The magnificent photograph on our front cover this month was taken by Lanzarote photographer Juan Méndez. We chatted to him about his passion.
When did you take up photography, Juan?
I was always taking photos when I was a kid, and my friends used to tease me about how much time I spent snapping photos on my mobile. But it was only four years ago when I bought a decent camera and started learning in earnest. Since then, my photos have appeared in Spain’s National Geographic magazine six times – five of Lanzarote, one of La Palma.
How long did it take you to get our cover shot?
Nine months. I had to keep going back to make sure the sun was in the right place at the right time, and that the conditions were perfect. In summertime the sun is at a different angle than it is in the winter, so I needed to take that into account, too.
How do you manage focus on a shot like that?
It’s like those joke photos you see where people on a beach are the same size as a Coke can – you have to make sure all elements are in focus. I was also shooting from a distance so that the devil in the foreground is smaller than the sun in the background, so it takes a lot of preparation and precise positioning.
Your Instagram page is full of wonderful images of the sun and the moon. Are they something that appeal to you particularly?
It was seeing another photo of the moon that urged me to take up photography seriously. I love working with them both.
The sun is there almost all the time on Lanzarote, but you still need the right conditions. I recently spent ages trying to get a shot of the sun in Tías and it was always cloudy at the time I wanted. So I decided to go elsewhere and, when I did, it was cloudy there and clear at the original location. It’s Murphy’s Law.
And the moon?
The moon can be a pain in the neck. You get one full moon every month, and if its cloudy you can forget about it. I still love night-time photography more than anything else, though.
What was it like photographing on La Palma?
Amazing. I went over for four days and headed up to the Roque de los Muchachos, the peak that lies above a carpet of clouds that block light pollution from below. It’s completely dark, so the stars are brighter than anywhere else, a few people asked what I was doing up there on my own – they probably thought I was crazy – but I loved it.
Did you photograph last year’s volcano on La Palma?
I’d have loved to, but I couldn’t get the time off work.
Do you ever go with assistants or friends?
No, because then you end up chatting and you’ll end up missing the shot.
Are there any shots you regret having missed?
Once I was waiting for a plane to pass in front of the full moon, and when it finally did I clicked the off switch instead of the shutter!
I’d love to have another camera that I’d adjust for closer shots, as well. I’ll be out waiting to take a photo when an animal approaches, and by the time I’ve changed the settings on my camera it’s long gone.
How many cameras do you use?
Just the one. Most equipment in my bag is from Visanta, but I always want more. I’ve never done drone photography, for example – not because it doesn’t interest me, but because I have other priorities to spend money on.
Is there anything you want to photograph on Lanzarote that you haven’t managed to yet?
Yes, but I’m not going to say what it is. I want to be the first.
Outside Lanzarote, I’d really like to photograph lightning storms, but Lanzarote isn’t the right place for that as we hardly get any.
Are there any places you’d like to visit?
Yes, I’d love to go to Italy and the USA.
You can find more of Juan’s photos at his Instagram account J.Méndez.fotografía. Juan is also available for commissions and can provide prints of his amazing photos.
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