The celebration of the Day of the Dead could be very colorful, especially on the “comparsa” nights, where there is even a custom contest, with the make-up school participating and having a very animated march of laughter, joy and music.
Here are some of the masquerades, another time I will add anecdotes, which are always there.
I had spotted “Tigrito” close to the Zocalo in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico, following a tall, slender man, in a hurry in the midst of a lazy pueblo morning. The tall stranger seemed to be on a mission. He and the little dog made a striking pair. I took a quick shot and continued on our way to Plaza Santo Domingo.
A few minutes later, on the side street by the church, a second sighting. This time, the tall stranger saw me and turned his head as not to be in the picture. But that was not to stop him of keep him away from his mission.
Looking around for things to photograph, we spotted someone lying in the sidewalk, apparently drunk, since no one around him paid any attention. In a provincial town, you do pay attention to things like that.
The guy was collapsed in front of aa Art Gallery, and as we watched (a couple of pics to be had, why not), there we are, face to face with the tall stranger with the puppy.
We said hello and learned he was an artist waiting for the gallery to open so he could deliver some of his work.
Two seconds later, I was on the ground, trying to establish contact with the puppy and asked the Master if I could take pictures of the dog. The name was Tigrito” (small tiger) and the artiste was looking for a home for him.
Tigrito was very difficult to photograph. Not in the way our puppies are, playfully biting out fingers and turning over for a belly rub. No.
Tigrito was a street puppy. And street puppies grow up in a hurry. His eyes were constantly on his Master (Savior?) and the little eyes followed him with devotion every inch of the way as if his life depended on him. Which actually may just be the truth. The life of street dogs in our Latin countries is not easy, although every street and town has plenty of them and you can see there is a law and structure firmly held in place by the stronger ones, territories clearly marked.
My guess is that in a struggling artist life, the sudden presence of a puppy could be too big a responsibility. But I feel that in this case, the deal is sealed. Those two depend on each other and that is the way it will stay for a long time.
It was a treat to get to meet the Tigrito and his friend.
We came to Oaxaca for the second time to enjoy the Dia de los Muertos celebration as part of Raul Touzon’s photo workshop. Arriving a couple of days ahead of time gave us the opportunity to hang around town, enjoy the great food and hospitality of the locals.
It is a beautiful, colorful city, with all the Mexican flavor you can expect in a provincial town. Very interesting architecture, vendors, clothes typical of the holiday, even street musicians and kids going on the Halloween part of this, which is just gathering candies and or small coins.
Getting busier by the day, the city is beaming with tourists here for the occasion,the locals getting the supplies for the home altars and one or two political demonstration, if small are peaceful.
The people here are quick to smile, easy to talk to and fiercely proud of their culture. I would be too.
On our small explorations, we were in the big church by Plaza de Santo Domingo, not the Museo de toas las Culturas yet, since it was closed Monday, and yesterday, the Benito Juarez market.
That was an experience in itself and although considered a bit “touristy”, a feast for the eyes and senses, with flowers, vegetables, fruits and the local drink of choice, mezcal, a close relative to tequila, but not yet produced commercially in a big scale because of the difficulty in carrying the plant down the hills, where they like to grow. It is produced by artisans and a big chunk of the local economy.
Chocolate is a big thing here and so are is the “quesillo”, a white cheese great for warming up, sold in balls of long threads. Mole is another big thing here, having various colors. Very typical are the “chapulines”, grasshoppers.
I will prepare another post showing the colorful market.
Today, the first project here, B&W photos.
This make not make sense at all and I need to run it by my on-line mentor, Sean Duggan, but I have been converting in Lightroom, using the color filters to get the tones precisely as I like them, then taking the resulting image to Silver Efex Pro 2 for the extra punch. IF I try to do it straight to Nik, the results feel different to me. No scientific proof of this though.
So here are some of the images, the subjects have all agreed to let me take their picture, except one or two obvious cases, no asking for compensation from any, but, the question of what do I want the picture for, which makes sense to me. I just tell them that because I like their look or smile. And being the truth, it works like a charm.
Tonight we will have the welcome cocktail, and then crazy schedule I hope to be able to comply with. Last year I could not make to all field trips because of fatigue. But I feel stronger, at least mentally :-) and hope I can keep up.
I don’t want to miss the night at the graveyard, a mystical experience despite the party-like atmosphere.
So alfred talked me into using a point and shoot camera.
I have never been a fan but he always has one with him, even in trips with full load of equipment. Lots of candids and behind the scenes he had.
So he got me the Sony RX-100 mkIV, really small and powerful. A real pocket camera, but it sits in a velvet pouch on my purse and goes with me anywhere now.
The last two photo expeditions, it is what I’ve used, fir the sake of portability. The sensor is a 20 mgs CMOS, and lens equivalent of 24-70, with a wide aperture of f/1.8-2.8. Even if it is a relative small sensor, you can get great bokeh.
