11 November 2011

Minimal sunset

Ibiza Minimal: 9

  • To see more pictures in the Ibiza minimal series click here.
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19 October 2011

Pornographic parade

Part of the Ibiza People series.

Women parading on the Wast End in San Antonio to promote the "Pornographic" night at Eden.

See a high definition version of this image on Flickr

21 September 2011


Ibiza Minimal

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19 August 2011

Minimal construction

Ibiza Minimal: 8

  • To see more pictures in the Ibiza minimal series click here.
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Ibiza sunset splash black white

16 August 2011

One to Avoid - El Ayoun, San Rafael, Ibiza.

This is the first in the new One to Avoid series on the Ibiza Photo website. Ibiza is full of wonderful places to visit however the island is let down by a number of venues that serve horrible food, employ rude and arrogant staff, rip off their customers or generally just give the island a bad name. It is disappointing that most of the commercial websites give unrelentingly positive reviews to these places so I'm going to try to balance things out a bit with this series aimed at warning people about Ibiza's worst venues........

Beware of this garish multi-coloured camel, if you
see it you should be prepared to pay over the odds
for average food and poor service.

The reason I am starting off the series with El Ayoun in San Rafael is my personal experience of the dishonest and arrogant nature of their staff.

I work as a freelance photographer and have taken publicity shots of numerous venues for different websites. Normally staff are perfectly happy for me to wander around for ten minutes or so taking photos of their venue, it's free publicity for them after all. When doing photographic reviews of restaurants I always use a powerful zoom lens so that I never have to disturb customers at their tables, I know I would be uncomfortable with people snapping photos of me during my dinner, so I try to be as discreet as possible to avoid inflicting the same discomfort on others.

During my first visit to El Ayoun in San Rafael, the bar manager couldn't get rid of me quickly enough, telling me to return on Friday or Saturday night when it was busier and the restaurant wouldn't come out looking half empty in the photos.  Having done a number of restaurant shoots I know all the tricks to make a half empty venue look full, after all, the commercial websites I work for don't want pictures of an empty venue contrasting with their glowing review of the place. I tried to point this out to him but he insisted that I leave and come back later. I gave up part of my weekend to drive halfway across the island to do the photoshoot on a Saturday night but upon my return, the restaurant manager treated me with contempt, accused me of lying about being told to come back and kicked me out of the venue.

For the few minutes that I was actually inside the venue I picked up a lot of information, the majority of the clientele were the kind of people that clearly get a kick out of flaunting their wealth, the staff are contemptuous and rude and the restaurant itself is garish and inauthentic, a crude mix of different styles.

I spoke to a few friends and family about the rudeness of the staff there and the ones that had visited El Ayoun agreed with my view that the clientele are stuck up, the venue inauthentic and the staff rude. They also added that the food and drinks are hugely overpriced. As I didn't eat there I have collected a few testimonies from other people that have stayed long enough to find out how overpriced the food is.
"Service non professionnel....Cher et nourriture moyenne" (unprofessional service, expensive and average food) - pierre56Larmor_Plage
"My carpaccio was drenched in truffle oil which dominated the flavour. One starter was a single prawn. The Coquilles St Jaques came in a sort of liver-flavoured gravy. The Couscous Royale, despite being told was all separate came piled into a big bowl together. And my friend's Tagine portion was about 4 inches in diameter - tiny" BenbowH
 "Our waiter [was] rude, cocky and took the piss when he told us our taxi was waiting, only to discover a large queue outside with no taxi in sight - he clearly just wanted the table back - and he also completely forgot our deserts! hence the 25 min wait." McNamKB
"My credit card got a hammering" Gina 1000000
To be fair to El Ayoun several people claimed that the food (especially the sushi) was delicious however the foodie reviews slated them. I'm not the kind of person that gets a kick out of spending over €100 per person on a meal, but if I were I reckon that the food should be of absolutely stunning quality with impeccable service. It is clear that at El Ayoun there is some discrepancy between the price and the quality of food and service.

Scientific studies have shown that price has a large influence over how much people enjoy things; one study showed that people enjoyed a glass of wine from a bottle marked $90 significantly more than one from a bottle marked $10 even though the contents were identical so it is understandable that people would claim that they enjoyed the food because the venue tries to be very "exclusive" and the eyewatering prices must stimulate the medial orbitofrontal cortex pleasure response cited in the wine study. I imagine that it is much easier to make a show of enjoying ones overpriced meal than admit to yourself that you have spent around €100 per person on average fare.

