Railing through the Streets of Lisbon

Lunsj på en av mange kafeer i SeattleAbout two weeks ago I visited Lisbon, Portugal. I was sent to this picturesque and westernmost capital of mainland Europe to do an assignment for a Norwegian magazine. But whenever I had some extra time I roamed the hilly and cobblestoned streets of the city situated at the mouth of the Tagus River.

In particular I found great pleasure in going astray in Alfama, the oldest district of Lisbon. Here the old houses perch on the steep hills that shoot up and down from the medieval Castle of São Jorge that overlooks the whole city and down to the shores of Tagus.

This is also the area where the distinctive yellow trams of the capital rattles through narrow streets and sharp and abrupt runs. In particular the Remodelados, the trams of line 28, has become almost the identity of Lisbon. The small, four wheel vehicles date back to the early part of the twentieth century and are one of the tourist icons of modern Lisbon. The first tramway in Lisbon entered service on 17 November 1873, as a horsecar line. Today’s electrified tramways commenced operation in 1901.

For me the trams became a photographic quest. Wherever I came across them I tried to capture what I think is a very distinct face of the Portuguese capital. I tried to take advantage of the light at different times of the day (and night). I played with long exposure time. I had fun using both wide-angle as well as telephoto lenses. I rode the trams and I walked next to them. I waited for them around corners where the perspective or the composition would make for an interesting picture. I simply had fun chasing the old and small trams of Lisbon.

The pictures here are a handful of the many hundreds of tram photos gathered while wandering the streets of Lisbon. They were shot with my regular cameras, but processed with Instagram on my cell phone. Those of you who follow my blog know that I have become a fan of this app – as well as of many other apps for processing photos taken with cell phones. They don’t make Photoshop, Lightroom or other photo editing programs obsolete, but they do provide a fast way to gain some fun and often impressive results.

134 thoughts on “Railing through the Streets of Lisbon

  1. Such a vibrant atmosphere in these great shots. You certainly had fun with the trams – 2 and 6 really do bring them all into play! Otto, which app do you use to upload regular photos to Instagram?

    1. Thank you Patti. I don’t use any app to upload my regular photos to the cell phone. I just connect the phone to my computer with the USB-connector and drag the photos from the computer to the camera-folder on my cell phone. When I then open Instagram it right away finds the photos. They will have to be jpg’s, though, not in raw-format or anything else.

  2. Super! beautiful conceptualization and presentation! thank you – this was lovely to see from my desk ; )

  3. Very impressive images – love the old trams.
    You’ve created so much atmosphere with the angle of the shot.
    I like the processing and effect on the composition too.

    1. I think trams says a lot about a city. Both in Finland and Holland they are more modern, while the ones in Lisbon are 100 years old, at least some of them.

  4. Oh, those yellows! These are lovely, evocative photos. In several the trams look ancient and plodding. In others they appear quite jaunty! Wonderful, wonderful photos! Thank you for sharing!

  5. What a fun tribute to Lisbon! Lovely photos – my favorites are the 5th (like the way the yellow contrasts with pretty blue building) and 6th. Funny to think of you stalking the trams. 🙂 I like focusing on one subject matter like that too and I love Lisbon (although it’s been a long time since i visited…). Lucky you to get to go for work! 🙂

    1. When you focus on one theme, it’s actually easier to make a portrait of a city – instead of just running around aimlessly. Lisbon is a lovely city, isn’t it?!

      1. Yes, it’s so charming! I naively and presumptuously thought Portugal would pretty much be like Spain (apologies to any Portuguese readers!) but it obviously wasn’t – it’s really unique. To me Lisbon was mysterious and romantic. The type of place you want to wander around forever. And I love the square that opens out to the sea.

  6. Oh those hills look steep … clever town planners putting in a tram service! The residents must have calves of steel. That part of the city provides a smorgasbord for your camera Otto … spectacular set 🙂

    1. Lisbon is indeed a great city for a photographer. And, yes, I agree with you it’s clever planning to include tram service in a city. I think more cities should have thought about that instead of letting transportation totally depending on private cars.

  7. This is a wonderful series of photos. I had no knowledge of the tram cars in Lisbon but I love how you seem to have captured the spirit of the things. It would be wonderful to spend the day riding these pieces of history.

