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A Walk in Lisbon with the DIRTY DOZEN from "Team Epic"

We could have been captured any time…

Remember the movie "The Dirty Dozen?" Good, okay, now take away one of the group, so it's just eleven, but instead of a brash Major putting together a ragtag team of convict soldiers and leading them in a suicide mission parachuting behind enemy lines, it was more like a photographer from Tampa leading a ragtag team of Delta passengers with a lot of bulky camera gear to an Airbnb Apartment across from an H&M Department Store. So…ya know…it was pretty much the same storyline.

For the past few years, when it's time for my Worldwide Photo Walk, I use that as an excuse to fly someplace awesome to host a local photo there on the official walk day. This year, the plan was for my brother Jeff and me to fly to Lisbon. Neither of us had ever been, but Fernando Santos (known to people who watch my weekly photography show "The Grid" as Cheeky Nando), lives there, and he offered to take us to awesome photo locations, drive us around in his flashy car, and buy us ice cream several times a day, so Lisbon looked pretty good. Plus Lisbon is just a short flight away from one of my bucket-list countries — Morocco, so it was settled.

So it would be just me and Jeff, hanging with "Nando" in Lisbo……

...but then I thought it would be fun to invite one of my friends to join us. That way Jeff and I could steal stuff while they create a distraction. The idea sounded so good I invited another friend to join us, then another, and another before you knew it, there was 11 of us from all over: England, Portugal, Romainia, Ireland, Poland, Italy, Iran, and the US, and you know what? It was awesome! Well, until you try to simultaniously flag down three taxis in a foreign country

Above: That's the library in the National Palace in Mafra, Portugal, just outside Lisbon taken with a 14mm super wide angle lens. We made a special trip out to see it because I'm a freak for libraries and classic interiors. I had seen many photos of it over the years, but this was my first chance to see it in person, and I was pretty psyched. Plus the security guards didn't hassle me for 20+ solid minutes of shooting with my 5D Mark IV with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at 200mm on a Playpod camera support with an Oben ballhead.

This is that far end of the library you see in the title image.
Behind the Scenes: Lots of tourists. There was rope and Stanchion keeping us all in a small viewing area. We finally made our way to the front so I could put down my Playpod and camera right on the floor with an unobstructed view.
I know they're really just there for tourists, but the tiny yellow streetcars have become a symbol of Lisbon.

Empty streets and a timeless location

For any of you that have watched one of my talks about travel photography, you know I'm always out on the lookout for a scene that has a timeless nature to it. One where you don't see a lot of modern things that would give away that it was taken recently. While driving through the city with Nando, we drove down this street (right near our Airbnb apartment), and I made a mental note that I wanted to go back and shoot it without tourists or cars.

The morning of my photo walk (which was scheduled for 8:00 am, I got up early and walked the short walk to this curve at the end of the street. No tourists, no cars, and I was happy with the shot, but I would never have guessed it was my all-time most-liked photos on Instagram. I spent most of this early morning shoot yelling at my friends to get out of the shot. This would become a theme throughout the trip. When you have 11 friends with you, at any given point one is in your shot, one is getting tased, and one has wandered off and won't be found for at least 20 minutes.

The first shot of the day

The shot below, with the streetlights on, was the first shot I took when I got to that location, from the bottom of the curve (the other shot was taken up the hill just past where you see the trolley here). I took the shot and literally about a minute or so and all the street lights went off. It totally changed the color and atmosphere.

Above: An icon of Lisbon and big tourist spot, especially at sunset as we found out - the Belém Tower, which sits out in the water. However this shot was taken down low using a puddle of water to create the reflection. The water is actually below this photos, a few step in front of where this was taken.
These were taken during my 2-hour photo walk on Saturday, October 7th.
The city has beautiful tile all over — it's a "Lisbon thing" and I love it.

The Montserrat Palace

I had never heard of the Montserrat Palace, but luckily our awesome host, Fernando knew it well, and he knew we would love this tiny palace, and it was one of the highlights of our Lisbon trip. So much beauty place in such a small place.

This front view of the Palace was taken right before I accidentally dropped my 70-200mm right on the concrete. Repair cost when I got back home? $937. Yeouch! Luckily, I was able to arrnage a loaner 70-200 f/2.8 from Canon Professional Services in Lisbon. (Shout out to the always awesome Mike Larson in the USA who make it all happen).
Some exterior shots of the palace. Top: That's right below the first shot of the palace. I just walked up close to take this shot. Middle: this is just one of the beautiful ornaments along the roof of the palace. The bottom shot is a 5-photo vertical pano taken the exact moment before I dropped my precious 70-200mm f/2.8 to the concerte with a thud, resulting in an broken lens and approximately a $937.00 repair bill when I got him. I said a few words that shall not be repeated here, but you're curious what they might be, listen to any rap song from Lil Wayne .
Here's the view when you first walk in — you look up and see this incredibly ornate dome. Quite the greeting.

