On Location Photographing Bruges

In July 2018, I spent a day and a bit in the beautiful city of Bruges, the largest city in the Flemish region of Belgium. With only around 36 hours in the city, I wanted to soak up as much of this city as possible and photograph some of its stunning views and interesting architecture.

As I had done with my trip to Venice, I want this post to be a good mix of photography and travel related content. This isn’t an all inclusive review of the city as there is so much more to explore and given how close I am in the UK to Bruges, you can bet your bottom dollar I will be heading back in the not so distant future.

See here for my post PHOTOGRAPHING VENICE - PART ONE

Rather than post the photos I took in the order they were taken, I decided to structure this post into the different locations I photographed, some I visited multiple times allowing me to photograph these places at different times of the day.

This post won’t be too gear orientated but below is a quick list of the camera/lenses I had with me:

  • Fujifilm XT2 and X-T10 cameras

  • XF10-24mm lens

  • XF18-55mm lens

  • XF35mm F2 lens

  • XF55-200mm lens

  • Manfrotto travel tripod which I didn’t use too much

  • Plenty of batteries and memory cards.

As you can see, I am a Fujifilm shooter and during this trip, i tended to carry the smaller XT-10 and a single lens while walking about during the day whereas the XT2 was used, alongside the tripod and other gear while shooting during the best light during the more focused morning and evening shoots. For some more details about the gear I use, pop over to my About page.

Burg Square

I’ve decided to start with Burg Square. Just a short walk from the larger, Market Square, the architecture in Burg square is quite stunning ranging from Gothic to Renaissance and includes some important buildings such as the 14th Century Town Hall, from which the city was governed for over 600 years.

A photo of Town Hall on Burg Square in Bruges, Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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A photo of Burg Square in Bruges, Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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Tucked in the corner of Burg Square is The Basilica of the Holy Blood. This ornate, tiny church has a Romanesque lower chapel and a Gothic upper. Visually, the upper Gothic chapel has it all going on with lots of colour and detail with the lower being a lot more subdue.

In the photo above, next to the Holy Blood, you can see the red door shown in this picture here. I often find myself capturing interesting doors and windows and this one caught my eye with the bright reds and the decorative statues.

Still in Burg Square, the photo below is a closeup shot of the Town Hall. I tried to capture some of the architectural details behind one of the ornate lamp posts in the square.

The red and white flag that flies above the Town Hall is the Flag of Bruges, Province of West Flanders, Belgium.

A photo of the Basilica of the Holy Blood on Burg Square in Bruges, Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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A photo of the flag of Bruges on Burg Square in Bruges, Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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This is Berg Square with the Belfry of Bruges Tower in the background and a hot air balloon up above the city. The horse and carts you can see are a real feature of Bruges and taking a ride in one is a great way to see the city. The one time I needed the wider 10-24mm lens and it was at the hotel. I only just managed to get everything in the shot!

A photo of an air balloon above Burg Square and the Belfry Tower in Bruges, Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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If you ever visit Bruges and want to photograph the city, try and get out and about at sunrise. As you can see in the photos below, the streets will be deserted. I took these at around 7am on Sunday morning and had the entire place to myself. Bliss!

A cobbled street at Burg Square in Bruges, Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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A cobbled street at Burg Square in Bruges, Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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Palace of the Liberty of Bruges

Located in a corner of Burg Square and smaller in comparison to its neighbouring buildings, the Palace of the Liberty stands out on the square with its decorative, golden trimmed architecture. Built between 1722-1727, this building has been used as a court house and now houses the city archives.

The photo here (below left) is what appears to be the entrance to the Palace but entry is in fact gained via the City Hall mentioned earlier in the post. Although the building looks impressive from the front, I particularly enjoyed photographing it from the back. If you wander down the side of the building, underneath the archway and along Blinde-Ezelstraat you will get a great view of the golden, decorative statues and trim framed by the buildings flanking the street. For this reason it’s a popular photographic composition captured in Bruges.

