In case you haven't heard, Spain's capital, Madrid, is a booming hub for film and photo production. That's probably why, in recent years, I've been called on to travel there from NYC as a camera technician for commercial shoots. It's become one of my favorite places in the world to both work and play. For the photo geeks among you, here's a gear guide for capturing the city's old soul.
Madrid also has a sprawling art scene, but being there on a business trip meant I had precious little time to see it all. I could spend a whole day at Museo Reina Sofía, home of Picasso's anti-war masterpiece, Guernica, and 1/3rd of the renowned "Golden Triangle of Art." Even our hotel had each floor designed by a different artist. I was glad to go back again the following February, when one of the city's international contemporary art fairs, ARCOmadrid, was kicking off in smaller galleries all over town.
Personally, the super small DJI Osmo Pocket is my kit essential for this kind of sightseeing. It can capture 4K stabilized video in 4:3 or cinematic 16:9 format as well as 12 megapixel stills. The touch screen makes it easy to set the focus and a fully manual mode lets you set the aperture to F2.0. If you're keen on using it with your Apple or Android phone as a monitor, you can plug it directly into your device. Pygtech makes a phone mount that will hold the camera and phone solidly in place, making it more secure for bouncing around on the Metro.
It's one thing to capture the sights, but without a decent microphone like the Rode VideoMicro you're going to miss out on the sounds. Like in Lavapiés, where elegant guitar and dramatic castanets (or palillos) of a traditional Flamenco show set the scene over Tinto de Verano (red wine and Fanta.) The elaborate costumes of the dance style inspire visions of ruffle-dresses and hair combs, but there is a famous Spanish souvenir that doubles as a low-tech necessity for working in the summer sun — the pericón, or hand fan. ¡Olé!
Malasaña is known as the creative and counter-cultural area of the city. Our crew made a reservation at La Palma 60 and afterward, I took a stroll down some winding cobble-stone streets. Lively crowds were spilling from the doorway of every bar. They were out on what I would learn is a botellón, or pre-game to the actual party, which doesn't tend to start until 3:00 AM! I like the Slide LiteCamera Strap because it was easy to adjust on my shoulder while on the go. It also freed up my hands to partake in endless rounds of croquettas, jamon and wine.
If image quality is non-negotiable, you're going to want to invest in a pro system that's not going to fail when you need it. Whether it's a famous footballer sighting (we're talking about the home of Real Madrid after all) or portraits of your travel companions over tapas in a low-light restaurant, Sony's A7RIV is going to deliver the goods. If budget is a non-issue, you can add on a Zeiss 40mm F2 lens for unparalleled sharpness. While there are several quality zoom lenses to choose from, I'm partial to this focal length because it feels intimate, but slightly wider than the standard, showing some of your subject's environment. An excellent prime lens for lovers of bokeh. With the A7RIV's flip screen you'll be in a good position to shoot from the hip.
After a long Spanish dinner, it's time to go out on the town. Head the the Plaza de Santa Ana to meet up with pals and you may find yourself in the VIP line for one of the city’s famous rooftop bars. If you're feeling under dressed, this Jo TotesCamera Bag can masquerade as a purse that goes with almost any outfit.
Stay out late but don't forget to set your alarm for breakfast. After some Pan con Tamate and Café con Leche, my editing day usually kicks off by importing cards. Avoid waiting for sluggish file transfers by using the Gnarbox USB-C card reader so you can get back to exploring this gem of a city.
Jackie Roman is a photographer in New York.