Categories
Photography

How I photographed the Pope in Mexico city

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I’m not religious, but when a celebrity like the Pope visits your city, it is a historical event. Even more so when it passes a block away from my house every day during his visit. So I took the lifetime opportunity of being nearby the big event for the mostly catholic country of Mexico, and went out to take some shots.

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The key of taking photos in these types of situations is scouting your location beforehand. The Pope’s main routes were being published days before his arrival, so people would know which roads will be closed. Right there I knew he’ll be passing near my house every day. I went for a walk to checkout where would be the best spots to get the shot.

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At events like this, you have to get there with lots of time. You never know how crowded the place will get, specially in Mexico city where everything is crowded all the time. Luckily since I was very close, I didn’t had to stand there for 3-4 hours beforehand. One and a half hours were good enough for me to get a good spot. I also brought a stool so I can stand above the crowd and get as much heads or hands out of the frame.

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Another thing you’ll have to anticipate is the lighting. The Pope was going to pass at night, but the popemobile has lighting, so preparing my camera settings for night will over expose the photos. You only get one or two seconds to get your shot, so everything must be set up before the moment. I used the lights of some cops passing by before the main caravan to set my exposure.

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I took the 70-200mm f2.8 with my Nikon D750. Set the focusing system to continuous focus, single point and set the aperture to 3.2 to get more focus range instead of using the 2.8 where I could miss my focus very easily, specially with a subject in a vehicle. I set the ISO to 6400 because of the lack of any light around. The street had very poor lighting so I would be depending entirely in the popemobile‘s lighting. I’m usually not comfortable shooting at that high ISO setting because my previous camera, the Nikon D7000 performed very bad at that setting, but the D750 handles it much better.

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The next day he would pass very early in the morning and I got confident. I assumed that since it was a weekend and early morning, not many people would be there. I was wrong. I didn’t take my stool and I was late to get a good spot.

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My other mistake was not taking into consideration the Pope’s white clothes. If you see the image, the other guys in black are exposed correctly, but the Pope is over exposed.

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Not everything will be perfect, but I tried to rescue the images in post.

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Categories
Photography

A Saturday ballet class

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These are some images I took a long time ago, but I had forgotten to edit and release them.

I can’t believe how many times this happens: I go out on a photoshoot (unpaid), come back home, save and backup all RAW files, and forgetting about editing them to release the JPEG versions. I was doing some cleanup the other day and I stumbled upon several folders of RAW images waiting to be edited and see the light of day.

Sometimes shooting in RAW and all the extra work that involves is tiresome. But I can’t get myself to shoot straight JPEGs because of the opportunities I miss from editing and getting more from those images.

This set is about a special Saturday morning ballet class at the Mexican Dance Academy (Academia de la Danza Mexicana) the oldest dance school in Mexico’s history. The ballerina students were preparing for a national showcase of schools and they asked their teacher Ada to give them a special training class prior to the event. I admire dance students. They are so different from “normal” students who would never ask a teacher to give a class on a weekend.

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I remember this photoshoot to be a challenging one. That day my wider zoom lens was in the shop (I had dropped it and some parts broke) so all I had was my 50mm 1.8F lens. Considering that the D7000 is a half-frame camera, that 50mm is really about a 75 or 80mm lens. Using that indoors, even in a dance room, is difficult enough. Add to that the fact that there’s mirrors everywhere and I didn’t want to show up in the background of every photo. Anyways, challenges are good and I learned a lot about positioning to frame the shot with mirrors and very active subjects.

Categories
Photography

Mexico Independence day in Coyoacan

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There photos were not taken this year. I’ve wanted to share these images I took last year but by the time I got to edit the RAW files, it was around November, so it would feel weird to post September’s Mexico Independence day photos very close to Christmas celebrations.

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This time, since I didn’t go out this year to celebrate (I had an early work meeting at 8:30am the next day), I can now post timely the Independence day pictures that are timeless, since there are no dates showing anywhere. They work as well for any year.

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We went to Coyoacan for the celebrations, on my first september in Mexico city. Although I wanted to go to the Zocalo, the main place where the president does the main ceremony that is televised internationally, we opted for a smaller town. Zocalo gets too crowded, with very intimidating security and police and snipers and worse than TSA personal searches.

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Instead, Coyoacan feels more like a little old mexican town, no excessive police, friendly walks, a small fair with rides, traditional food and games. I was told you can enjoy this a lot more, and so we did.

Huge buñuelos

Mexican traditional bread

Mexican chorizo

Grilling buffalo chicken wings

Mexican corn stew

Balloon dart shooting range

Fair air gun shooting range

Cotton candy maker

Cotton candy sombrero figure

Little girl with huge cotton candy flower

The cotton candy man was a true artist. He made several huge figures, but I could only capture two of them. It was very entertaining watching him work.

