Sunrise to Sundown at the Guggenheim

I waited quite a while for the area to be empty but the chance never came. It was nearing sunset when I finally decided to use a 10-stop filter, and not only was I able to "eliminate" people, I also got some nice sunset hues. I could still make out a few people on the shot in the right but thank goodness, they couldn't stay still for the 2-minute exposure. (Left, late afternoon) 0.5 sec @ f/18, ISO 100 (Right, at sunset) 2 minutes @ f/5.6, ISO 100.

On Saturday afternoon in Bilbao when the temperature was in a comfortable 60’s, the area around its most famous attraction – the Guggenheim Museum – was filled with tourists and passersby. Everyone wanted to get underneath the famous giant spider and pose for a shot, which is what I would do to if I was merely there as a tourist. Also, every few minutes, the small pool in front of the museum would generate a mist, sort of part of the attraction, and that would make the tiles near the spider wet and create a good reflection. I wanted to take a shot of that reflection, but there were just too many people in that area. I quickly figured this was one of the days when you just had to work around what you have, photographically speaking. And in the late afternoon when it was still too early for at least a 30-second exposure, I tried the shot with an ND110, and that seemed to work like a charm.

The mist on the pool would appear every few minutes and would create this nice cottony white cloud around this sculpture by Anish Kapoor, The Tall Tree and the Eye. This sculpture is made up of 80 glass spheres around three axes so that multiple images are reflected on its surfaces and each sphere reflects itself simultaneously. Pretty cool, eh?

So really, the best time to take photos of the museum without the tourist crowd was at dawn when most of the city is still asleep, and that’s what I did the next morning. It’s usually hard for me to get up for a pre-sunrise shoot but this time I did not mind because sunrise was not until after 8:00! I got there early to catch morning blue hour at the Zubizuri bridge which was only a few meters away from the museum.

Almost looks like a night shot, but this was actually taken as quickly as I saw a hint of blue in the sky the next morning. Right behind me were a row of benches facing the museum and I had spent a few minutes sitting on one of the benches just staring at this scene while waiting for the light to change; not a bad view, I suppose? I took 4 shots of this before proceeding onwards to the Zubizuri bridge.

The Zubizuri, which means "white bridge" in Basque, is Santiago Calatrava's creation, the same architect who designed the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia.

After Zubizuri, I walked back towards the museum, just in time to catch the glow of sunrise. Sunday morning is the best time to take photos in Bilbao - streets are fairly empty until about 10 a.m.

I did the same the next morning, only this time it was cloudy and in fact, the morning started with a few sprinkles. Sunrise was more subtle than the previous day, but still had some nice soft colors.

You'll often see the more popular street-level shots of the museum just like my first shot, and once in a while you'll see it from this vantage point which is from the La Salve bridge. The museum sits along the Nervion river.

And this was shot as I was walking down the steps of the bridge towards the museum. The red La Salve bridge is a life-saver on cloudy mornings. It was mostly nice and sunny throughout my stay in Bilbao except for a few hours in the morning on this day. The sunrise was less vibrant as I had hoped, so I was more than happy to include this red bridge on my shot which gave it a nice punch of color.

Of course, still for me, the Guggenheim looks its best during this time of day, evening twilight:



Top and bottom photo shot at street level, and middle photo was shot on the bridge while walking towards Deusto University.

*These images are available for licensing. Contact me if interested. DO NOT USE without permission.

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6 responses

  1. Wonderful photos Yen! The sculpture by Anish Kapoor actually reminds me of bubbles in a bath tub. Not quite the same as “The Tall Tree and the Eye”:)

    • It definitely is a fine piece of art, Rex, although I could not understand the artist’s reference to a tall tree and an eye. You’re right, they look more like Bubbles in a Bath Tub. šŸ™‚

      • When I look at it again from afar, it looks like a banyan tree. The spheres actually looks like squinting eyes. Your night shot captures the artist’s intent with the sculpture. Well done!

      • I wouldn’t have looked at it that way if you had not mentioned it, but yeah I think you’re right! It does look like that. What a keen eye you got!

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