Mexico – Colors Galore

By Men Tay

New year, new resolutions.  If you are looking for a rich cultural experience that provides numerous opportunities for beautiful travel photography within a small budget, I have a suggestion for you.

Just south of the United States is a neighbor that is widely misunderstood.  Americans think of Mexico as Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, Rocky Point, etc.  A Mayan civilization that goes back to about 3,000 years, Mexico is a country full of history, culture and color.  Get away from the dull beaches and you will find a kaleidoscope of colors in places like Mexico City, Oaxaca, Puebla, Merida, etc.

Start your trip in Mexico City, the capital city of Mexico with a population of about 22 million people.  Not much landscape photography here but the sights of people, shops, food, museums, will overwhelm you.  The city revolves around the Zócalo.  In front of it is the massive Catedral y Sagrario Metropolitano with its baroque-style façade.  Worshippers inside pray at the Altar de los Reyes, a gilded wood altarpiece that took nearly 20 years to complete.  You may run into a group of indigenous people performing their traditional dances.  Stroll the streets and watch the locals shopping for clothes, food, hardware, etc.

About an hour from Mexico City is the colorful city of Puebla.  A city famous for its colorful buildings, ceramics and namesake dish, mole poblano.  Strolling around an outdoor market, you will find colorful pottery, artwork, street musicians, and handicrafts.

Next stop is Oaxaca, a beautiful colonial city that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Much of the activities center around the plaza of Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman.  You find cafes, locals strolling around, food vendors and if there is a festival, dancers parading the square.  Nearby is the 20th of November market, where you find spices, mescal, fruits, and even roasted crickets, a local delicacy.  A mad display of sights, sounds, and smell.

If you love history, there is the nearby ruins of Monte Alban, built by the Zapotecs around 500 BC.  Pyramids, palace, ball court, and bas reliefs are the attractions.  Come early for the best photography or you will run into large crowds.

Next is the popular expat town of St. Cristobal, located in the highlands of the state of Chiapas.  Like most Mexican towns and cities, life revolves around the zocalo.  However, if you branch further out from the city, you will find many of Mexico’s indigenous people, with their rich traditions and colors.  Weavers still use hand looms to make colorful blankets and tapestry.

Lastly, Merida is an old city that has many colonial buildings and old churches.  Get up early and walk the streets and you will find many opportunities for some interesting photography.  The zocalo comes alive in the late afternoon and evening.  Street musicians, food vendors, friends and family meeting each other.  The type of scenes that you don’t see too often in the United States.

A question that is often asked when I travel to such places is:  Is it safe there?  The places I mentioned above are all quite safe.  However, there are precautions that one must take no matter where you travel in the world.   I’ve written a post on my travel blog that talks about how you can protect yourself when traveling to unfamiliar places:   https://mengineurope.blogspot.com/2017/08/

If you can be randomly shot at a concert, nightclub, theater, school, parking lot and even a church here at home, then everyplace else is much safer.  You have to venture out of your comfort zone and enjoy the world.

Meng Tay is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

EASTER EGGS

By Vicki Uthe

Easter is coming up in a couple of weeks and it is a fantastic holiday for shooting, especially if you like color as much as I do.

Apparently my household doesn’t color eggs as often as I think we do because I only have two years of examples. But that doesn’t matter. This is a blog about inspiration so YOU get out there and find those eggs and baskets and colors and YOU get some images.

This bowl of eggs was sitting on our kitchen counter. I set up a tripod so I could shoot in low light without camera shake. You could spend an hour just shooting this bowl and changing around the eggs to find the best lines, forms and color combinations.  Of course changing the  angle is also also an option as I did below.

Seriously, this makes me want to color eggs this year just to have a photo session.

One year we got a hold of a box of egg color that had faces and hair in them. That was a fun shoot!

So, this Easter, get with the kids and/or grandkids and color some eggs! Then get out your camera and have some fun. I did!

Happy Shooting!

Vicki Uthe is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

RAW VS. JPG, ENHANCING COLOR

By Vicki Uthe

I spent last spring break in Panama with my beautiful wife Ellen. I have nearly two thousand images to sort through and I hope you are as excited to see them as I am to share them.

I’m going to begin this blog with where we left off in Panama, on the San Blas Islands of the Guna Yala, an indigenous tribe in Panama’s Caribbean Sea.

When I first downloaded the images I was extremely disappointed that I wasn’t able to capture the true color of the blue green water surrounding the islands.  And then I figured it out. In Lightroom, in the Develop module, right below Basic, is a tab marked HSL / Color / B&W.  I clicked on that, scrolled down to Saturation, clicked on the little cross to the left, took it over a color I wanted to enhance and wah-lah! saturated colors! MUCH more like the colors we experienced on the islands, even with cloudy skies.

This is the image after I worked on it.

Here is another before/after example with the beach, palm trees, water and sky.

The following images all were enhanced using the same tool. You also have a choice of enhancing the Hue and Luminance, all of which can give you results closer to what you actually saw.

I know I spent the few days we had on these islands pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

The colors were so amazing and vibrant. I was so glad and relieved to discover I could convey those colors in my images.

In order to do this, though, you have to shoot in RAW, not JPG. As one of my favorite photographers puts it, imagine you have a bucket of pixels and information (that’s RAW) as opposed to a cup. That’s JPG. RAW gives you much more latitude when it comes to post processing your images. It will also use up more of your memory card so be sure to use big enough ones that you won’t run out on a shoot.

There are other post processing softwares out there, I happen to use Lightroom for organizing and post processing.

Don’t be scared, switch that camera to RAW and give yourself more creative options when post processing your fabulous images.

Happy Shooting!!

Vicki Uthe is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes