Looking Down On Cities

Last year I did a 365 Project, partially as a challenge to myself as a photographer and partially as a way to document what I guessed would be a year of transitions. As it turns out, it was. I finished my Fulbright year in Spain, traveled on my weekends, walked the Camino de Santiago, got engaged, and returned home to familiar spaces in Michigan to start a new job in Detroit.

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Many distances were crossed – by plane, train, bus, car, but sometimes on foot.

I am working on a new creative project for this coming year, but it won’t be a daily photo project – partially because the tail end of the year degenerated into commuting/grading/cat pictures, and it’s hard to measure up to last year’s images.

I had a lot of adventures in 2012. I met a lot of amazing people, and traveled to some incredible places. My favorite parts of my travels were always the times when I climbed to a high place – often at sunset – and looked down on the cities I had spent the day exploring.

I learned a lot about travel this past year, and a lot about myself as a traveler. In the future when I go to a new city, that will be my destination – somewhere I can see the shape of the city, where small individual details dissolve into twinkling lights, and the iconic buildings from postcards become small silhouettes, dwarfed by the sky.

Granada - Ciudad Encantadora

Looking down on Granada from Miguel Del Alto. (Photo by my new Brazilian friend, Carolina.)

Granada - Ciudad Encantadora

Granada – actually in late 2011, but it was the beginning of a year of looking down on cities.


Barcelona, from Parque Guell.

Navidad en Madrid

Madrid, last Christmas.


Paris, from Sacre Coeur in Montmartre.


Rome for Easter.


Ancient Rome


The ruins of Pompeii



Senderismo en Jávea

Jávea / Xávia


Tabarca – not a city, but a small island off the coast of Alicante.

Senderismo en Calpe

Bird’s Eye view of Calpe, after a harrowing climb up the Peñón de Ifach.


Marrakesh, Morocco, from the roof of our riad.

Aït Benhaddou, Morocco

Aït Benhaddou, Morocco – you have probably seen it in a movie.


Not a city – but the Berber tents where we stayed in Zagora, at the edge of the Sahara.

Among all of the beautiful cities, my favorite was Alicante, where I lived for 10 months and that I often looked down on, from the heights of the Castillo de Santa Barbara. Nostalgia always adds a cast of golden light, but it was a beautiful city. Someday I will go back.

Santa Barbara


Tour de Alicante

All the lights lit for Christmas along Alfonso el Sabio.


La Playa Postiguet, full of sunbathers.



Where I woke up to my last day in Alicante. Bittersweet.



Spent the night out at Cabo de las Huertas, sleeping on the beach under the stars – a long goodbye to the sea, and to Alicante, across the water. (Soon I will be much farther away, across greater expanses of water.)



We watched them being constructed all week, these large and flammable works of art constructed to be beautiful, or graceful, or socially relevant, or just comical. Tonight, the final night of Hogueras, they all go up in flames.

The official hoguera in the main square is always the first to burn. We watched in awe and occasionally fear as the flames climbed up above the rooftops and rained sparks down onto our heads… wonder and awe that would normally be quenched by fire codes back home.


St. John’s night – everyone at the beach with booze and campfires, where it is traditional to seek good luck by bathing in the sea and jumping over a fire three times. (I did the former but not the latter.)


In the midst of Hogueras, Alicante is all party – including an outdoor discoteca right outside my bedroom, with music bumping from midnight to around 5am every night, making it a little difficult for certain parties to recover from jet lag.

Tonight we fought our way through the crowds, bought some beer (drinking in public is still a novelty for Americans) and went out to the beach to watch the festivities from a more peaceful distance.



Exploring an abandoned mansion in San Juan. Adventures and minor scrapes ensued.


Sunday: A parade of all the hogueras (the flammable works of art that are the center of this week of celebration), dressed in group costumes often related to the themes and motifs that will later be revealed in the hogueras.


Hogueras begins!

More on that later.


Today we went to la Isla de Tabarca – the small (barely) inhabited island off the coast of Alicante. It is full of small sunny streets, stray cats, and unbelievably clear water. I want to come back with snorkeling gear.

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