While in Mexico we made a trip up through the beautiful Sierra Gorda Mountains in the state of Queretaro to hike to some waterfalls, and photograph the small mountain villages and the people. Our destination was the small town of Jalpan to spend a few days. When we reached the village of Pinal de Amoles we stopped to walked around and find a place to eat. We enjoy going to the small family restaurantes or food stands along the streets. We have never had a bad meal while in Mexico. We don't drink the water or use ice in our drinks. A soda or a beer is the recommended beverage with a meal. While we were having lunch we sat across from this elderly lady. The light from the open store front was reflecting on her and I had to put my taco down and pick up my camera to capture the scene. One thing we have noticed in Mexico is that the small restaurantes will offer a plate of food to elderly women. We saw this many times in the little villages we stopped to eat in.
I have been primarily a Black and White photographer for most of my life. I got started into photography with an old Kodak 8x10 all metal view camera with a hugh Majestic tripod and gradually moved down to 4x5 and medium format cameras. When I started with digital it was with a Canon Elph 1.3 mega pixel camera and then moved up. I have gotten caught in the technology web of photography that I never really spent much time in before. My many years of using my Linhof Technika was more about photography and less about technology. I was more concerned about evaluating the light and interrupting the subject matter than I was about program modes and auto focus points, etc. The view camera was just a box without batteries and sophisticated programs. The camera really couldn't tell me anything, it was just a manual tool. I controlled the camera, setting the focus, and determining the proper exposure with a hand held light meter. Photography for me has been pretty much intuitive with the numerous years working with film and a view camera. I am terrible with discussions about techniques and technical stuff concerning photography. I would best describe it as; I know how to tie my shoes but if I had to write a detailed description about it I would mess it up for sure. I went film-less two years ago when we sold our home and went full time RVing. I do miss my darkroom and the studio space that I enjoyed for so many years. It was my island where I could tune out the noise and concentrate just on my work. The image above shows how the new technology can improve your chances of recording an image that maybe film couldn't. This is HDR (high dynamic range) image of about 7 or 8 different exposures combined into one using the Photomatix Pro software . I am not a big fan of the HDR look because it can appear a bit phony with the bright colors and the overall softness of the image. I was happy to be able to make this image of the small church in this remote Mexican village, and it was with the help of the new technology that provided me this opportunity. I need to keep looking forward and bring the past along with me.
One of our favorite places in Mexico to do street photography is San Juan del Rio' in the state of Queretaro. It is a vibrant city with colorful streets that are full people. The old historic district is fascinating with its numerous jardins and Gothic churches. It was an easy drive from the nearby town we were staying and we enjoyed spending the day walking the streets and being part of the hustle and bustle. This image of the old woman with a cane would have been missed if Linda had not yelled and wave frantically at me to stop what I was doing. I hurried up the street and immediately saw what she was excited about. I composed the scene and quickly made the exposure just as the woman was passing the painted image of an old woman on the wall. The trick to street photography is to always have your equipment ready and your eyes open to the movement around you. Things move quickly and the opportunity for making an exciting image is limited.
While traveling in Mexico we would look for remote locations in search of interesting people, towns, and nature sites to photograph. One town we liked was located in the state of Hidalgo called, Huichapan ( it sounds like saying"we choppin"). This is a clean and brightly colored town full of town's people in the local jardin. We had learned, while in town, that there were Indian cave paintings and petroglyphs nearby. These were made by the Toltec Indians. We wrote down the best directions we could, interpretting them from Spanish, and headed out to locate the caves near a canyon lake. We traveled some dusty roads and came into a small village of just a couple of homes. We parked our car and started in search of the caves in the rocks near the lake. As we stumbled around the boulders a lady came running and waving with a big smile on her face. We didn't know a word she was saying but she knew we wanted to find the caves and took us there. They were located in a difficult place and we had to scramble over rocks and through the catcus. We spent the afternon there and made some interesting photographs. Little did I know my best images of the day would come when we were returning back up the dirt road in our car. We came across a farmer sitting with his dog and cows. I couldn't resist this setting and parked a short distance away and walked down to his home. He was a quiet and humble man who sat patiently while I took his photograph. The image where he was sitting with his dog and cows, I feel, best represents the man and his life.
