22 Apr, 2023 @ 12:12
4 mins read

SNAP HAPPY: Why the Sierra Nevada and Alpujarra region of Granada are a visual feast for your camera

Seize Light

THE Sierra Nevada area of Granada is a dream for photographers, who will encounter some of the best scenery and atmosphere of Andalucia. This is especially true of the rural Alpujarra, lying on its south flank.

Here, you’ll find towering mountain peaks, the Mediterranean Sea glistening on the horizon, impressive cloud formations, fiery sunsets, winter snowscapes, and diverse fauna and flora. With visual changes accompanying each season, this area is spectacular all year round.

Add to that a wealth of colourful events – such as town processions, ferias, and fairs – as well as the old traditions and culture, and photographers are spoilt for choice.

The Olive Press spoke to some photographers (pros and amateurs) who made this region their home – and view it daily through the lens.

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Photo: Jo Chipchase

Jo Chipchase – Olive Press reporter

Jo first came to La Alpujarra in 2002, to visit friends who had moved beside the tiny village of Lobras, near Cadiar. She immediately fell in love with the area – the rolling hills of the Contraviesa and low Alpujarra with their terraced, crop-laden land, white villages nestling against the hillsides, winding roads, and the slower pace of life.

A few years later, she moved to the spa town of Lanjarón with her kids, and then to the higher mountains.

She says: “My favourite place for photography is the Sierra Nevada natural park, as seen from various mountain passes. I particularly like shooting sunrises and sunsets. The Contraveisa is another personal favourite.”

“When working, I enjoy taking event photos to create a story, from start to finish. This could be the San Juan water fiesta in Lanjarón or the Musica de las Mozuelas in Cañar. I like unusual events that you wouldn’t see anywhere else.”

Lizzie Wolfenden – natural light photographer

Lizzie, a resident of Órgiva, was living in France before she moved to La Alpujarra in 2017.

She says: “We were attracted by a simpler, outdoor life. I fell in love with the pomegranates and photographing them, especially when they crack open at the end of autumn, exposing their jewels.”

She adds: “I love portrait photography – on location and in the studio. Shooting portraits indoors with natural light coming through my window is possible mot days in La Alpujarra. In England, it would be a different story.”

“The golden hour is when you’ll find me wandering La Estrella, Pago and by the Guadalfeo River, just below Orgiva.”

Lizzie’s work takes an artistic twist to subjects typically found in La Alpujarra. She has photographed many local people, showing their different facets.

Fred Shively – ex creative director

Fred was raised in Pennsylvania, USA, and visited the UK with the US military intelligence in the 1960s. He worked as a creative director on both sides of the ‘pond’.  In 2002, he moved to Lanjarón with his wife, Arpi.

The pair initially worked on magazine assignments. Subsequently, Fred had several solo photo exhibitions in Granada, and as part of the Artists Network Alpujarra and Al-AndaLUZ Photographers Collective. He’s had two photography books published.

Says Fred: “The Alpujarra is a photographically rich environment. The white villages, the mountainous backdrops, the flora and fauna, and the people – the ‘campesinos’ – their trades, crafts, and ways of life.”

He adds: “As a ‘photo-generalist’, I’ve covered subjects ranging from stark, monochrome architecture to people at work and play, and occasional landscapes. I’ve also interpreted poetry, as in my book and exhibition about Frederico Garcia Lorca.”

“Recently, I’ve delved into abstract and photo-manipulation techniques. My next book will feature ‘photo-sketches’, primarily of Andalucian scenes.”

Fred Shiveley Photo Of Canar
The plaza of Cañar. Photo: Fred Shively

Richard Hartley – mountain guide

Richard arrived in the Alpujarra in 2002 to escape the rat race, and never left. He lives above Lanjarón and works for his own company, Spanish Highs, as a mountain guide.

He says: “I tend to go against the grain. When mobile phones became ‘de rigeur for taking images, I reverted to a trusty camera. I can compose a good photo but like to point and press. During mountain days, usually with groups of people, I must take photos quickly. I get good shots more by luck than judgement.”

He adds: “One of my favourite images was taken with a new 50mm prime (fixed focus) lens. We were hiking from the Hoya del Portillo, in the Sierra Nevada, down to the Rio Bermejo in the Alpujarra. At the end of the walk, I suggested visiting a beautiful waterfall that I’d seen before. At first, I was disappointed that it was in the shade and didn’t look as stunning as I remembered.”

“My luck changed when Chris Stewart, famous author of ‘Driving Over Lemons’, descended to the waterfall. I was standing on a narrow platform and couldn’t move. Chris Stewart enjoyed looking at the waterfall, so he kept still. This was lucky, as any movement would have caused blurring.  The shot was framed just as I wanted.”

Richard Hartley Rio De Bermejelas
Chris Stewart admiring waterfall. Photo: Richard Hartley.

Graham Knipe of Seize Light Photography

Graham Knipe is a professional photographer who lives with his wife, Rosie, on a small cherry farm at Guejar-Sierra, on the opposite side of the mountain to La Alpujarra.

He says: “Photographers can take inspiration from many things here – from the potential of a gentle portrait to the incredulity of huge, majestic vistas. To be out in nature and feel her full impact as you sit waiting for the right moment! The delicate interplay of light and shadow balanced against the subtle palette of a million different colours. That’s the essence of photography for me.”

One of his favourite images, ‘Sunset Over Guejar Sierra’, was taken 30m from his house.

He explains: “The sunsets that I capture here are frequently at their most sublime. One of my favourite locations is near my home. I love the north side of the Sierra Nevada mountains for everything that they represent.”

Sunset Over Guejar Sierra Seize Light Photography 1
Sunset over Guejar-Sierra. Photo: Graham Knipe, Seize Light Photography.

Hints and tips for your rural photography

“Get off the beaten track” (unless there are wells, holes, mines, or dense forests!) – Fred Shively
“Wander in the golden hour – the spell before dawn and dusk” – Lizzie Woolfenden
“A good image requires either a lot of patience or a lot of luck!” – Richard Hartley
“Don’t shoot in the haze of the direct midday sun” – Jo Chipchase


Jo Chipchase

Jo Chipchase freelanced for internet and lifestyle publications in the UK, and for Living Spain magazine, and was co-founder of Press Dispensary. She lives in the Alpujarra mountains of Andalucia with her teenage sons, dogs and a horse. Contact newsdesk@theolivepress.es

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