really smooth) from time and weather. When people say the stones are slippery in the rain, they aren't kidding.  But don't let it stop you, the streets are beautiful even in the rain.

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