Getting Tourist-Free Shots

There are Photoshop tricks (using the Statistics script set to Median) and long exposure tricks (where you leave the shutter open for 10 minutes) and layer mask tricks, but my favorite one for getting tourist-free images is "patience." That's what you see in the shot above. My camera, down lower just a few inches above the floor on a Playpod with an Oben ball head and I patiently stand nearby waiting for just that one moment when the packed hallway is clear. It took about 15 or so minutes to get that one break in the traffic to get the shot, but it worked, and I got it. By the way — the entire palace is pretty much just twice the length of what you see here – there are two short halls with rooms on the end, and a small rotunda in the middle and that's pretty much it. Still, so worth seeing in person (and we spent way too long there for such a small place).

The super-low perspective gives this small hallway an epic look.

Above: Here's a behind the scenes shots of my Camera on a Platypod Ultra camera support plate with an Oben Ballhead on top. It's centered on the floor of that hallway you just saw (thanks for the bts shot, Nando), with all of us standing around waiting for me to get this one stupid shot, so nobody from our group can walk down the hallway, so we're all just standing there and waiting. I put the 'pain' in 'patience" (hey, the letters are there).

Below: Same hallway but from the end of the hall (I'm in front of the green door seen above), same lens, just standing and hand-holding. The change of perspective makes a huge difference. You're also seeing from one end of the palace to the other, but it's not nearly as long as it looks because I'm using a super wide angle lens and that pushes things away from you.

The ceilings were pretty spectacular.
Here's a behind-the-scenes of the shot above this one. Just trying to hold my camera very still.Also, by aiming up lik ethis I avoid the tourists in the hallway (seen far left).

Shooting The Ceiling of the Music Room

At the end of one of the hallways was a music room, and it has to be true because there a piano with a big ugly cover in there with display signs placed on top where it would pretty much mess up any decent shot of the room itself. Luckily, it had a beauty ceiling (seen below).

The beautifully ornate ceiling in the small ballroom of the Palace.

Behind-the-scenes of “Ceiling Wars”

Here's a very inelegant behind-the-scenes look at some of us shooting the ceiling (and, me shooting the gang, shooting the ceiling).

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Behind-the-Scenes Shot

You've heard me mention the Platypod and Oben ballhead a few times already and here it is in action again below. There was this "rope and stanchion" in place to keep you from roaming the small library in the Palace, but the top of each stanchion pole was flat so I put my Playpod right on top of it and it worked perfectly (the light was lower than it looks). The stanchion pole was off center from the table, but I fixed that in a jiffy — I just dragged it over to the the center of the table (as seen here). Problem solved. Camera detail: That's my 14mm super wide angle on a Canon 5D Mark IV.

Gustav Eiffel’s Elevador de Santa Justa

Right around the way from our Airbnb apartment (literally a 1-minute walk) is a 19th-century elevator and viewing platform designed by the same architect who designed Paris' Eiffel Tower — Gustav Eiffel. It looks so interesting right in the middle of everything, and when you look at it, you think, "Yeah, I could see a little Eiffel Tower inspiration in this." I got up close to it one night after dinner with my 14mm and got these first two shots, but at the end, I included a regular view of it so you can see it in a better context of how it really looks.

I don't particularly like this shot, and wasn't going to include it, but at least it gives you a good idea of how the elevator looks without the 14mm artistic upclose treatment. The next shot shows where I was standing when I shot it.
If you were standing at the base of Gustav's Elevator looking back at us, this is what you'd see.

There's this big hole in the ground…

Its actual name is either "A big hole in the ground" or "The Masonic Initiation Wells of the Quinta da Regaleira." It's probably the 2nd one. It's outside of Lisbon near the wonderfully quaint town of Sintra. Sadly, we didn't get to see the charming town of Sintra, because we saw the heck out of this hole instead. We spent about two hours here, and my buddy Dave Williams was elated because this deserted ceremonial well was on his bucket list. When we heard this, there was a brief discussion on whether to toss Dave into the well. While it looks like it would smell of "incense and patchouli, I assure you, it did not. (5-points though if you got that "Year of the Cat" lyric reference).

This is what the big hole in the ground looks like from the ground.

Pro Hole Shooting Technique. Don't Try This at Home

As you can see, we are a highly trained team of professionals using advanced camera proceedures that cannot possibly be achieved by anyone else but us. The technique you see at top (below) is called "hold it out over the hole" Or HOOH for short. It delivers stunning results appoximately .03% of the time. The rest of your shots are so blurry they can only be used as bokeh background shots for things you want to composite into a huge hole in the ground.

Bottom left: Peter taking a brief nap. Bottom right: Mimo and Robi making certain they have to be cloned out of nearly everyone's shots. We spent approximately 1-hour yelling "You're still in the frame. Go a little farther. We can still see you. Farther." etc..

Photos of my crew, otherwise known as "Team Epic!"

