San Miguel de Allende by Fork, Foot, and Photography (Part 4)

Clemente, head waiter at the El Campanario (the belfry) Restaurant on Canal Street, poses with a seafood platter. 

This was one of two images I made of Clemente (see RIGHT), one right after the other, and the results of this image amazed me. This photo was actually a happy accident, as I had neglected to reset my flash mode from “Slow rear curtain sync” to “Normal”, as was my intent. 

The result of blending a slow shutter speed while hand-holding the camera, and the resulting delayed flash at the end of the long exposure, was a wonderful, moody shot. The semi blur caused by hand holding over a few seconds of exposure time only enhances the mood of the photograph. I was so taken by this image that I proceeded to use the same technique to my advantage for the next two weeks! 

Clemente turned out to be a real performer. I had been passing through the restaurant with my camera, enjoying a “tour” by the owner, Patricio. When Clemente (who turned out to be Patricio’s brother) saw me coming, he left his table full of patrons, and brought his seafood platter to be photographed.

I photographed Clemente, the head waiter at the El Campario (the belfry) Restaurant using straight flash, without blending the ambient light inside the restaurant. This was how I had originally intended to photograph him, using “Normal” flash, but my first image accidentally blended ambient light with the flash (see LEFT). 

When I compared the two images, the accidental exposure, combining ambient light with the flash, was outstanding, to my eyes, while this second photo looked like it had been made for a “seed catalogue”.

I had stumbled on a technique I had never employed before, a new idea for making images under low light conditions, that I would employ in San Miguel many times in the next two weeks, to great advantage.

San Miguel de Allende is a city of flowers, with a climate that enhances them all through the year. These “white lilies” (I’m told they come in a variety of colors) were photographed in the garden of the Instituto Allende, a language school just across the street from my hotel.

I used a 90mm macro lens to bring out detail in the stamens, and enough depth of field to ensure that everything in my foreground was sharp. At the time of exposure, I was shading the flowers and leaves with a collapsing white reflector that I carry in my camera bag.

 This sunlit building, reflected in the window of one of our hotel buildings, was spotted by a fellow photographer, as we chatted just before sunset, near the swimming pool. I returned the next day with my 300mm lens to capture the photograph. 

I avoided exposure problems by spot – metering from the sunlit reflection of the building, basing my exposure on that reading. I expected the white adobe building to take on a blue cast in the shade, and it did. This is one of those situations where the simpler you can make the composition, the better it will appear.

Good compositions are where you find them. In this case, I was sitting close to a building site on a Saturday morning, near the Botanical Gardens just outside San Miguel. The camera and tripod were packed away, and I was trying to figure out how I had become so lost. “All I did was follow the path!” Famous last words. 

While I was calculating how to get back to the front entrance of the Botanical Park, I noticed these piles of bricks awaiting the Monday morning projects, and how the various colors caught the sun. The tripod and camera were soon re-assembled, and I tried to remember not to compose with any lines parallel to the frame. 

There is a God. As I finally hiked up to the front entrance of the Park, sweating buckets, a taxi was just pulling away. I waved and shouted in two languages, and was seen … and was back at my hotel in time for lunch.

 This juvenile poinsettia blossom was photographed in a local garden, quite close to my hotel in San Miguel. It was fascinating to discover that those familiar plants, always popular in North America at Christmas time, can grow to seven feet tall, in the Mexican climate. 

I used my 90mm macro lens to make this image. At the time, I was demonstrating to my Spanish instructress at the Instituto Allende (you have to talk about something, when studying Spanish conversation!) how to properly photograph flowers. This lovely lady was holding my collapsing white reflector so as to throw light on the flower, while at the same time shielding the sun from the background.
Once I had explained the process and the requirements (all in Spanish, with much dictionary reference), she “got right into it”, and was making suggestions on composition by the time the lessons ended.

by Michael and Allison Goldstein

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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