I have the feeling I will be using this a lot!
The ceiba is a beautiful tree with personality problems. It blooms in the fall instead of the spring. Creative little thing LOL
But it is refreshing for us in South Florida, where we don’t get fall colors for the most part, to have something beautiful to photograph, plant wise, this time of the year.
Although there is a Royal Poinciana in fresh bloom around Ponce and Alhambra. Another one with timing issues.
So those are a few from yesterday, processed in Lightroom. There are some more, but not worked on them yet.
Have a great day y’all!
We love the buildings in Brickell Avenue, even more so than the ones downtown. It is also easier to navigate, since we do, or have done, the work from the car.
This time we did not take the mirrorless system, since it was raining. Not nice to walk around in the rain on a hot day, at least for me.
I know you can get great stuff in the rain, but I prefer to do it from a sheltered location, rather than participate in the wet humidity.
SO all of this images were taken from the car, from behind the windshield or out of the closed window. It was an interesting game, because of the blue polarized or whatever top part of the glass, trying to avoid it. The camera used was the Sony RX-100 mk IV, at f/4, Auto ISO, Aperture Priority and most with a 1+ Ev.
They were all distorted and colorized to taste, exaggerating, to get a modern look to them. All work was done in Lightroom.
I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did.
We have been visiting the disco bar at Ocean Drive lately. It is a rather informal cabaret, with a few tables downstair and others on the balcony upstairs. The shoes start at 8:15Pm and keep going until 2:30AM. Great stuff, folks. You can see it from the bars or reserve a table, where cover charges and minimum comp. are required.
It is a great atmospheres, with very friendly personnel and beautiful decor.
Parking we soul advise to use the garages close by, since valet is really expensive in SoBe. You do not want your night end up with a surprise.
We used the Sony a7Rii with a few lenses, mostly one at a time, out of laziness. Unless you are at a table as we have been, it becomes awkward to be changing lenses. The mirrorless ISO and AF capabilities have not let us down yet. Lenses used are the Sony/Zeiss 55 f/1.8, Sony/Zeiss 16-35/4 and the Sony/Zeiss 35 f/1.4
They all AF, and we have tried different settings. I have to admit that the rotating color lights could work against you or make your shot. Just be patient, use you continuous drive and be flexible.
Giving the performers and occasional print will make them very happy and you will probably get eye contact the next time around. What goes around, comes around. Spread the joy and you will get some back!
So here are some the things that are available there, nothing difficult.
Although we rarely do any birds anymore, we remain fascinated by the Auk family, especially the Puffins.
Since our son Rodrigo and his wife live in England, we decided to visit the rookery islands while spending time with the kids. There are a lot of cottages available for rent in Seahouses, base for the birding trip boats.
Seahouses is a small coastal town in Northumberland, pretty harbour and fairly busy with birders, photographers and beach lovers. A few decent restaurants, nice bakery, supermarket with great prices and fresh food and charming tea houses here and there. There are local fishing boats, so fish will be fresh and abundant.
The Farne Islands are a group of islands off the coast of Northumberland, England. There are between 15 and 20 islands depending on the state of the tide. They are scattered about 1½–4¾ miles (2.5–7.5 km) from the mainland, divided into two groups, the Inner Group and the Outer Group. The main islands in the Inner Group are Inner Farne, Knoxes Reef and the East and West Wideopens (all joined together on very low tides) and (somewhat separated) the Megstone; the main islands in the Outer Group are Staple Island, the Brownsman, North and South Wamses, Big Harcar and the Longstone. The two groups are separated by Staple Sound. The highest point, on Inner Farne, is 62 feet (19 metres) above mean sea level. (source: Wikipedia)
There are a few boats that offer half-day and full day birding trips. The most popular being Billy Shiel, with a fleet of over half a dozen boats. There is also Serenity and maybe a couple more. They offer pelagic and landing trips, as well as sunset and other short trips. All of these are weather dependant, and even if you sail, you may have to come back in a hurry because of an unexpected storm, as it happened to us on Thursday June 25th, with some friends. We made the morning safely (Staple) and two minutes after landing in inner Farne, we had to re-board and got totally soaked while waiting for the queue to disembark in the small harbour. Sense of humor and friendship saved the day!
I confess my inability to carry a long telephoto lens and tripod any longer. As the years and health issues pile up, carrying so much weight around defeats the purpose of enjoyment, and quite frankly, we have been enjoying the freedom and mobility you get from smaller gear. Unless you are going to a place where the wildlife is very spooky and very far, with today’s ISO capabilities and resolution, you can do a killing anyway. I personally work better with less gear, so I can concentrate in making the best out of the situation without deciding what to use.