These are the finest group of individuals ever assembled for a trip like this, or these are the only people available on short notice to travel with only the promise of Easy Cheese in a can and "Chicken in a Biscuit" crackers. Hey, I kept up my end of the deal. Without further ado (yes, that was "ado") I present to you, Team Epic:

Team Epic immediately following an amazing homemade Spaghetti with garlic and pepperoicni dinner made fresh by Roby and Mimo, in our awesome AirBnB Apartment (it was awesome by the way - highly recommended). From L to R (seated with black shirt): Piotr "The Love Machine" Trumpiel, standing is Dave "Wildcat" Williams and my brother Jeff "My Brother" Kelby. Seated is Mike "Dance with me Mike" McCaskey, Yours Truly. Standing in the black shirt is ISIS public relations direction Mimo Meidany, Seated at right is Fernando "Cheeky Nando" Santos, in the red shirt with fancy matching sneakers is Robby "Bella Donna" Pisco and in front upstaging us all is Peter "Peter" Treadway. We would soon be joined by Cathy and Gabby, and at that point we all began shoplifting like mad.
Here's an iPhone pano (by Peter) of our swinging Lisbon Air B&B Apartment. An absolute bargain! Full kitchen, free wireless, incredible location. Sleeps eight.
This is me and Fernando "Chicky Nando" Santos, our host my friend in Portugal, taken during my photo walk. If you ever hear us talking about "Cheeky Nando" on our weekly show "The Grid" that's him. Nando planned my photo walk route in Lisbon, which was fanastic (despite the fact that it was almost entirely uphill, for which we gave him loads of grief). Such a great host and all around fun, helpful, funny, and awesome guy to hang out with. A true ambassador for his beautiful country.
Top Left: The dashing British spy Peter Treadway. Top Right: Nando, Portugese native and friend of "The Grid" Fabian Stamate; Gabby (cool friend of Cathy Baitson) and with pink hair, that's Cathy Baitson herself, and we were joined by the awesome Piotr, "the Polish Love Machine" Trumpiel (It's possible only we call him that). Bottom L: That's Piotr and Nando. Bottom R: Gabby and Cathy Chimping on a pink iPhone. Cathy was on the only person on my photo walk whose iPhone case matched their hair color.
Team Epic at one of the many restaurants where Nando got a kickback for taking us.
This is Dave moments before he was struck from behind by a trolley.
Notice only one local (bright blue shirt on right) even noticed that Dave was splatted by the trolley. In Lisbon, tourists are struck by trolley cars so often they are not even counted in official tallies, because as one tourist is stuck, another steps up to take his place. Anyway, we bought a large spatchula at a nearby gift shop and he was back up and shooting within the hour. True story.
I don't even know what to say here. Top L: My brother with a plant hat. Top Center: Mike not realizing how close the oncoming traffic actually was. Top R: What happens when you leave your camera unattended around Mimo and Pisco. I could go on, but really, why?
Everybody, get in a line. OK, now look tough. OK, Dave, look slightly left. OK, hold it…hold it…
This is me greeting my photo walkers on the morning of my photo walk. None of them understand a word of English, so I just said a bunch of gibberish. At different times, Nando would tell him in Portugese, "Scott just said a joke, laugh now" and they would polietly chuckle. By the end of our two hour walk, most of the people you see here had been arrested.
My intrepid Photo Walk, and Team Epic at Power Rangers Morphin' time right before our Photo Walk took to the streets of Portugal. That's Nando's lovely girlfriend Paula in the teal shirt next to Nando in the center of the image. Many of the walkers tried to lure her away from Nando offering trinkets from local gift stores, and promises of fancy meals and exotic cars (including a Peugeot), but Paula didn't fall for it - apparently she's holding out for Elon Musk. He was not a part of this walk, so for now, Nando is safe.

I kinda surprised any of us got any photos at all, because…

We spent so much time laughing, and having fun, and having amazing meals and enjoying the sights that I'm surprised any of us had time to take any decent shots. It was such a perfect group of friends - we couldn't have planned it any better if we had actually planned it at all. (See what Dave's pointing out - Fernando not only created a "Chicky Nando" photography logo, he made a custom t-shirt with it. This is why we can't have nice things).

Lisbon is every bit as beautiful as we had hoped

Enchanting, clean, fascinating, historical, charming, modern — it has it all. It was also surprisingly low-cost. There were times where we had to question the bill in a restaurant because there was no way it could have been that low, but it was right. I have such fond memories from the trip, and I hope to visit Portugal, and Cheeky Nando, our marvelous host and friend (and his awesome girlfriend Paula), again one day soon. I'd love my wife Kalebra to see it and hang out with them - she would just adore the city and its people so much. So many great memories and a few pictures to boot. For a photographer, who could ask for anything more?

Our last night in Lisbon, after flying in just a few hours earlier from Morocco - we got to go to the awesome Time Out Lisbon dining experience. Too awesome (Nando on the selfie).
Nando and me at Time Out Lisbon.
Jeff, Big Mike, and a hint of Paula on the far left.

Behind-the-Scenes Photo Credits

I'm grateful to Nando and Paula, Peter, "Dance with me" Mike McCaskey, and Dave WIlliams for all awesome behind-the-shots they contributed to this post, and I'm even more grateful for their friendship and for joining Jeff and me on this "epic" journey. Hope we get the chance to do it all again one day soon.

Thanks for letting me share the Lisbon leg of this trip with you. Can't wait to share the Morocco segment with you next.

Created By
Scott Kelby
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