Oh! What bliss! A lie-in followed by a sumptuous choice of breakfast items including chilled Prosecco and Bucks Fizz. I only tend to drink alcohol on special occasions and never first thing in the morning, but since I considered my first morning in Dubrovnik a special occasion, I treated myself to a small glass which was a perfect accompaniment to the companionship of fellow Welshotters while sitting on the terrace overlooking the ocean with a view of the Old City a stone’s throw away. A leisurely breakfast in the sun was a delightful prelude to a stroll into the Old Town where perfect soft, natural lighting showed the soft stone and red and yellow rooftops at their best. The streets looked so different in daylight.
Our first port of call was the harbour where we spent some time wandering round and getting our bearings (for Lynsey and I, who were first-timers) capturing views and doing a bit of street photography. Lynsey managed to capture the rear view of one rather handsome young gentleman who was dressed for a dip in the sea (clothed, I hasten to add, if a little skimpily). There was plenty of opportunity to shoot seascapes for us that morning! Selfies abounded.
Eifion had hoped to walk to the fort and beyond tonight, in order to capture a sunset, but learnt that it closed at 5.30 and the sun was due to set shortly after 6.00, so it wouldn’t have been possible. Undaunted, we decided to walk to the fort anyway so we could tick it off our “to do” list. Once again, there were steps everywhere!! We were already getting used to this and took advantage of corners and plateaux to catch our breath (at least, I did) and take some more photos. It cost 150 Croatian kunos (roughly £18) to get into the fort, but this also gave us a 50kn discount for the Walls walk on the following morning so it wasn’t too steep (unlike the steps).
The route to the fort took us around the harbour and up several steep flights of steps to the top, passing what I called The Fairy Glen, complete with a Rapunzel knotted rope or fabric falling from one of the windows to the right of the path and rising up from the ocean. It was stunning!! I envisaged a Welshot Academy Evening there with models dressed in romantic costumes as the light falls. It would make a great setting for some composite photography, too. Another wow moment! Remember I mentioned having set my settings to small files? This was when Eifion discovered my error and hence, the small image files up to and including The Fairy Glen. From there on, it was big files all the way! They say we learn by our mistakes, don’t they, and I did a lot of learning this week!
The natural light by now was high key and there was harsh contrast between the bright sunlight and sharp, dark shadows which challenged our cameras and photographic skills, so Eifion gave us some guidance on shooting in HDR in camera which allowed us to compensate for the contrast and get some good photos which didn’t “blow out” in the bright areas or remove all the detail in the dark parts. How he manages to know and sort out the settings for all the different cameras, I’ll never know! What he admits to not knowing, he manages to find out in a very short time.
The walk to the fort was very popular and there were lots of crowds, all trying to capture the best views possible, so we had some stiff competition at times, but the atmosphere was convivial, if hectic. It was well worth the effort to get there as we were able to see the Old City, harbour, walls and surrounding vistas from great vantage points.
Of course, we had to have our photo taken standing at the flagpole which marked the summit of the fort and proved that we’d got to the top. We were just one group amongst many – including lots and lots of Japanese tourists who managed to photobomb lots of our shots! (That became a frequent occurrence throughout the trip – even to standing in front of our set-up cameras at the summit near the Cable Car)!
From the summit, we made our way down to the archways at the lowest level of the fort and Ted, Eifion and Joan were being very patient waiting for people to get out of the way so that they could take some low-light shots of the arches unhindered by people. One girl saw them waiting patiently for her to move, was nudged by her boyfriend to move, but decided to stand her ground and take her time taking some phone shots right in front of them. There’s always one, isn’t there? (We met another one, later). I waited behind our group and thought they made a fun and quite striking shot taken from the back, waiting to shoot which I thought was a bit different.
On the way back we noticed that our shadows were directly in front of us, so had a bit of fun taking our own shadow photos. I shocked a few people accidentally, by snapping shut my glasses-case, not realising that there was a perfect echo and it really did sound like a shot-gun!
Eifion encouraged us to try some panoramic pictures of the vista which we did, with varying degrees of success. Joan was able to a finished shot on her Fuji while we Olympus users have to wait to get back home when we can stitch the sets of images together in Photoshop.
Back to the harbour and a good excuse for an ice-cold beer and a bit of chill-time before we set out to explore more of the streets and alleys of the Old Town. Lots more steps! Lynsey managed to get a phone shot of four of us making our way down, which I love. We made a note to come back to the ice-cream vendor later in the week with its tempting displays of the darkest chocolate ice-cream I’ve ever seen (it was almost black) and my favourite – Dolce Latte which was a fudge recipe and just gorgeous.
It was soon time to grab a light-bite for lunch from what we already considered to be “our little bakery” when Joan spotted a huge slab of chocolate cake which she snapped up, eagerly. One happy bunny! A couple of hours rest at the hotel and a chance to freshen up and it was down to the Old Town later.
Our sunset point this evening was again, from the beach steps close to the hotel. This time, we were in plenty of time and weren’t disappointed when the sun turned into a drop of molten gold and melted onto the horizon in a blaze of yellow, orange and red. It was stunning! We thought it was about to disappear, soon, but, as we continued to watch, it just got better and better. The whole city was silhouetted against beautiful clouds which were rimmed with gold: simply gorgeous. We had all set up our tripods well in advance with Eifion giving us lots of tips using HDR for sunset photography. I was all ready to shoot when one ** tourist simply stepped straight in front of me without a by your leave, the second I pressed the shutter. Lynsey and I couldn’t believe it. What made it worse was that he was an ipad-shooter!!! My pet hate!!!!! He didn’t see the problem and just stood there taking a few more shots. Eventually, he got out of the way and now joined by some fellow sunset-shooters, we managed to get some pretty stunning shots.
We spent a lovely hour or so doing some low-light and street photography again in the Stradum and surrounding alleyways with Eifion showing us how best to frame our images and how to avoid capturing the beautiful lighting without blowing out the many very bright street lamps which graced the streets. I loved the ghostly effect of people walking down the street, taken.
Lee had booked us a table near the harbour wall at Pile where we had a really delicious meal with wine (decent this time) and local beer (highly recommended). I loved the fact that we were outdoors, but sheltered by canopies, warmed by overhead heaters and flame-heaters with blankets on each seat to snuggle up with if we needed it. In the background, a saxophonist and pianist played a selection of easy-listening classics which really set the atmosphere. Lee chose Bloody Mary for her cocktail which was pretty awesome – once they got the right combination of Tabasco Sauce to Vodka and Tomato Sauce. Of course, the waiter was asked to take the obligatory photo of us all around the table, which he did so willingly. The overhead heaters cast a bright red glow over the scene and as it was MY phone photo, it isn’t the best of images, but you get the idea.
Having done a LOT of walking that day, Lee and I shared a taxi back to the hotel while the others took their time and wandered back, looking forward to an early night or a night-cap before retiring.
And that was the second day.