In our long experience with brands, right now we ended up with Sony gear, after using Canon, Nikon and Leica. Not knocking anything, but it seems Sony works well for us at this time.
Since we do mainly travel and macro, the mirrorless bodies are perfect. Since we were coming to do birds, our main (and only) camera was the Sony A77ii, with the battery grip, which was perfect for us, plus the G lens 70-400, f/4-5.6
Sony AF system is very advanced. The Flexible point/lock on creates a box that follows subject, although Puffins are really too fast for this sometimes. Alfred used mostly the Flexible spot center, while I used the wide, equivalentto Canon’s ring of fire.
The camera body has a 1.4X and 2X built in crop factor, that needs to be used in jpg. We had tried the crops in Blue Cypress with very bad light from the pontoon boat and were happy with the 1.4X bur not the 2X. On land, with the support of the knee, the 2X was perfect. The main reason for using the crops is that as you reduce the canvas size, the focus points become active in your entire image, which is convenient for action, if you can handle that focal length. (The smaller the frame, the more difficult it is to find the subject).
ISO wise, I kept to ISO 800, easily cleanable is light is flat, and perfect in good light. Alfred ventured to 1600 without any trouble. I would not push the DSLR further than that, although very comfortable suing the mirroless at much higher settings.
Alfred spent most of his time doing flight. I did a bit of everything, since I like behavior a lot and it was so easy with the funny birds so close to us.
The pictures presented here were done with ISO values from 400 to 1600, on manual mode, center weight metering, close focus most of the time, even flight. Aperture settings from f/5.6 to f/14, depending on the DOF/background needed and shutter speed depending on the light, sometimes under or sometimes over 0, depending on the light conditions. We had one day inner Farne, when the sun came out full blast, and the hours of visiting are middle of the summer day, so the contrast and shadows were too frustrating. I put off my bird gear and started playing with Infrared and Lensbaby images.
On this trip we had made arrangements to meet with Geoffrey Baker, who was so absolutely nice and helpful when we visited Skomer 3 years ago, and to meet John Deakin and Karen MacDonald, long time on-line friends. We also met Paul Masterton, and it was great to spend time with them and Geoff treated us to coffee and scones and one of the tea houses when back soaking wet . Thank you again, pal!!! You rock.
The Farne islands are protected by the National Trust, and there is a nominal landing fee every time you visit. The breeding islands have biologist present at all time, and they keep count of every burrow in use and other important facts. Unless you are doing something against wildlife, you will not even know they are there. If you need information, they will give it you gracefully and with enthusiasm. I never saw anyone misbehave in the whole week.
Time to visit are the summer months, with June peaking for amount of birds, end of June/July for feeding behavior. You can land in inner Farne up to October (depending on the birds you are interested in) and no trips in the winter.
Weather is very erratic. You definitely need rain gear for yourself and your gear. Sun screen in necessary on rare days and hat is vital in inner Farne because of the Arctic Terns attacks. (Really!)
If you get seasick, take precautions because seas could be rough. There are toilets in the islands but no food or water, so be prepared.
Inner Farne ia larger than Staple, with the second being better for Puffins.
Wind is more important than light if you want landing shots. The first couple of days the wind direction was wrong and they were landing with their backs to us and we could only get them sideways at best. The last three days were fine, the Sunday being the best. It was morning, so East wind, very strong, had them suspended in the air. Especially 10 minutes before we left :(
If you take the “All day birding trip”, you will visit Stapes in the morning, and Inner Farne in the afternoon. Most people use the boat ride to eat. You will stay around two hours on each island and will be shown around the gray Seals and other rookeries, like the Pinnacles. Noise and scent will be intense at these, especially when you visit the Kittiwakes.
Equipment wise, some people carry a lot, some people use the tablet’s cameras. They are very close to the paths (you HAVE to stay in the paths as not to step in the burrows) but some photographers like to use tripods and long lenses.
Looking at it now, two trips under the belt, the ideal would be a stool with a monopod and a telephoto zoom.
If you take the morning or afternoon (half-day trip), you will stay on land aprox one hour, but will get a lot less tired.
Mornings are to Staple and afternoon to Inner. Staple is more difficult to land on because the steps could get wet and slippery at the minimum of rain or moist, and if you land, you need to be extra cautious not to take a fall or twist your ankle on the rocks before you get to the wooden path. The less you take with you, the less you have to worry about. Must: rain gear.
We will be making another post about Guillemots and other Auks.
Photos by Alfred and Fabiola Forns. All rights reserved, do not use without permission, please.
We just came back from a week in Antigua, Guatemala, with Raul Touzon Photography.
What an incredible experience, not only the processions and mood, but the hospitality of the people. Here’s is the first of a few slides shows. This one is a little unconventional, more concrete ones will be coming up. Enjoy!