  8. What a delightful opportunity Otto! Beautiful photos and instagram processing. I love the colors you captured. It makes me want to get of my merry-go-round and check it out 😉 Travel safe my friend.

  9. You’ve created a charming narrative about old-world technology and transportation. Your images draw me into the feeling of the experience. I have not taken the leap to Instagram, but am in agreement with your comments about the usage of apps. We have many new tools in our photographic tool kit.

    1. It’s what makes it so fun, you can just play around with a lot of new toys, like Instagram or LittlePhoto which is another favourite app of mine. Thank you for the very nice feedback.

  10. A wonderful story with some amazing pictures! I did love Lisbon and its charming trams when I visited back in 2002 and your fun study of them brought back great memories. Thanks Otto!

  11. Your account of the tram-capturing safari is inspiring. I love the “fun factor” you bring out so well. The processing of your photos is perfect in this case as it adds a very special flavor and feeling in showing the city and it’s meandering trams. Nicely done!

    1. It’s also very fun to limit yourself like this when you photograph, In many ways it makes you more creative I think. Thanks for the nice words, Karen.

  12. What lovely photos of this much talked about transportation. When we were visiting two summers ago, we were warned to make sure we had our purses plastered to our bodies. There are too many slick pick pockets in these trams, we were repeatedly warned.

    Your photoshop them all come alive. I remember doing a waking tour with my group in these parts. The weather was just lovely. Sunny with a breeze.

  13. I love the way you’ve picked one subject and captured it in such a fluid way. It’s inspired me to try something similar in my home City – I just have to figure out what that might be! 🙂

  14. Never been to Lisbon. Looks great. Curious here, how do you get your DSLR images from camera to cell phone to use the Instagram app?

    1. I just connect the cell phone to my computer with an USB-connector and drag the photos from the computer over to the photo-folder on my phone. Instragram will then automatically find the pictures.

  15. Wonderful presentation, Otto. Once I tried to do something similar with the theme local trains of my country. I hope you remember that. But this post of yours is just a perfect example of how to go about it. 🙂

  16. You’ve really captured the spirit of the place and those yellow trams. I think the first one is my favorite. I’m fascinated with the concept of taking photos with your “real” camera equipment and then processing them with Instagram on your cell phone. That’s not something I’d have thought of, but the processing you did really works well in this series.

    1. It’s fun to combine various possibilities like processing photos taken with a “real” camera with a cell phone app like Instagram.

    1. It’s not difficult at all. As I said in some other comments you just connect the cell phone with the computer with a USB-connector, then drag the photos from the computer to the photo-folder on the phone. Instagram will then recognize and find the pictures.

  17. A few years ago I went to Lisbon because of my job, but each time I was lucky enough to have the possibility yo stay there for the weekend. It’s a wonderful city and yes, the tram, the “eletrico” are a very interesting subject. And the colors of your pictures are superb!
    PS: for my wife and me is an established habit when we are in a new city to jump on a tram in the center and ride until the last station. And come back, of course! It’s always worthwhile!

    1. It’s always fun to jump on a tram or even a buss in a foreign place just to see where it ends. Thanks for commenting, Robert, it’s much appreciated.

  18. Your photographs are truly a work of art. I think about Portugal everyday. I was lucky enough to stay in Costa De Caparica for two months. My travels there took place over twelve years ago, and everyday I dream about going back. Your photography captures the feel of what it was like to walk along some of those streets.

  19. Catching up on your blog posts after a summer away from visiting. Love this series of the little yellow trams and the Instagram processing. A really lighthearted subject after many of the more serious topics you address with your photography. I enjoyed each and every variation. Gave me ideas for a series of my own.

  20. Great set! I feel the movement of the tram as well as feeling that I am going along with the tramp. It is not just that usage of long exposure but how you frame the pictures as well.

  21. I love all these shots but I particularly like the first one. You have captured the fluidity of the roads as they slip down the hill and the faded buildings contrast so sharply with the tram. This is a fine photo and so very technically accomplished.

  22. I’ll be going to Lisbon for the first time this weekend and the apartment that we’ve rented is in Alfama 🙂 Looking forward to exploring the city as well as making some photos. I might bring a Canonet GL17 – which, by the way, I’ve not developed any film taken with it yet, so hope that all goes well! Will also have my phone to support for quick snaps.

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