One thing that really struck me was that several reviewers admitted that El Ayoun is extremely expensive, however qualified the statement with "Still, that's Ibiza I suppose". I find this qualifier infuriating because as a resident of the island I know a number of quality venues that serve great food at reasonable prices. If you know where to head, a meal out in Ibiza is no more expensive than an evening out at a decent restaurant in Manchester, Leeds or Newcastle. The common misconception that Ibiza is fabulously expensive is created by the stunningly expensive superclubs (charging €50 just to get in and €10-20 a drink) and by restaurants like El Ayoun that charge exclusive prices for average food and poor service.

If you have more money than sense, don't really care about the quality of the food and service and want to spend a lot of cash and eat surrounded by ostentatiously rich types in order to feel "exclusive" El Ayoun may be exactly the kind of venue you would enjoy.

If however you prefer the quality of the food to be proportional to the price, put a high value on friendly and efficient service and wish to experience an authentic Ibiza vibe I seriously suggest that you try elsewhere.

09 August 2011

Backlit palm frond

Ibiza Minimal: 7

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07 August 2011

Top 10 Ibiza photography spots

This is not intended to serve as a definitive list of the best specific locations, simply ten of my favourite places for photography. If you are surprised at the omission of one of your favourite places and would like to share it with us please feel free to leave a comment below.

 10 - Cala D'en Serra

Main Article

Cala D'en Serra is located in the far north of the island near the resort town of Portinatx and in my opinion it is one of Ibiza's hidden gems.

Most people couldn't fail to appreciate the wonderful natural beauty of the cove but for me it is improved as a photographic location by the presence of Josep Lluis Sert's huge abandoned hotel complex. Some people complain that the hotel "ruins" Cala D'en Serra however I find it gives great opportunities to juxtapose the grimy urbex feel of the derelict hotel with stunning views over the bay and provides a spectacular demonstration of the power of nature, as the site is being comprehensively reclaimed by pine woodland after only a few decades.

 9 - Camino General

Camino General can be found within walking distance of the centre of San Antonio. Until the rise of tourism and the huge improvements in Ibiza's road network Camino General was one of the most affluent farming areas on the island. Back in the days when most farmers faced arduous journeys over rutted tracks by horse and cart to sell their wares at the local village market the farmers on Camino General were within commuting distance of San Antonio. Up until the 1950s an Ibizan landowner's wealth was easily ascertainable by the number and size of his windmills and the quality of his irrigation systems and Camino General is laden with derelict windmills and wells. To me a wander down Camino General is a must for anyone with an interest in rural exploration that finds themselves in San Antonio.

Unfortunately parking is not easy as it is not a recognised tourist destination and the majority of the rural heritage lies on private property, however most Ibizencos are accommodating and won't mind you taking photos of their old wells, derelict windmills, vineyards and citrus plantations as long as you don't start trampling their crops or raiding their orange trees for a snack.

 8 - Sa Talaia

Sa Talaia is the highest geographical point on the island which benefits from a reasonable access road to the top because of the presence of a number of telecommunication towers there. If you have a lot of stamina you could even try hiking your way to the top however my mind boggles at the thought of trying it in the heat of the summer. The telecommunication towers are visible from miles around and are definitely worth a snap from up close but the real highlights are the stunning panoramic views over the island. From the right locations on top of Sa Talaia you can find magnificent shots of places as far apart as San Antonio bay in the north-west to the Salinas salt flats in the south. This is not really the kind of location where a point and shoot pocket camera is going to be much use. You should ideally have a tripod and a proper SLR camera or at least a super-zoom bridge camera in order to get some really good shots.

 7 - Festival Club

Festival Club is an abandoned and derelict 1970s nightclub in the hills near Sant Josep. It was a spectacularly ambitious development which included a nightclub, another stage a vast open air restaurant and even a bullfighting arena. The project relied on bussing in tourists from the hotels on San Antonio bay however it was never economically viable and shut down in 1974 after only operating for three summer seasons.

In the intervening years natural forces and vandals have reduced the site to bleak graffiti covered ruins covered in pine trees and abandoned cars. There is no greater monument to Ibizan overconfidence than Festival Club.

6 - Sa Caleta

Sa Caleta has some of the best beaches in Ibiza and is one of the most diverse photography locations on the island. The beach and shallow turquoise waters are a great place to start especially if you have an underwater camera as there are many species of fish living in the seaweed banks.

There are a number of other interesting subjects in the vicinity including the imposing deep brown sedimentary cliffs, the ancient Phoenician cliff top settlement, some abandoned 20th century gun emplacements, the ruins of the associated military buildings and a network of underground tunnels to link the military sites.

Just a couple of words of warning be careful if you venture up onto the cliffs or into the dark underground tunnels and also mind out for nudists on the beaches to the north of the cove, some of them may not be too keen to be photographed.

