Gran Canaria, a great place for photographers By Dirk De Paepe

Gran Canaria, a great place for photographers

By Dirk De Paepe

After writing three articles for your great website, in which the gear had a central place, I really wanted to post a contribution which is all about the pictures. After all, we do it for the image, don’t we…

Recently, my wife and I spend a short vacation on Gran Canaria. It’s a place that we wanted to visit for many years, but until now, it just never happened. We chose it, because it’s located pretty southward (at 28°N, while we live in Belgium at 51°N, more than 3000 km/2000 mi further north), because we have a time difference of only one hour (which prevents jet lag), because politically it’s part of Spain (which helps with language and, being part of Europe, offers all kinds of amenities) and – of course – because of it’s completely different nature and climate (which helps for having a good vacation).

Gran Canaria is one of the bigger of the Canary Islands (“The Canaries” for short), which are one of the 17 autonomous communities of Spain and as such one of the outermost regions of the European Union territory. Gran Canaria is the third biggest island of the Canaries, surpassed in size only by Tenerife and Fuerteventura and followed by Lanzarote, La Palma and 8 other smaller islands. It’s the southernmost island of this archipelago, that is situated in the Atlantic Ocean at not more than 100 km (60 mi) west of Africa, roughly where the south of Morocco borders the Western Sahara. Although the Canaries are situated very close to Africa, as I said, politically speaking, they are part of the EU, which shows in the way the infrastructure is developed – very convenient for when you want a quick vacation without having to prepare to much. Still, living in Central or northern Europe, at the Canaries we can benefit from a pretty exotic climate and nature.

The islands have a subtropical climate, with long warm summers (around 26°C/79°F) and moderately warm winters (around 20°C/68°F). All the islands of the archipelago are volcanic in origin. The Teide volcano on Tenerife is the highest mountain on Spanish territory, and the third tallest volcano on Earth on a volcanic ocean island. The Canary Islands is the only place on Spanish soil where volcanic eruptions have been recorded during the Modern Era, with some volcanoes still active. The last was the El Hierro in 2011. The islands rise from Jurassic ocean crust associated with the opening of the Atlantic.

Due to the north-east trade winds the climate can be mild and wet as well as very dry. The individual islands in the canary archipelago tend to have distinct microclimates. Gran Canaria in particular is said to be a “continent in miniature” for its diverse landscapes with desert dunes and arid areas (more in the south) as well as pastures, forests, and an amazing floral display (central and in the north). This makes the island very interesting for photographers, due to its constant variation of landscapes and vegetation. And if you’re (like us) living more northly, the light, being so much more dense, results in extra ordinary colors. I found the light often to be flat-out stunning – which I tried to catch in some of the pictures.

I particularly loved the central and northern part of the island. To me it was a lucky coincidence that there the climate, being a few degrees cooler, resulted in much less tourists and a much more beautiful and greener scenery. Also, away from the southern coastline, we met a lot more local people, who were more friendly and authentic then the (mostly) newcomers and seasonal workers that run the tourist industry in the south. (Well, that was our impression anyway.)

Gran Canaria has about 850,000 inhabitants. The capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is the most populous city, with its 375,000 inhabitants and shares the status of capital of the Canaries with Santa Cruz de Tenerife. But, I have to say, it’s more the smaller villages and towns that we’re attracted to.

Gran Canaria’s surface area is 1560 km2 (602.32 sq mi). It pretty much has a circular shape with a diameter of approximately 50km (30 mi) In center of the island lie the Roque Nublo 1813 metres (5948 ft) and Pico de las Nieves (“Peak of Snow”) 1949 metres (6394 ft). Exploring those mountains results in spectacular landscapes and views, with interesting photographically spots, wherever you look (figuratively speaking). Driving the roads of the inland is one of the main attractions to me: just take all the time you want to stop and shoot. I was so blessed having Krista reading and crocheting in the car and never complaining, while I was “quickly going to take that picture” but ended up with a whole series an hour or so later.

In this post, I just want to give you an idea of the beauty and variety on this island, as I just shot whatever impressed me while exploring it. We didn’t really have the time to prepare specific tours or visits, we just kind of let faith decide. But we didn’t regret for a second, because of the potential surprise around every corner and the friendliness and helpfulness of the local people.

I took my “compact travelling kit” with me for this trip and shot all pictures out of hand. In my belt bag I have my A7r (without vertical grip) with three batteries and 5 lenses: 135 and 85mm Jupiter (-9 and -11), 50mm Zeiss ZM Planar, 35mm Voigtländer Nokton Classic 1.4, and 24mm Canon FD 2.8. All together this makes for a weight of some 2,5kg (under 6lb), which I find no problem to carrie with me the whole day.

Well, I hope you will enjoy the pictures. Maybe they can inspire you to plan a trip to the Canaries too – a nice place to visit.

If you want, you can see more pictures from this trip in a dedicated album on my flickr page:

Of course, you can also visit my complete flickr page at

Thanks for watching!