We’re planning to go to Zocalo next year, but we’re looking for the safest way to do it. Nearby hotels have a view to the Zocalo from the top and offer dinners. We’ll try to make a reservation in one of them.

Categories
Interesting random stuff personal

Fish market in Mexico city

Mexico city is full of awesome little places here and there. It has so many places for so many things that I’m considering making it a hobby to explore the city. A few days ago, knowing that I love my fish tanks, my friend Luis Perez told me about the Fish Market where I could find anything I like for my fish tank.

We planned a visit on a Sunday and spent most of the day there. At the fish market you really can find anything you need or want for salt or fresh water tanks. The variety of species found is impressive and the prices are great too.

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Not only crowded by fish, but also by people. Very hard to walk in this tiny crowded aisles.

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You can find exotic species like a fresh water ray, alligators and even a Mexican axolotl (endangered species by the way, but oh well…Mexico)

Fresh water ray

Alligators in a fish tank

Alligator sleeping in the tank

Mexican axolotl

There’s not only fish and tank gear, you can also find a few other pets around like dogs and birds.

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Sleeping puppies

Bulldog puppy

Bird cages

Cardinal bird

I ended up buying some gear for my tank, a few neon tetras and a freshwater shrimp that looks awesome in the tank and will help clean it up too.

Freshwater shrimp

Categories
Photography

Teotihuacan pyramids in Mexico

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I’ve lived in Mexico almost all of my life (except for one year) and I had never seen any of the pyramids we have. I felt like I was a “bad” mexican or “incomplete” mexican by not knowing these amazing historical landscapes that everyone around the world talk about when visiting Mexico, besides the tequila, the beaches and the food.

So I finally planned a trip to Teotihuacan and take a few photos there.

The entrance was free, but I was not allowed to take my tripod with me. A security guard stopped me and told me that I needed a special permit to be allowed to use a tripod inside. I’ve heard about this rule for some churches in certain places but it’s the first time I get stopped for it myself. And of course as most security guards behave, I didn’t get informed on how or where I should ask for that special permission.

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Since it was a weekend, the place was crowded with people. Ada and my uncle, who grew up in Mexico city and had visited the place several times told me that it usually is not as crowded. But when they visited, most of the times were school trips during the weekdays and they say those days the place is almost desert. So if you plan to visit to take some photos (with your tripod special permit), plan your trip for a week day if you want photos without people.

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Ada and I met with my uncle, who’s a year younger than me and whom I hadn’t seen in several years. Little did I know, my uncle had just partied the night before and got home 1 hour before I picked him up. But he was a fighter and got up to the top of the pyramid of the Sun while hangover.

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When we got to the top of the pyramid of the sun, there was a large crowd looking at something at the very center of the area. I asked what was going on, they told me that people were “recharging energy” by touching a little hole in the center of the pyramid. I got close enough to try to see this hole, and it was a little dent between rocks that was like a stone had been removed because it didn’t go deep at all, and people were putting their index fingers in it. It is always hilarious to me when people believe these kind of things.

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So it was a very nice experience, lots of sun, we had to carry our water because it is a long walk between pyramids and in general we just had a nice time.

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Categories
Photography

Nutcracker rehearsals by the Academia de la Danza Mexicana

Photographing dance is a tough task. Specially when it is an indoor low budget theatre with poor lighting setup. In these situations, you push your gear to the limit, not because you set the gear to the its maximum settings but because you need to explore the limits between capturing the moment and haivng a technically “good shot”.

The high noise in these images are because of my high ISO I needed to use. I’ve come to the conclusion of sacrificing image quality for capturing the right moments. And if you enjoy these images, I hope I’m not wrong.

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These are some shots I took at the theatre rehearsals. Because of schedule conflicts I couldn’t shoot the main events, but I enjoy the rehearsals more because I get a better insight and feeling of the complexities and hard work that is put into these events.

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Everyone involved, from the dancers and the musicians to the technical staff, makeup artists and most of all, the teachers and choreographers put a lot of effort for ballet to seem like an effortless dance with magic and princesses and where all is fine and beautiful.

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Yes, there is a lot of “magic” and beauty, but also a lot of hard work and effort. In these images I hope I could capture both, the beauty and the hard work by everyone involved for you to have a glipse at what is is to be in the dance profession.

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I’ve been sitting on these images for way too long. I took them on November 2013 and I didn’t want to continue publishing more material without sharing these first.

For me, seeing these images again after many months and remembering how I also struggled to capture them, I realize that in this business everyone involved, even the by-stander-photographer pushes themselves to the limit to deliver their art.

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Let me know what you think, and if you feel identified with this story, I’d like to hear your stories of art delivering hard work in the comments.