January: A sunny week in Playa Chacala, Mexico • February: A sad farewell to sweet Zoë • March: A relaxing respite in Arizona • April: Jazz in New Orleans; Blues & Photography in Mississippi; Blues & Ducks in Memphis; Country Music in Nashville • May: A drive into Eastern Oregon • June: A visit to Red Lodge • July: Hiking, camping & fishing at Mount Hood • August: An equestrian retreat in McCall and a quick trip to see the little Goodmans in Arizona • September: McCall to Telluride for Blues & Brews and a visit to the Sawpit Food Club • October: A getaway to the Coast •November: Drive to California • December: Cooking extravaganza and a trip back to Arizona for the holidays!
I’m not feeling inspired to write during this trip. While I was in Cuba – I hardly had the time, but at every chance I was scratching in my journal and trying to record the emotions, revelations, sights, sounds, etc. of the little island world I had dreamt about for so long.
Mexico feels less foreign to me. It’s nice, the towns I’ve visited are wonderful, I love speaking as much Spanish as I can, the crafts and traditions are very interesting, and I’ve had the chance to spend a few evenings photographers who I’ve admired for many many years. So, I’m having an amazing time with some incredible experiences – but the drive to bring pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) has been more elusive during this trip. However, I ‘ll give it a shot this morning …
First, let’s go back to Tzintzuntzan, the town where the tradition of Day of the Dead began. Thursday afternoon, two of the photography classes piled onto a bus and took the 4 hour ride into the state of Michoacán and stopped at the graveyards of Tzintzuntzan. (Pronounced something like “sin-soon-sun.”)
Raul warned us of the crowds and activities and compared it to the 4th of July in Washington DC. We were dropped at the road that goes between two graveyards just before dark. Our class was giving a little secret tip about a “fire hockey” game played in an area you wouldn’t likely find if you didn’t know it was going to happen.
I walked through crowded graveyards full of marigolds (Caléndula, or “the flower of death), candles lighting each grave, alters of the deads favorite foods, drinks, things, etc. The families of the dead stay at the graveyard all night and prepare the way for the dead to join them.
I quickly walked through the graveyards and snapped a few pictures. But, I was most interested in the “pelote de fuego” so I made my way in that direction to scope out the scene and planned to return to the graveyards after the game. I walked through a huge corridor of vendors and activity (I was having some serious sensory overload so I didn’t stop to look too much – but just cruised right through) before finding the park surrounded by two different churches.
I explored the churches a little and poked my head into the entrance to one of the market areas for a few shots before the game was to begin.
Once it was getting dark, I wandered around the park where they were placing large candles into what was forming into the field markers for the game.
A crowd started to gather, and men in purple and red costume, painted faces, and big hockey sticks seemed to come out of nowhere and the crowded started to cheer and the flashes went wild.
The “ball” was lit on fire and placed between two players who knocked their sticks together then started swinging.
The ball of fire was maybe about a foot in diameter and from the first swing – it flew high up in the air and right past a screaming and scrambling crowd. Everyone wants to be close to the action – but of course, once the ball is flying high in the air directly toward you – people are willing to give it some space (I wish I could have recorded the screams of excitement as the crowd would bubble out to make room for the players and their fire).
It’s typical for the spectators to get burned during this game (one of the ways that this *does* feel like a foreign country) – but the crowd is still coming in as tight as possible while the game is happening. I wish I had better pictures of my own to show you what it was like – but it’s almost impossible to shoot. I will post a few snapshots of what I did get.
The rest of my catching up is going to have to wait for another time – the roosters are cock-a-doodle-doodling and the workers are pounding on the bricks across the street. These are signs for me to get myself moving and out into the world.
¡Hasta lueguo amigos!
Yesterday we shot in the center of San Miguel for a Halloween celebration. Halloween isn’t generally celebrated in Mexico, but once kids find out they can dress up in a costume and get candy & money from strangers — how can they resist!?!
Today we’re making a pilgrimage to the town of Tzintzuntzan in the State of Michoacan for the Day of the Dead. Of course this holiday is celebrated everywhere in Mexico, but we’re going straight to the source.
Also today my teacher (Raul Touzon) said I just joined the ranks of the “exceptional photographers” in the classroom. I worry that it may have just been a lucky shoot — but I’m going to take his compliment and let my ego savor the moment and basque in my new found glory, even if it just turns out to be 15 minutes of fame
Two weeks in the heart of Mexico beginning October 28th.
The first week is all taken care of, in the form of a photography workshop, described as follows:
Day of the Dead and All Saints Day are among Mexico’s most important and visually stunning religious celebrations. We start the week by visiting Guanajuato, designated a United Nations World Heritage City. On Halloween night, back in San Miguel, we photograph in the Jardin, or main plaza, where costumed children and adults gather to celebrate. Then, on the night of November 1st, we travel to the town of Tzintzuntzan in the State of Michoacan to photograph what has been described as “a sea of lights,” when the local graveyard glows with the light of thousands of candles. The next afternoon, we visit the cemetery in San Miguel, where the tombs are decorated with marigolds, the flower of the dead.
Designed as a great next step after basic photography, this workshop is for photographers who want to learn how to use color and light to create outstanding images. We begin each day by editing and critiquing our photographs. Lectures cover digital camera settings, accurate metering and exposure, composition rules, and the creative use of light. An important part of the week focuses on learning how to use the key tools in Photoshop and Bridge for the development of an efficient digital workflow. We learn how to edit, sequence, and catalog, how to adjust levels, and sharpen and clean images.
The extraordinary light, impressive architecture, gentle people, and vibrant colors of San Miguel offer ample opportunities for practicing newly acquired skills. Raul and a course assistant accompany the group, offering technical expertise as well as local insight into this beautiful colonial hillside town.
From January to June, I have little idea of what I’ll be doing, or how I will be funding it.
I’m taking the “Leap and the net will appear” approach to the coming winter and spring.