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Porto - Ideal destination for a weekend

In the late 90s I lived in Porto for a couple of years, and although I have been there several times since then, I have long wanted to spend a whole weekend just to walk around and photograph.
Much has changed in the last 20 years, tourism has increased greatly and the whole historic area has adapted to this new reality. Streets that previously had almost no movement, are now filled with restaurants, bars, art galleries. But despite all the changes, the essence of this city remains the same: genuine and very welcoming to those who visit it.
 

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The decision to spend a weekend in Porto was taken just a few days earlier and so with such a short notice most of the hotels in the historic area no longer had rooms available. The idea was to leave the car parked and make the whole visit on foot, hence the importance of a central location. As an alternative to hotels, we stayed in a comfortable Guest House: Predicados do Douro Palace. And we could not be more pleased. Each room has a unique and personalized decoration, the service was very friendly and the breakfast fantastic.

From culture to architecture and gastronomy, this city has much to offer. But as my goal for the weekend was mostly to do photography and video, I almost exclusively went all the weekend walking on the streets. Unfortunately the weather didn't help and the umbrella was a constant company, as you can see from the photos.

Main points of interest from the travel and street photographer's point of view:

  • Garden of the Palácio de Cristal
  • The whole way along the Douro River, from Alfândega to the Dom Luiz I Bridge
  • Praça da Ribeira
  • São Bento train station
  • Santa Catarina Street
  • Aliados Avenue
  • Clérigos Tower
  • Dom Luiz I Bridge

In fact, the best way to take a good look at Porto is to get out of the city! Crossing the Dom Luiz I Bridge over the Douro River, we arrive at Gaia, where the Port wine cellars are located, many restaurants and terraces and a beautiful view over the river and Porto.

It was a great weekend and it is definitely an experience to be repeated in the spring.

Main highlights:

  • Very friendly and hospitable people
  • City with lots of activities, culture and experiences for all tastes
  • Gastronomy (it is mandatory making a Port wine tasting)
  • Fair prices

Less positive aspects:

  • For those who want to stay in a central area, it's necessary to book in advance
  • In Autumn and Winter, the probability of rainfall is high
     

Equipment used:

Fuji X-Pro1: Along with the 35mm f1.4 lens, it's a great choice for street and travel photography. Lightweight and discreet, it is extremely easy to carry everywhere and despite its age, the image quality is very good. Although the focus speed has improved greatly with the latest firmware updates, it's still slow and noisy. Therefore, shooting with this camera requires some patience.

Sony A77 II: I used this camera mostly for video, along with the 16-50mm f2.8 lens. As I don't like to use tripods, having sensor stabilization (IBIS) is absolutely indispensable. Although since 2012 I have switched to mirrorless cameras, the A77 II is not mirrorless, but is not a DSLR either. Sony calls this SLT technology and combines the best of both worlds: a very fast focusing speed and an electronic viewfinder which allows to preview how the picture will look even before shooting (exposure, white balance, ...). Except for the disadvantage of size and weight, this is a fantastic camera with the fastest focusing speed I've ever tested (including DSLRs), very robust and reliable, with excellent picture quality both in photography and video. I did not hesitate a second to use it under the rain. In fact, in the Summer when it gets dirty with dust, sometimes the simplest way to clean it is to simply wash it under the tap.

iPhone SE: It has a small screen of 4.0" but this turns out to be an advantage as it is compact but powerful, having all the potential of the 6s, including processor and camera. The image quality is very interesting and with the right light conditions produces fantastic images. In situations of overcast sky or diffused lighting, even with plenty of light available, the images lose contrast and the colors are not very vibrant. With all the virtues and defects it’s a tool that for several years has been with me daily and, with its various generations, I have already captured many images that I am proud of.