Monthly Archives: October 2011

Night Photography on the Zocalo, Oaxaca

Our group is here in Oaxaca for the Day of the Dead Documentary Photography Expedition.  We are practicing using tripods and camera settings for night photography.  Tonight is the REALLY BIG NIGHT.  We are going to the Xoxocotlan cemetery.  That did not stop us from staying out on the streets of Oaxaca until very close to midnight!

Cafe Society on the Zocalo, Oaxaca--Midnight

After dinner last night (at a really great Italian restaurant called La Vieja Lira, [Pino Suarez #100, Centro Historico, 951-516-1122] that I may write about later) we meandered to the Zocalo, cameras and tripods in hand.  Bill Bamberger is an extraordinary teacher and coach, and every step of the way will check photo results, give tips and techniques, suggest various shutter speeds and ask us to stretch and experiment.

Blue Arcade, on the Oaxaca Zocalo at Midnight

I experimented with shutter speeds ranging from f3.5 to f9 using automatic Aperature setting on my Nikon D40X.  I am using a 28-300mm Nikkor lens. The shutter speed for this one was f7.  I started bracketing my photos, and decided I liked this one with the stronger shadows to show the curve of the ancient tree trunk.  The zocalo is filled with trees like this.

Tree illuminated--On the Zocalo at Midnight, Oaxaca

I really wanted to capture the strength and sculptural beauty of those massive trees.  Lots of pedestrians are out this time of night.  Of course, it’s Muertos and there is a lot to celebrate.

Macedonio Alcala at Midnight -- Pedestrian Avenue

You can still see plenty of tourists and locals mingling this time of night.  Note the man with the camera around his neck on the right!  Perfectly SAFE in case you are wondering.

Just magical!

And, finally, the wonderful El Teatro Macedonio Alcala (below) at night.  And, if you click here you can see what it looks like in daylight.  The theatre is an incredible performance venue for classical music, theatre, and broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera.

El Teatro Macedonio Alcala at Midnight


Weekly Photo Challenge: Hidden

Hidden behind Day of the Dead masks are two beautiful young women who attended the exhibition opening at the Centro Fotografico Alvarez Bravo last night.  The photography center, located at the corner of Garcia Virgil and M. Bravo is featuring the work of Mari Seder as well as others.  Oaxaca is a hub for the photographic arts and a mecca for photographers who have unlimited opportunities for subject material.  From landscapes to portraiture, Oaxaca offers beauty, mystery, and magic.

What is hidden is ultimately revealed.  During Day of the Dead the mask creates new identities that can be dramatic, grotesque, or fanciful.  Costumed children and adults parade through the streets.

At the close of the opening photography exhibition, after hundreds moved from gallery to gallery, after swilling Victorias and munching on a simplified version of memelitas — a crispy corn mini-tortilla with a schmear of black bean paste and a sprinkle of queso fresco — we awaited the 8 p.m. performance of mezzo-soprano with a ring of feathers protruding from her forehead.

That’s when we opted out of participating in the procession that followed and chose a lovely supper of tamal con mole negro at La Zandunga instead.



Day of the Dead Parades in Oaxaca

Cheryl and I were sitting on the Zocalo at a lovely outdoor table under the Portico Benito Juarez at Restaurante Terra Nova.  I was sipping my favorite non-alcoholic beverage — mineral water bubbly mixed with fresh-squeezed limeade and eating a delicious chicken, avocado and cheese sandwich made with whole wheat baguette. The Zocalo was ablaze in color.

The Scene:  Sky pure blue, air fresh and clear, jacarandas in full bloom regalia giving forth bright coral flowers.  Balloon vendors held their own parade, holding dozens of reflective beauties by strings ready for parents to buy for begging children.  The young woman selling multi-colored cotton candy could easily hide behind her offerings.

There was an air of expectancy, excitement, the burst of Muertos energy waiting to happen.  Then I heard them.  The sound of a band coming toward us, trumpets, drums, tuba, clarinets, flutes.

Behind them was a wave of colorful banners, streamers and flags carried by children, women and men dressed in extraordinary Isthmus of Tehuantepec splendor.  Those too young to walk rode on the shoulders of fathers, brothers and uncles.  Even the grandmothers joined the parade!

It is a perfect time for mothers and daughters to dress up and take part together.

And for little boys to practice being big caballeros.

Oaxaca is a surprise this time of year.  Around every corner is something extraordinary.

El Diablo y La Sandia Bed & Breakfast in Oaxaca

I arrived at 4 p.m. weary after three flights beginning from North Carolina at 3 a.m.  Innkeeper Maria Crespo greeted me with a huge smile and warm hug. We had never met before. I entered into the sanctuary of a lovely, small B&B.  I had stayed here before a few years ago when it was operated under a different name (Casa de los Sabores) by Chef Pilar Cabrera.  I loved it then.  I love it even more now.  Here is why.

Courtyard kitchen and dining area

My room is the one in the corner with the open door.  It is pristine and comfortable with a huge bed firm enough to guarantee a good night sleep for me (which I had, thankfully).








The rooms are filled with local art, textiles from Oaxaca, Chiapas and Guadalajara (where Maria’s mother lives), and a sense of comfort that you can only find from home.

There are only 4 sleeping rooms, so there is intimacy.  And, this means that space is limited so booking in advance is important.  Maria tells me she is now filled most of the time and recommends that people stay a block away at Casa de la Tia Tere that has 20 rooms.  I would take a picture of my room, but I have already moved in and it’s not photo worthy at this moment.


I woke up this morning to discover the house cat snuggled at my feet.  She had climbed in through the window that opens to the courtyard.  Today, I’m meeting Eric, Janet and Dolores for lunch, prepare for our workshop that begins tomorrow night and love being in Oaxaca once more.  Especially here, at EDyLS!  Calle de Los Libres #205, Centro Historico.  WiFi. Great coffee in the morning. A kitty at your feet.  What more could one want?  6 blocks from the Zocalo.  Good exercise!


La Calavera La Catrina: Day of the Dead Symbol

La Calavera Catrina San Jeronimo Plaza

The calavera (skeleton) of La Catrina is the symbol of Day of the Dead in Mexico.  The original etching was made by Jose Guadalupe Posada in 1913.  The image has been adapted to fit many other art forms:  clay figures and carved copal wood painted in bright colors by famed Oaxaca folk artists.

La Catrina de las Bugambilias

And then there is the street art — fanciful La Catrinas who welcome passersby into restaurants, cafes, shops, and galleries.  La Catrina tin shapes that hang from doors and tree branches.  She is ubiquitous and beautiful.

On my first night in Oaxaca, I captured several elegantly adorned La Catrinas as we walked from our lovely El Diablo y La Sandia Bed & Breakfast to dinner at La Biznaga, and then on to a photography lecture at the Centro Fotographico Alvarez Bravo.

On Macedonio Alcala, we stepped into the Plaza San Jeronimo as a pink plumbed Catrina called to us.

At Galeria Q on Abasolo we were captivated by a La Catrina in a big red hat.








I  will take more photos as we begin to move through Los Muertos in Oaxaca.