The Palace of Liberty on Burg Square in Bruges, Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin
The Palace of Liberty on Burg Square in Bruges, Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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(left)
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Dijver Canal

There are some great photo opportunities along the very pretty Dijver Canal which is part of the main canal system that runs through the centre of Bruges. For this photo, I stood on the Wollestraat Bridge to capture the canal with the tower belonging to The Church of our Lady in the background. It’s such a beautiful composition but the bevy of swans that swam in to the scene as I was taking the photo finished the shot off nicely. I just couldn’t have timed it better if I tried.

A photo of the Dijver Canal and the Church of our Lady in Bruges, Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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In the photo below, I took a wide angle shot of the Dijver Canal and the Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce (more on that below) and this view shows where this particular stretch of the river starts. I like the composition of this image as its as close to an epic cityscape as I got while in the city the two towers work well to balance the image.

A photo of the Dijver Canal at the Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce in Bruges, Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce

One of the most famous views along the Dijver Canal is where the river zig-zags past the very pretty Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce Hotel. As I mentioned earlier in the post, I got up before sunrise to try to capture the city without the hustle and bustle of my fellow tourists. I think the feeling of calm and tranquility does show in the photo below and the canal being so calm, almost mirror-like provides some fantastic reflections.

A photo of the Dijver Canal at the Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce in Bruges, Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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I think the swans like having their photo taken. Here they are again adding some interest into this closeup of the canal.

A photo of swans on the Dijver Canal at the Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce in Bruges, Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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Here’s one more image from my early morning shoot of this location. Between the tree and the reflections, I they balance the image nicely.

A photo of the Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce in Bruges, Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have grouped the shots I took by location rather than time and I headed back at this location to try and capture the Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce Hotel at sunset. The sun was still quite high in the sky when I captured the shot below and unfortunately the epic light didn’t arrive and this was the best it got on this particular evening.

A photo of the Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce and the Belfry Tower in Bruges, Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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A different view of the hotel scene is shown below. As soon as the sun goes down, the very warm artificial lights turn on along the canal and gives a very orange glow from the buildings. The architecture can create fantastic lead-in lines and some cracking compositions and in the shot below the boats on the left and building on the right do just that.

A photo of the Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce in Bruges, Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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The final image I took at this location was after the sun had set and blue hour had kicked in. I had to tone down the orange lights quite a lot in post processing to balance the exposure a little but now thats done the vibrant blue sky and the orange buildings work really well together in the final image.

A photo of the Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce at Blue Hour in Bruges, Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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Belfry of Bruges

Visible from practically anywhere in the city and situated on the market square, this medieval bell tower stands 83m tall and towers over the entire city. You may have already noticed but I took so many photos which featured the Belfry Tower somewhere, in fact it was pretty hard not to.

A photo of the Belfry Tower in Bruges, Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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A photo of Belgium chocolate taken in Bruges by Trevor Sherwin

I took the photo above as I walked away from the canal along Wollestraat. This street had some amazing chocolate shops.

In this particular shop there was so much variety and the staff would be wandering around with different flavoured chocolate tasters. You can buy chocolate by the bar, truffles and you can even buy chocolate tools such as edible screwdrivers and hammers.

As you can see in this picture, these shops made great photographic subjects. Just open up that aperture and fire away.

 
 

I took this photo at around 6am and as you can see, it was calm, clear and ever so slightly hazy. Although the sky lacked drama, it did mean there was nothing to distract from the tower standing proud and unrivalled as the main focal point of the image with the hotel and reflections in the canal forming an attractive foreground.

I mentioned earlier that this city is so charming with it’s mixture of medieval, and gothic/neo-gothic styles, it really is something you would find on a chocolate box but if you follow my usual style of cityscape images, you will see I like a bit of the wow-factor in my compositions and that can mean adding scale using tall buildings and thats why I think, photographically the Belfry of Bruges and the other towers are such an important feature on the city’s skyline as they add impact to the otherwise relatively low city skyline.

