Lately I’ve been poking around at WordPress trying to understand their obscure system for posting multiple photos, I think I’ve finally got it, or at least enough to get started. I’d like to do an occasional post devoted to photography rather than music. I’ve always thought of myself primarily as a photographer, I wore all sorts of other hats but generally speaking, wherever I went I was always carrying a Nikon F or an F3. But not just a Nikon, often/usually I also had my camera bag on the other shoulder, that contained another Nikon with a different lens, plus both of them had motor drives. A Nikon F with a 180mm, f2.8 lens, with a motor drive with 8 AA batteries in it and loaded with a 36 expo roll of Ektachrome 200 weighs about 5.5 – 6 lbs. I carried two of those plus several spare lenses, spare batteries, plus a lot of various misc. photo gear and lots of spare film. I’m not complaining in the slightest, it was a chosen way of life. Generally speaking, wherever I went, that’s what I carried, particularly whenever on ‘holiday’ or at a musical event.
So I was walking along a rural lane in the village of Todos Santos Cuchumatan, It is situated in northeastern Guatemala in the the remote Sierra de los Cuchumatanes mountains at an elevation of about 8,000 ft. My fiend John and I had driven there in the VW camper van when we visited Guatemala in the late 70’s. The population of Todos Santos is predominantly indigenous, of Mayan descent, most of whom still speak the Mayan language of Mam. The town is one of few places in Guatemala where the indigenous population still make and wear their traditional clothing.
As I walked along that lane that morning I glanced up and saw a young boy walking towards me, my Nikon was in my right hand at about thigh level, the lens must have been pointing forward.
When he was about 10-12 ft from me he suddenly bent over from his waist to look directly level into the camera lens, I suspect that he’d never seen a professional camera with a long lens before. Instantly I dropped to one knee to be at his level and fired one quick shot and as I did so I remember saying to myself “That’s probably the best photo I’ve ever taken” but at the same instant I knew that it was out of focus. I straightened up and instantly fired another but the magic had passed, he was no longer looking into the lens. There was no auto-focus in those days, every shot had to be manually focussed. I should mention that the reason for using a motor drive was because the film was instantaneously advanced whenever a shot was made, the camera was always ‘cocked’, always ready to shoot, a huge advantage.
This is the first shot I took that day, to the non-critical eye it might look OK but if you look carefully you’ll see that it is out of focus.
This is the second shot, it’s OK, it’s in focus but something’s missing.
Here’s a selection of photos of people from that village, notice the similarity of their clothes, the women make them on primitive looms in their cottages and every family has a different traditional design. This is not uncommon in Guatemala and you can often tell where a person’s from by the design of his/her clothing. I’ve read that the design of these clothes originates with the Spanish conquistadors who came to Guatemala in the sixteenth century, check out the codpieces, the shoes and the elaborate collars. I started buying examples of their clothes and came home with a large collection. They were not dumb about selling them, I recall at one cottage paying about $440 for several items, a huge amount considering that the men usually worked at seasonal agriculture for less than $1 per day! The women were the only ones who made and sold the clothes and these were not tourist items, there were no tourists, these were the clothes that they wore. They’re absolutely beautiful. I have them hanging in the house.
I very rarely asked permission to shoot photos, had I done so the moment would have been lost, instead if I saw a shot I’d point my camera and smile and a return smile was my OK. I can only ever remember one time where someone was upset at my shooting, it was in this village and I was standing against a wall at the edge of the market shooting with a 300mm lens, suddenly there was a ‘whack’ up the side of my head, a woman had hit me with a stick; I took the hint and quit for the day. Generally speaking most people were happy to have their photos taken.