El Parque de Buen Retiro is, as it is advertised, the “green heart” of Madrid. It is a destination for Madrid’s sporting population, acting as host to any number of sports and activities. This municipal park, among municipal parks of the world’s great international cities, truly stands out for its simple layout, its impeccable cleanliness, and its well-maintained flora.
They are sporty, they are at play, they are relaxing on a picnic blanket with their lovers or with their families. They’re walking their dogs, they’re rowing boats on the central lake, they’re having a coffee or beer on a terrace beneath the gently waving boughs. The police in the park are on bikes or mounted upon horses. The park is as much a place of work as a place of leisure, but on either side of the spectrum it should be noted that whatever the type of activity, they all tend more to “personal” than “public” in nature. Bear that in mind as you shoot.
Within Retiro itself there are a number of lovely buildings and backdrops to choose from. Naturally, there are many trees and ponds, paths and walkways. There are fountains, a man-made lake whereupon visitors may rent rowboats and spend some tranquil time on the water. There are statues and terraces. There is a lovely structure called the “Palacio de Cristal” donated by the Reina Sofia Foundation – it is a wrought-iron-and-glass structure, large in size, and very photogenic (from outside or within). Retiro remains one of the only places in the city center where a person can shoot against a natural outdoor background.
Wherever is your entry point, it is best to get to the central wide avenue which communicates the north and south portions of the park. Once you’re there, arrive to one of the monument statues and orient yourself from there. Along that north/south artery, the photographer will find many opportunities to shoot against some of the backdrops mentioned above. Doing a lap around the lake is always fruitful. The light is softened as is dapples through the leaves, so don’t be afraid to leave the main pathways a little, either. There are areas that are well-wooded, and in those places light is short supply (carry a flash if you wish). Finally, in some of the wooded areas there are some pretty serious sprinklers, and they offer an opportunity to get good aerial perspective shots (if that’s what you’re hunting).