Below is another photo of the tower taken along Wollestraat during a midday walk around the city.

A photo of the Belfry Tower in Bruges from the Dijver Canal in Bruges, Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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A photo of the Belfry Tower in Bruges , Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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Groenerei

The Groenerei is another stretch of the canal that runs through the city but in contrast to other parts of the river with the strong architectural features flanking the water, this small section looks more like a pretty little town in the country rather than a significant European city.

A photo of Groenerei in Bruges , Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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Although the style of the buildings remains in line with many other buildings in Bruges, the trees, foliage and old bridges along the river change the look significantly providing a wealth of varied photography opportunities.

The photo above is one of my favourite images I took while in the city. It has some nice light, a balanced composition provided by the buildings and trees and some beautiful reflections in the canal.

When trying to capture the essence of a location, some say to start wide (the cityscape) and then gradually get closer, picking out features or the location such as the chocolate shop above and this charming little structure which looks like a mix between a location to moor a boat and a summer house at the end of the garden.

Note to self: Work harder to capture the details when visiting new locations rather than focusing solely on the cityscapes and architecture photos. Maybe a little street photography too.

Below is a photo of the Groenerei looking back up towards the centre of the city. Another image featuring the Belfry Tower.

A photo along Groenerei in Bruges , Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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A photo along Groenerei in Bruges , Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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Jan van Eyckplein

The last stop on this photographic tour of Bruges’ major sites is Jan van Eyckplein (Jan van Eyck Square). Named after the painter himself this pretty cobbled square used to be the main harbour in Bruges.

It was around 7.30 when I took this photo to the right here and the light was a bit flat but I just had to capture this great composition as I walked towards the square. The cobbled street leads the eye tight towards the main focal point of the square which is usually the Poortersloge (The Burghers' Lodge) and it’s slender tower reaching into the sky but while I visited Bruges there was also a temporary art installation of a whale leaping from the water which will likely draw your attention.

The image below is taken a bit further down the canal and has the Poortersloge’s tower situated more centrally with the bridge obscuring the whale sculpture somewhat. This time I used the wall on the left hand side as the lead in line towards the square.

Built in the late 14th and early 15th century the Burghers' Lodge was the place where the "important" citizens (poorters) had their meetings and where they received their trading partners.

A photo of Poortersloge at Jan van Eyckplein in Bruges , Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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A photo of Poortersloge along the canal in Bruges , Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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Jan van Eyck was a renowned Bruges painter who lived in the 14th and 15th Century. As shown below, he has a statue in the square in his honour. Jan van Eyck was one of the founders of Early Netherlandish painting and one of the most significant representatives of early Northern Renaissance art.

I don’t take many photos with people in it but I liked the traditional look of this chap on the bike and him riding up the cobbled street as i think it adds to the composition and story nicely.

A photo of the Skyscraper and the statue of Jan van Eyck at along the canal in Bruges , Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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Skyscraper (the Bruges Whale) is an art installation for the Bruges Triennial which invited globally renowned artists to create artwork based on the changing world and the pressures it puts upon all forms of life. This particular creation was made of 5 tons of plastic waste fished from the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans to represent the 150 million tons of plastic waste that has been dumped into the world’s oceans. What a fantastic representation of what is a growing global concern.

Although photographically I may have preferred to capture the traditional view of Jan van Eyckplein there is no question this amazing but temporary sculpture added something different to the scene creating its own unique story.

A photo of tourists on a boat trip at Jan van Eyckplein in Bruges , Belgium taken by Trevor Sherwin

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One of the problems about spending such a short time in any city is that you don’t get a lot of time to explore inside many of these fabulous buildings and basilicas. I mentioned at the beginning of the post that I will likely return to Bruges in the near future where I will try to venture inside the buildings more often and try to capture some some of the close-up details of the architecture around the city.

As ever, I welcome any questions or feedback about this or any of my posts.

Until next time.