When I am out doing street photography I always keep an eye out for a person whose face has a lot of character. I came across this women on the streets of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I sat down on the door stoop and talked with her as best as I could with my limited foreign language skills. She was a delightful woman and I could instantly see she had a quality of wisdom in her eyes. I asked her if I could take her picture and she was honored by the request. Later in the week I returned to her location and gave her copy of this picture. She is one of the many people of the streets that you will find in a town like San Miguel. Here is a link if you would like more information on the city and the culture. http://www.visitmexico.com/en/san-miguel-de-allende
While photographing an abandoned train station I stumbled onto the the "train of death" in Mexico. The depot has been closed for many years and the old rusted locomotive engine sitting on a short piece of track next to the building was interesting. I heard a train coming and positioned myself to photograph it expecting it to pass the depot. Instead it stopped at this abandoned train station and sat idle on the tracks. All was quiet as I stared at the motionless train. Suddenly I noticed some movement in an open car and I investigated who was there. As I climbed up the ladder and peered into the coal car I saw two extremely poor looking individuals staring back at me. They had intense fear in their eyes as they looked at me. I said, "Hola" and offered them my water and a couple of power bars I was carrying. They sheepishly accepted as I climbed in with them. I asked them in my poor Spanish if I could take their picture. They nodded in agreement and I climbed up the and positioned myself on the pile of material that was in the car. I asked where they were from and where they were going. The young one spoke some English and I was able to find out they were from Central America and were hoping to get to America. I took what Pesos I had in my pocket and gave it to them. In their eyes were the look that I have seen in a starved and abused animal. I shook their hands and said, "adios". I had never heard of the train of death at the time I took this photo. (later when working on the image I noticed the hand of the of guy on the left was pulled up in his sleeve, possibly hiding a weapon). It was only when I got back home a few months later that I saw this video about it. Open this link to watch video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7UZk6Hg-Xo
It is sad that the people of the world can't live with the basic human needs. It is usually the corruption of governments that starve their own people. We who live in the U.S. are blessed and should be thankful for everyday we live in a land of abundance. We as a nation can not harbor all the needy of the world. We should protect our borders and demand that immigration is carried out in a lawful and orderly process.
Taking chances and considering the risk; I was walking with friends in the mountain town of San Joaquin Mx. We were shopping and looking for a nice restaurante to have something to eat. As my wife and friends walked along as I was straggling behind making some images of the streets and people. Rarely do I make any meaningful images while out with others sightseeing and enjoying the day. This particular image was made at the spur of the moment without much thought as to my personal saftey. I came around a corner and saw this young man with his dog in an alcove and realized the reflected light and the scene was interesting and asked him permission to take his picture. The only Spanish I know is "Puedo tomar su fotografia por favor" (may I take your picture please). I hardly ever take a photo of someone without their permission. The young man nodded in agreement and I dropped to one knee and made one exposure and quickly stepped back and said "por favor" and moved away. After looking at the image days later I realized that this was probably a risky move on my part in making this image. The dog certainly has the look of attack in his eyes and I figure he understood Spanish and he didn't give me permission to take his picture. A risk yes, but making a meaningful or powerful image sometime puts you ar risk.
We enjoy traveling to Mexico. We like the people and the culture that Mexico has to offer. You really need to spend a good amount of time in Mexico to lose the uptight feeling that comes with our daily lives here in the States. When we lived in upstate NY we would drive our old Buick down to spend four months each winter in wonderful small towns in central Mexico. We like to explore all of the back roads through mountain towns and photographing everything of interest. I often get asked, "don't you have a fear of being in Mexico"? and I ask in return, "would you have a fear of walking in Central Park at night"? There is danger everywhere in this world and being aware of your surroundings is your best protection. The truth is that you can live behind fear or live your life and feel alive by experiencing things outside of your comfort zone.