 5 - Es Vedrá

Es Vedra from out at sea.
The uninhabited island of Es Vedrá is one of the most iconic images in Ibiza and regularly appears in tourist brochures about the island. Es Vedrá and the smaller island of Es Vedranell to the south are hills that are separated from mainland Ibiza by a couple of miles of sea. The effects of the Mediterranean have reduced the once rounded mesozoic limestone hills to almost vertical cliff faces. The islands have no human settlement and are recognised nature reserves and aside from being one of the most important breeding grounds for seabirds in the Balearic islands it is also home to several species of lizards and invertebrates. Es Vedrá and Es Vedranell are also home to a range of plant species including limonium ebusitanum, asperula paui, silene hifacensis, medicago sallow, diplotaxis ibicensis, lamottea dianae and euphorbia dendroides.

The only evidence of human activity on the islands are the lighthouse, a few paths and the remains of a few towers. Access to the islands are restricted in order to protect their unique ecosystems and a permit to land is required

The most common locations for photographing the islands are from the beach at Cala D'Hort and the defensive tower "torre des savinar" however wonderful shots can be taken from several miles around the Cala D'Hort area. Some of the most impressive shots can be taken on cloudy days when the cloud banks ride over the top of Es Vedrá. If you ever get the ferry from Eivissa to mainland Spain (or can afford to hire a small boat) you may be able to get some pictures from the other sea-facing side of the island.

 4 - Salinas

The area of Ses Salinas has a wonderfully diverse range of subjects to photograph. The area gets it's name from the ancient Phoenician salt flats that are still used to produce salt by the age old method of evaporating seawater in shallow pools and then scraping out the salt. On still days it is possible to create reflection shots in the pools and the salt mountain is always an impressive subject.

Near the beach of Salinas there is an abandoned port and derelict miniature gauge railway at one end and the historic defensive tower "Torre de Ses Portes" at the other. There is another cracking beach at Des Cavallet but be careful here as it is a nudist beach. You should also keep your eyes peeled for abandoned wells, windmills and irrigation systems in the area if you are interested in photographing Ibiza's rural heritage.

 3 - Atlantis

The ancient Phoenician quarry at Atlantis is one of Ibiza's best kept secrets. It is not sign posted and it is notoriously difficult to find without a guide or some very clear instructions. it is advisable to wear sturdy footwear such as hiking boots, take plenty of liquid and make sure to wear sunscreen and a hat if you are going to attempt the trip during the summer months.

The quarry is located beneath the cliffs at Sa Pedrera and is only accessible down a steep and precarious path but the effort is truly worthwhile once you get down there. The quarry was located near the sea in order to facilitate the transportation of the hand carved stones by boat to be used in the construction of the walls of Dalt Vila, homes and defensive towers across the island.

Once you have explored the quarries it is advisable to take a dip in the sea to cool off before the long climb back. If you are brave enough there are a number of points above the quarry from where you can "tombstone" into the sea below.

On your way back you can also find impressive views of Atlantis from the cliffs above near the historic defensive tower "Torre des Savinar" which also provides one of the most iconic views of Es Vedra from the other side.

 2 - Dalt Vila

The only way that a visitor to Ibiza could avoid a trip to see the amazing fortified hilltop town of Dalt Vila in the capital of Eivissa is through sheer determination to avoid anything cultural during a hedonistic bender involving only bars, clubs and beaches.

For anyone with the slightest interest in the history and culture of the island a walk around Dalt Vila is an absolute must. Between the cathedral at the top of Dalt Vila to the gay capital of Europe around the inappropriately named "Calle de la Virgen" near the port below there are a spectacular range of scenes to photograph. There are ruins, wonderfully decaying buildings and amazing panoramic views in all directions.

There is 2,000 years worth of history and architecture and a number of museums and art galleries and as well as all of this historical heritage, Dalt Vila boasts many spectacularly located hotels bars and restaurants and also plays host to a wide range of events from Eivissa Medieval Festival to the International Music Summit.

 1 - Cala Conta

Sunset wave picture taken at Cala Conta in February 2011
Cala Conta (Platges de Comte in Catalan) is the ideal place to take sunset pictures in Ibiza because it has such a wide panorama allowing views of the sun setting over the ocean the whole year around.

In winter the sun sets to the south of Illa de s'Espartar and as they year progresses towards summer solstice the point of sunset moves northwards towards Illa des Bosc.

There are three beaches, lots of cliffs and interesting rock formations that glow deep orange in the evening sunlight, views of a host of islands, the defensive tower of "Torre D'en Rovira" and one of the finest pieces of graffiti art on the island at the southern bay near the nudist beach.

I have strong views about Cala Conta and believe that if you find yourself unable to take beautiful pictures here then you may as well just throw your camera in the sea and give up on photography altogether.