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
personal

Big dance event

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The Dance department of the UNAM for the second year in a row invited dancers from all over the country to celebrate an event called “UNAM En Movimiento”. It was a week long event with special classes, one of them by the Cuban ballet maitre Ramona De Saá (detailed info about her here if you read Spanish).

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Followed by a an event where many dance schools showcase their best dancers.

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The nice and interesting thing about this event is that it is not exclusively of one or two types of dance, like typical “cultural” event where only classic ballet and contemporary dance are showcased. This event had every kind of dance that a school proposed. From classical ballet to salsa, flamenco and even break dance.

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After the show, there was a closing celebration party, where dancers still showed off their talents in an improvised breakdance battle and ending up in a nice big party.

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You can checkout a the full gallery of photos of the event at my Flickr album page. Also follow me on Instagram for more photos I publish of dance events I’m at and other random things.

Categories
Events personal

Trip to Villahermosa, Tabasco

Hotel Quinta Real Villahermosa

We’re almost done with the year and I realized there’s much to post in this blog. Back in July we went to Villahermosa, Tabasco for the wedding of a friend. It was my first time there so I didn’t know what to expect. Very soon into my trip I found out that they have very interesting food and recipes. We went to a traditional Villahermosa cuisine restaurant to try it out.

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No, this is not the traditional restaurant, that was a quick stop because we were running late.

Okay back to my story. The pejelagarto is a very popular dish around there. They prepare it in several ways: grilled, stuffed, in fillet, etc. In my case, I got to try it in empanadas. To me it tasted like crab (yes, with a B not a P).

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After the wedding, we went to a cacao farm where they give tours to show how chocolate is made. I was expecting to see a big factory and large farming lands, but it was a lot simpler. The farming land looks like a small jungle in the middle of the town, which grew around the perimeter of the old cacao fields. The place feels like a real jungle with the humidity, the plants everywhere covering the sun and the sounds of birds and other animals. The tour guide told us they have a section where monkeys live. This was their habitat before the town came into the jungle, so they are trying to preserve them there. We couldn’t spot any of them but sometimes you could hear them in the distance.

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Guacamayas

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We saw several types of trees that I’ve only read about in books. The rubber tree which produces a resin that native Mexican tribes used to create shoes and the first balls to play games. A cinnamon tree, which I never stopped to think how cinnamon is obtained. The tree is small and you can peel a part of it’s trunk or branches and that’s the cinnamon sticks. Then a gum tree used by Mexicans for centuries for chewing gum before Thomas Adams created the chewing gum industry world wide.

Rubber tree | Arbol de hule

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We also got to try freshly done hand-made chocolate. They demonstrated the traditional process of making chocolate from the cacao seeds. I participated adding the spices and trying the resulting mix. Then they explained how that process is now translated into industrial processes and how most milk chocolate has barely any of the outstanding health benefits of the cacao (also, white chocolate is just fat, no benefits at all).

Hand made chocolate

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It’s been a bad year for my writing but I started experimenting with video recording and editing. So I’ll be posting some of my video experiments using mainly a GoPro Hero 3+ Silver. I hope you enjoy this first one about this trip.

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
personal

The circle of life

At my new home, I happen to have a particular kind of neighbor. Actually I feel lucky to have such neighbors because they are so interesting.

These neighbors are a bird family. They have a nest next to my door and they, like me, are starting a new family. The analogies and symbolism reflected to my current life moment were a lot and meant a lot to me.

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I too was moving into this new home, recently forming a new family (although no kids yet) and everything was as new to me as to those birds.

Every morning from my breakfast table I could see the new family interactions. The male bird bringing home food for the female bird while she was taking care of the eggs and later the male bird alert watching over while the female bird fed the baby birds.

I think that however liberal and egalitarian we want to be as a civilized species, each gender has a natural role. Girls have their “motherly” instincts and guys have the “provider” and/or “protective” instinct. Observing this in nature is fascinating.

Even more, having the opportunity to witness these events in the so-crowded-crazy-traffic-ultra-urban Mexico city is something very fortunate and unique.

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I couldn’t catch the exact moment when the birds took flight. Actually there was some trouble that day. One of the birds flew and fell in between two buildings, in an inaccessible hole left between constructions. Later I saw the mother bird flying over there to help. I think it did make it after all. The other one fell to the parking lot area below and later, mum helped there too and later in the day it was gone too.

Bird ready to fly away from nest

The nest was left empty for several months, all through winter. Then a few weeks ago, I noticed new bird couples scouting for a new home. Several came, saw the nest and went away. After a few days of the same interaction, one of the birds came and dropped a twig. I took that action as leaving the down payment for the new home. And soon enough, the new couple moved in, putting new things into the nest, fixing it to their liking.

Since the nest is right outside my door, I could check every day if there was new activity there. Two days ago, the circle of life is starting over.

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Some day, it will be my turn to talk to you about my circle of life, but it’s not my time yet. First, I have to update these pages with lots of stuff I missed to log in the last part of 2014, and the first part of 2015.