The Posada de la Aldea (“Village Inn”) makes an ideal headquarters for the Santa Fe Workshops, as it is an excellent “photo op” in its own right. With its own restaurant and swimming pool, it is one of the most attractive hotels to be found in San Miguel de Allende.
Walking the grounds of my hotel early one morning, I noticed that this cactus, decorating the roof of one of the hotel buildings, caught the early morning light before the adobe walls behind it. While I was too late to make this image on that morning, I took the time to try different lenses, and determine how I would frame the shot.
As my artist bride is always talking about “bright before dark and dark before bright”, I made sure I was on hand for the following morning, before the sun found its way into the hotel compound.
Sure enough, there was a “window of opportunity” when I could photograph the sunlit cactus without bright highlights in the background, isolating it from its surroundings with my 300mm telephoto lens.
To be sure the background white adobe or bright sky would not affect my exposure, I spot-metered from one of the darker green “pears” of the cactus, and used that as the basis for my exposure.
During the time I was in San Miguel de Allende, my hotel sponsored an artisan’s exhibition, that covered the grounds with a wide variety of colorful stalls. Suddenly, here were all these interesting people, surrounded by their products, awaiting my camera. I didn’t have to walk more than one hundred feet from the hotel entrance! Talk about a captive market …
This cheerful lady was selling handmade tapetes, or rugs, of different sizes. Each small rug, she told me, represented eight full days of work.
I spent twenty minutes looking at them, while deciding what I had to discard from my suitcase so I could take one home to my wife … and in that time, the price dropped from 400 pesos to 350 pesos. I made my decision at that point, before she tried to give me the entire collection!
After making my purchase, she was happy to pose for me for a number of photographs, using her creations as a background. I used a little fill-flash, one f-stop in intensity below the ambient light, to provide highlights in her eyes and brighten the colors. A narrow depth of field separated her from the background, and in a moment of inspiration, I had her hold the rug so that it created a diagonal across my composition.
… and the tapete also cost me a pair of summer slacks, a tee shirt, and a small but heavy tabletop tripod (which I never seemed to use), all items I discarded to make room in my suitcase for my new acquisition.
The church, Parroguia de San Antonio de Padua, is about a ten minute walk from the hotel Posada de la Aldea, my temporary home in San Miguel, making it easy to get there for morning or evening light. This church is wonderful at either time.
This image was made using a 24mm wide-angle lens, with my tripod set up just below the foreground church. To avoid exposure problems, I spot-metered on the sunlit brown area just below the belfry on the main tower, taking that to be about mid-tone, and based my exposure on the resulting readings.
This composition is one of those major-minor opportunities, with the large cross dominant in the foreground, and two smaller ones in the background. The white church, nicely lit by the early morning sun, stands out strongly against the heavily polarized blue sky.
Who says there isn’t a god of photographers? I hung out on this street for quite a while, before this fellow in a blue shirt (the color complement of the orange building in the background) came along.
The blue frame and lettering of the sign on the wall picks up the color of the sky nicely, and is pretty close to the color of that shirt, as well.
This is a typical street scene in San Miguel de Allende, showing the buildings, the cobblestone streets, and the variety of colors. Just at the left side can be seen an outdoor ofrenda, a static display or altar honoring a dead family member, during the Day of the Dead festival.
An indication of the heights to which you can rise, in San Miguel de Allende, is the view, looking down the hill, of the church, La Parroquia, the tallest building in the city. This image was not made from the highest point in the city, by any means!
Image such as this, showing the narrow street, the church, and the hills in the far distance, and excellent for “establishing shots”, photos that give an overall impression of a location.
Unfortunately, I had neglected to pack a native of the city, with colorful serape and large sombrero, to place in my foreground, shown walking down the hill. Next time.
by Michael and Allison Goldstein