01. Rough volcanic coastline

02. Evening chair

03. Maspalomas dunes

04. Avenue

05. Tenerife behind the clouds

06. Pathway to heaven

07. Adios Amigos

08. Gate

09. Looking down

10. Under sunlight BW

11. Pico de las Nieves 1949m

12. San Bartolomé  outskirts

13. San Bartolomé square

14. Passage in San Bartolomé

15. Above the clouds

16. Lovely Pastures

17. Santa Lucia Alley

18. Stairs for daredevils

19. Shots on the wall

20. Lo diré una vez

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  1. Dirk,

    The quality of the light seems very conducive to producing good images, as you show here.

    I particularly like #10, with its subtle gradations of grey in the distant hills/mountains. Considering you have the sun completely within the frame, I am surprised that apart from the star burst around the point source itself, there is no evidence of flare in the main body of the image. Which lens did you use for this shot?

    • Hi, Terry. You’ll probably be surprised, since I used my old Canon FD24mm 1:2.8 for this shot, a lens that probably doesn’t appeal to much to the imagination… But in fact, I like it very much, because it’s very well built, it’s compact and pretty light, and it has a good IQ. Zeiss and Leica normally offer better IQ, but still I believe one can shoot great pictures with the FDs. BUT(!) most of the wide angle M-mounts have color shifts in the corners on the A7r, so the FD wide angles really do a very good job here, still being very compact.
      Concerning flare, the EVF of the A7r offers a terrific advantage: I can simply see the flare in the VF! And this camera/lens combination is compact and light enough to shoot steady by holding it with only one hand. So most of the time, you simply can eliminate the flare with your left hand. You simply seek for the right position to block the flare, taking care that your hand is not in the picture, of course. Simple. A bit unorthodox. But it absolutely works.

      • Hello, Dirk.

        I’m not surprised that your Canon FD 24mm works so well with your A7r. You may have picked up from my postings elsewhere that I have the A7 and which I principally purchased to use legacy 35mm lenses, mostly from my Leica R set (24, 35, 50, 60, and 135) but also some Leica (and non-Leica) L39 and M mounts, and a battery of other makes, mainly slr designs, but some r/f.

        In my experience, the chances of successful results is weighted in favour of the slr designs in view of their retrofocus optical formulation, and I ‘ve had less success with the shorter back projection distance of the f/r optics. Although, occasionally, I get floored when a r/f lens produces edge to edge performance in a wide angle design. Such is the case with my Russian Orion-15 f6/28mm and which, stopped down to f8, produces excellent results.

        Among some other super performing lenses, notably Olympus and Minolta, are two Canons, surprisingly. The cheap and cheerful f1.8/50 Mk II and their “mid” quality EF 28-105 USM Mk II ( the made in Japan version with 7 iris blades) and which is my general walk-around lens.

        The zoom really surprised me, perhaps because my expectations were lowered and it only cost me £120 on ebay from Japan. But I needn’t have worried, and I can even get auto aperture and (slowish) AF using the Viltrox Mk II smart adapter. As the AF is slow, but always accurate when it locks on, I manually focus which is surprisingly easy with the lovely v/f in the A7 series.

        Regarding the IQ of these older lenses, there is much to commend them, and as regards the sole parameter of sharpness they can still be excellent performers, if not up to the latest front runners, which also turn out to be very expensive!

    • I need to elucidate my earlier comment a bit more, concerning flare and shooting against the sun. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember wether or not I held the camera with only one hand, when shooting this particular picture (#10). But flare has a lot to do with a certain angle. And since the EVF shows the flare, if it occurs I first try a slightly different angle to get rid of it and if necessary I shoot with one hand, using the left to get rid of the unwanted flare. I wrote that this camera/lens is compact and small enough to shoot with one hand. Well, that is: in those circumstances – with a 24mm lens and a very fast shutter speed (in this case 1/1600s). In an earlier article I wrote that shooting out of hand with this 36MP requires extra care and steady holding. This is absolutely the case with say a 50mm and a shutter speed around 1/60 to 1/150. One hand shooting would be virtually impossible then. But here it’s absolutely no problem. Nevertheless, those shots were still performed with the greatest care, because having to adjust the angle in regard of the sun and yet persuing a good composition narrows down even further the possibilities to find a good viewpoint and framing.
      Concerning your second comment, I absolutely agree: the slr lenses are to prefer, and the FDs are amongst the most compact of them. Manual glass indeed, but that’s exactly what I want and, as you said, the Sony EVF makes it a joy to shoot manually – regarding focusing and, as explained above, also regarding exposure. I really believe the EVF has the future, particularly since they will further improve. But already, the advantages of it are huge.


    • On a trip like this, I want everything to be compact. Most landscapes are shot with the Canon FD 24mm 1:2.8, the “newer” type. This is more compact than the breech lock and also can close one f-stop further, which makes it yet a bit more appropriate for large dof. Those FDs are not the most “sexy” lenses you can imagine, but, being still available in large quantities on ebay, they offer tremendous value for money, are very well built and pretty compact (especially the “new” versions – this one weighs around 250gr). And what’s important when shooting mirrorless, due to their pretty large flange focal distance the wide angle FDs don’t show any color shift at all in the corners of the image.

  3. Hello Dirk,

    I really like image #10 (the b&w landscape)…

    Thanks for publishing!



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