Porto Through The Lens

Words and Photography by Pete Heck

The alarm rang at 6:00am. I had set it the previous evening with the intention of capturing the early morning life through Porto’s streets. What was the beginning of a new day for me was for others the last remaining moments of an evening out on the town. I rolled out of bed, wandered to the window and looked down upon the University bar which was still busy with patrons finishing off their last drinks and conversations. I laboured to put on my clothes, all the time muttering that this is the life of a photographer. I glanced at Dalene and how comfortable she was and considered crawling back into bed and getting a few more moments of sleep.

We had arrived two nights prior and were excited to explore this enchanting European hotspot. The city has so much to offer other than of course the popular drink “port”. Whether it’s a romantic getaway for two, a family trip, or a girlfriends getaway, there are so many things to do in Porto.

I grabbed a pastel de nata I had purchased the day before, threw on my shoes and hoodie and went off to work. I kicked my way through a few empty beer cans that lined the street. It was still dark out but I knew I had to pick up my pace in order to capture the first light.

My stride quickened and my energy level rose. I thought to myself how my photography passion was invigorated by this new city. Coming from New Zealand I had started to lose some of that passion, which is strange as it is such a photogenic place. But I just wasn’t feeling it there. Maybe it was the familiarity of the country and that nothing really seemed new. Or maybe it was the negative energy that surrounded us. Regardless, from the moment we landed in Portugal and started to discover Porto, any misgivings I had about my chosen work quickly disappeared.

I kicked my way through a few empty beer cans that lined the street. It was still dark out but I knew I had to pick up my pace in order to capture the first light.

Bom Dia Porto

The midnight blue began to lighten to royal and the pinks and purples also crept in. The city was beginning to wake; the day was evolving. The sun had begun to shine on the Dom Luís Bridge, one of the most famous Portuguese landmarks. I set up for a couple hours that morning, capturing the light and the essence of the city. I felt good and proud of my work. Something that had lacked for a few months.

The city of Porto sparked my creative side. The architecture, the light, the street art, and the history all contributed. I worked on things I wanted to improve. I explored angles, worked on stitched images and long exposures. I woke up for sunrises and stayed out for sunsets. I was even inspired to dedicate a full day to improving my portrait photography (it helps to have a beautiful model to join me – thanks to Dalene for being so patient).

My experience certainly gave me many reasons to love this city.

Early Rise Porto

Porto Back Streets

Through the Iron

Porto Sunset on Bridge

Santa Clara Porto

Porto Laundry

Porto Reflections

Porto Street Art

Porto Cable Cars

Cloisters Oporto Church

Blue Tile Porto Cathedral

Porto Morning Light

Porto Bridge Lit Up

Porto Portraits

Porto Skyline

Port in Porto

Porto Morning Rush

Porto Panorama

22 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Victoria | Girl Tries Life
    November 23 2015

    Stunning photos! Glad that some inspiration and pride has returned. Absolutely incredible shots.

    • Pete
      November 24 2015

      Many thanks Victoria, it felt good to get it back.

  • November 23 2015

    What a beautiful city and great pics! I’ve been wanting to go to Portugal, too. May have to add this to my list now.
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  • Mary Morin
    November 23 2015

    Wow! Stunning photos!! I loved Porto too! A beautiful and photogenic city!!

  • November 23 2015

    Wonderful captures! My favourite is “Morning Rush”. I like how you flattened the perspective. The whole composition is really interesting and yet there’s also so much going on when you closely.

    Also, I’m glad your vision was reinvigorated in Porto; it always comes from within. Some places bring it out easier than others but it’s always there.
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    • Pete
      November 24 2015

      Thanks Jeff. That’s one of my faves too, and actually I just sold a copy of it (I think…). I love it when it just feels right, Porto definitely made it easier 🙂

  • Carmel
    November 23 2015

    So delighted to see these photos! Porto has been calling me for a long time now and your photos have stirred up the urge to go there. It seems to bear a grittiness and softness all at the same time. Love the photo of the tram. It has a timeless quality. Beautiful tones.

    • Pete
      November 24 2015

      Thanks Carmel, I think I’ll be back soon. It really struck a good nerve with me.

  • November 23 2015

    Loved the shots, great perspective and light!! Sorry you didn’t find it in NZ, I’ve been there 2-3x and love it, tho I’ve only ever hung out in the North Island.. Very different environment I understand. I love the Bay Of Islands north of Auckland. If you’re ever in that area again-check it out.

    • Pete
      November 24 2015

      Hi Molly, Thanks! If we head back to NZ it will most likely be for the north island, only a matter of time (most likely in our case 🙂

  • November 24 2015

    Wow, you’re practice and patience paid off. These are all fabulous!
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  • November 25 2015

    Nice shots mate!

    I was wondering if I should really go to Porto and I think your photos just proved that I have to! 🙂

  • November 27 2015

    You made me fall in love again with a city that I absolutely love (actually lived there for a few months).I really think is a hidden gem in Europe!

    Can I ask which camera do you use? These are stunning!
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  • November 27 2015

    Wow, stunning photos! I always have the intention to get up early to capture the morning light but normally that plan goes out the window when the alarm goes off. Your photos have inspired me to not press snooze next time and get out there.

  • November 29 2015

    Gorgeous photos, Pete! Linda McCarthy once said that if you see something that moves you, and then snap it, you keep a moment. You surely captured good moments of Porto.
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  • November 29 2015

    I can see why the creativity was rekindled. All of these are beautiful, but I love Morning Rush. I really look forward to visiting Portugal (maybe next year?), partly because my husband has so much Portuguese heritage and we speak Portuguese so would enjoy using it there to chat with the local people.
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  • December 3 2015

    Stellar post as always, Pete! Porto looks gorgeous through your lens, glad she inspired you so well.
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  • Lisa Ballinger
    December 5 2015

    Stunning photos. A good lesson that creativity and inspiration can strike even when we’re not feeling it.

  • December 11 2015

    Hello Pete,

    Thank you for your words and stunning photos. Back Streets makes me want to explore around the bend, following the light. And there is just something otherworldly about the glowing golden tones of Cable Car. NZ was home for a while, a place where everything felt raw and freshly scrubbed. But I often took a shot and felt there was something missing just off the edge. I understand that you may have struggled, but I appreciate your efforts – the images you captured are awe inspiring.

  • December 29 2015

    It was worth the early wake-up call, the photos are wonderful!

  • Jade Johnston
    April 19 2016

    Great photos… you have captured a beautiful ambiance. Makes me want to visit Portugal

  • January 23 2017

    Beautiful shots! Wishing you both well and hope the recovery’s going fine.
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