Don't put off what you desire to do with your life. My Mother never took the time to enjoy her life as she could have. Her plan was to put it off until retirement, but she never got there. Her life was ended in a car accident long before she had ever reached retirement age. That event changed my life and I started traveling to remote places and I guess as some would say, taking chances. My wife and I are now in our 60's and we have our kids call and ask "when are you two going start doing something safe like taking a cruise". Our answer to them is we aren't old enough yet.
I call this image "The Journey" that I made recently in Fort Pierce Fl. on the beach under a full moon. It is usually not my style to do night photography with special effects. But I do think it is good every now and then to experiment with photography like I did in my early days of photographing. The exposure time was around three minutes with an f-stop of 9.5. I used a sturdy carbon fiber tripod with a cable release. Because it was dark I placed an LED light on the beach in the location where I wanted to create the orb and used that point to focus my camera. The long exposure required the camera to be set to Bulb mode for the three minute + exposure. The orb was made with two miniature LED lights tied to a cord I was spinning. Notice that I am not shown in the middle of the orb. That is because the time to make the orb was only about 30 seconds of the total exposure.
Could you name the best ten days of your LIFE in order. This is not events or situations, these are days. After making a list with considerable thought, I have concluded that it might not be possible to list the ten best days of your life, but rather the ten best events of your life. Example: The first time we saw Ben, our puppy Newfoundland, was that an event that we remember or is it the day we lived that we remember. It was certainly an event that was remember. I think of his big dark eyes and his red bandanna around his neck that day and how Denise who gave him to us was happy that we liked him. What about the rest of the day? Completely lost as best as I can remember. So back to the ten best days of your life. Can you name ten days? So here goes my list
1.) A summers day, age about 15, motorcycle riding along the lake and meeting Linda for the first time. I remember the day as well as the event. I didn't know what that day would lead to, but I remember the day, and cherish the event.
2.) Seeing Andrea for the first time. I remember the day at work and the time running to hospital , seeing this dark haired baby with big eyes, and going home alone thinking about the responsibility that just came into my life.
3.) Chris's day of birth. I can still feel the warmth of the day sitting in the driveway on that unusually warm February day waiting for the time to come. I can visualize the drive to the hospital and feeling calm about the situation, and then the burst of excitement with the gift of a new life.
4.) Our sons wedding day. I remember the full day and all the events. The preparations in the morning, the blessed feeling at noon, the celebration and party affair, the jump in the lake at sunset with camera in hand to get a picture of the newly weds sitting on the dock, the glow of the evening with just family. I the remember whole day.
5.) Driving into Ottati, Italy for the first time. I recall my apprehension. expectations, and being completely overtaken by spiritual presents of my Grandparents that led to tears and still does to this day. A day with a unbelievable life experience.
6.) Walking in the moon light with Linda in Italy. I remember a drive through the country side of Italy, making a fine photograph of a small mountain town and having a man ride by on a donkey. Eating one of the best meals of our lifes and realizing that I am the product of my immigrant Grandparents dream.
7.) A springtime hike with a friend, at about age ten. I remember a spring day that lasted forever. It was sunny, warm and quiet. I hiked all day with a friend who now I can't remember, but the day is always in my memory. It was a day when I felt like I could hike and walk forever. We went along the river to McCarthey's farm and many other places. I was alive and full of the sense of exploration. The day was long and felt like it lasted forever. We ate with my Grandparents and talked about our adventures. It was the day I realized that I loved nature and wanted to explore. I still can't remember who the other fellow was that went with me. But this day opened the door to many other fond days of exploration in my life.
