Sarah and I were filming at the chapel at Ermita da Mota (you can see it in our video “Bread and Wine”on our YouTube channel Jane In Spain) when a bicyclist stopped to chat with us. He told us of a spectacular monastery about 30 minutes away that we just had to see. His enthusiasm for this monastery was so striking we had to go find it.
Thirty minutes to the east of us is the town of Sobrado dos Monxes. It’s on the Camino del Norte. If you are a pilgrim walking the Camino de Santiago you may very well have stopped here to see the monastery and have your credentials stamped. We are not pilgrims in the sense of walking the camino of Saint James, but maybe our life here in Galicia counts as a kind of camino. No sé.
In Sobrado there is a monastery considered to be a benchmark of the Baroque style. It is an active monastery but they are more than happy to let you in to explore. It is Galicia after all. Our bicyclist friend offered a spectacular description of the monastery but we were unprepared for the reality of it. Wandering around inside I had the sense that the structure was on the same scale as the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It probably isn’t as large but it felt like it as every step offered a new grand vista or a new grotto to sit and contemplate in. There is no pressure to make your way through as you might on a guided tour. In fact the whole experience kind of insists that you take your time and carefully and deliberately explore every corner. For me, this is photographic paradise.
I’ve always felt that “seeing” is the first step to understanding what to photograph. Seeing isn’t the same as looking. It is a passive act in that you have to open up yourself and let everything about the place and your surroundings enter through all your senses. Listen, smell, feel the temperature of the air. Move slowly and watch the shapes and shadows interact. Watch how lines converge or diverge as you subtly shift from foot to foot. Sit, stand, walk turn. All this is what informs our vision. When you are open to seeing, The subtle beauty unfolds and shows itself. The moments may not last but while you are in them you will know what you want to photograph.