8.) Getting my job with NYSEG. ( more of an event than a day lived) I remember coming home that evening, after many months of discouragement, to greet Linda with the news of my new job. I remember her asking me with big wide eyes " Did you get it?" I swaggered with my walk and said, "Yep"! That day led to many changes and gave my family the security it needed.
9.) Receiving a photography award in Harrisburgh Pa. Event more than a day, It was a warm evening and a very formal affair. I received the " Best of Show" above every form of art work that was displayed, and there was some very good artwork to be considered, To me. this was recognition for many years of staying the course and staying true to a purpose.
10.) This one should be near the top because it is more than a day, it's a summer, a youth, a daydream. Laying on the couch in Linda's house in the summertime and hearing the song, (as well as many others) "It's a turn down Day" When I want to feel good, I only have to think about those days.
11.) What the heck, I can think of more than ten days. I remember a day in the fall. A beautiful fall day. October 14 Th. to be exact. Linda and I are sitting on the dock of the lake. The water is calm as glass. The fall leaves are reflecting in the water. We have a bucket of minnows and a couple of fish poles. We are catching small mouth bass one after the other. Linda catches the largest small mouth bass to date. We laugh for joy, smell the fall leaves in the air, and feel the fullness of our youth.
*Update-very special time. A day in my life I will never forget. It was a warm August night in the small town of Ottati Italy where my grandparents were born and raised. It was a festival night full of celebration and music in the small town piazza. All of my Italian family was there as well as my immediate family from the U.S. It was a dream come true to be in the hometown of my grandparents surrounded by family. The most special moment came when my young grand daughter, Bella, (8years old) came up to me and asked me to dance with her. What a special moment this was for me. We danced around and around to the music under colorful lights and the sound of laughter and celebration. After the dance I sat back and took in the wonderful atmosphere, and then I recalled a dream I had a few weeks prior to making this trip. It was about my Grandmother running through these streets as a young girl laughing and playing with her friends. I sat there almost as if frozen in time, watching my own grandchildren running and laughing with their Italian relatives in this very place. It was a magical night and one I will never forget as long as I live. Thank you Bella for asking me to dance that night. Pops
So how about it, can you think of the best ten day of your life? Or maybe they are just events that we remember best. either way, try to remember the good because the bad is too easily remembered. I just opened a fortune cookie after my Chinese meal. It read " Find release from your cares, have a good time"
Life, it is like a two lane highway. One lane takes us forward while the opposite lane takes us back pass areas we have already traveled. Our thoughts determine our direction of travel. We say we live in the present but we tend to focus on the future of what we are going to do next. With every second we live it quickly turns into the past. Whatever we are doing at this very moment is becoming our past in the form of a memory. How strong the memory will be is determined by the importances of the event we are experiencing.
I was driving down an old familiar road one day and had a vivid memory of an event from long ago in my past. I clearly remember the scene of a car upside down in the middle of the road with an older couple inside. I was riding with my Father and it was dark when we came upon the accident. He helped them both out of the car while I looked on. I have traveled this road many times since but have only thought about that night a few times. I began to wonder about that day and where we were going and even if my brother and sister were with us. I realized I had no memory of day itself other than the event. It started me thinking about our lives and how many days of it can we really recall. Probably not many. We remember in fragments and events but not whole days lived. It started me thinking if I could recall in their entirety (not just events) the best ten days of my life. I will share with you my list of best days as I remembered them. I challenge you to start thinking of the ten best days of your life and try to write them down in detail. I think you will be surprised you can only remember events and not many actual days of your life you have lived. I have found that with the forty plus years I have been photographing that I live within my images I create. In my darkroom days I would spend countless hours working on one negative making an expressive print that represented the emotional connection I had to the location when I first made the exposure. I discovered that through my images I could recall with vivid detail much of the day when I made the photograph. This is my two lane highway. I can look forward to new images and events in my life as well go back in time just by viewing an image made in the past and recalling much of what I was doing at the time.