French markets are great places for people watching and photo taking. Candid moments come fast and furious, and it's a bit hectic trying to grab one shot and not miss the next. I'm not sure what the man was smiling about, but the couple heading the other way might have something to do with it?
Spotlight on the human race
Our visit to Merida coincided with Meridafest, a nearly three-week long celebration to mark the anniversary of the city's founding on January 6, 1452. The festival includes numerous concerts, dances, and other cultural celebrations, including the opening procession. After fighting the crowds on the sidewalk, we ran upstairs just before the procession came past our hotel. When I saw the one woman out of the entire crowd look up at me, I had to capture the shot. From the look on her face you'd think I was going to drop a water balloon on her!
Ranch hand stares down an unwilling, about-to-be steer in Chiapas, Mexico. We camped overnight at this little ranch near the Tonino Archeological site, and in the morning the family-run operation set about to rope in this year's crop. A quick brand, an expert vaccination, and the job was done.
Musicians gather to trade leads and share licks in Parque Berrio in the heart of downtown Medellin. With Medellin's rebirth, tourists and locals alike freely gather in the city's many parks to share conversation and enjoy a peaceful afternoon.
Some years back we spent a week mountain biking through Cappadocia, Turkey. The trip was guided and supported, and with a support van following behind, we embarked on daily back-road rides through isolated villages, well off the tour bus circuit. In one little town we stopped for refreshments, and the local men all gathered around, curious to see our photos from the ride. This led to a flurry of portrait taking. It seemed everyone wanted to pose, and when it was time to move on, my biking friends had to drag me away.
During our back-road MTB tour of Cappadocia, we had just reached the outskirts of a little town when we were suddenly hit with the wonderful smell of baking bread. Our guide approached the little building, where smoke wafted through the roof. Soon we were invited to crowd into the hut to watch the operation. It was extremely challenging to shoot in the dark room with sunlight streaming through the gaps in the roof, and although the dynamic range was well beyond the capacity of my camera, I came away with a few memorable--if not technically perfect-images. For me, it was a true "Kodak moment", and one I'll never forget.
On Colombia's Santa Marta coast, net fishermen survey another disappointing catch. When rains flood the region's rivers, mud, silt and debris (the consequence of deforestation in the inland hills), push the fish out to sea, far beyond the reach of the nets. Fishing must be the most optimistic trade in the world--although there's only a slim hope for success, the only option is to try again.
During our stay in Panama City, we hired a private guide for a walking tour of el Chorillo, one of the city's most notorious neighborhoods. Once the redoubt of Manuel Noriega, the de facto ruler of Panama, the neighborhood rightly gained a reputation as a gang-infested, crime-ridden section of the city. Now, however, a renewal is occurring, and activists are working hard to recast the colonia as a welcoming, vibrant community. We stopped by the Parque de los Aburridos to chat with the locals and watch the pensioners while away their day with games of dominos. Where many still fear to tread, we found only friendly faces and cheerful smiles.
When it came time for my next haircut, we happened to be in Cartagena, Colombia, awaiting the arrival of our truck. The ship wouldn't make port for a few days, so we spent the time exploring Cartagena's historic core. Many of the older buildings had been converted into chic shops, catering of course to the cruise ship passengers who clog the streets on a daily basis. Amidst the gentrification we stumbled across this little barbershop, right in the center of town. Although the three chairs were occupied, I was welcomed to take a seat and wait my turn. According to the time-yellowed newpaper clippings on the walls, Barberia Ralf had been in continuous operation for more than 80 years. Soon it was my turn to be added to the long, uninterrupted chain of well-groomed customers. When the last snip was complete, I paid my bill, then snapped this shot of the little shop.
Tourists crowd the streets outside the panteon during Tzintzuntzan's Noche de Animas celebration. The commercialization of what was once a purely indigenous festival brings fleets of tour buses from all over Mexico. It's a party atmosphere, and vendors seize on every opportunity to make a sale.
The fancifully costumed skeleton called "La Catrina" (or "Catrin" for males) is one of the most recognized symbols of Mexico's Day of the Dead festival. Its origins date back to the early 1900s, but has roots in ancient Aztec mythology. In recent years the tradition of dressing up has become popularized (and even commercialized), adding a colorful and festive air to what was once a somber cultural celebration.
During the decades of Guatemala's civil war, the area around Nebaj saw some of the most horrific atrocities committed against the indigenous Mayan population. Where the screams of genocide once rang out, peace now reigns, and intrepid travelers are welcome to explore the hills and valleys of this remote region. We met this friendly gentleman in the hamlet of Xexuxcab, and after a brief conversation he politely agreed to let me photograph him. He would have been a young child during the war, and I wondered what horrors his eyes had seen.
On the Noche de Animas, families decorate the graves of the dearly departed with flowers and candles, hoping their spirits will visit during the night. Once illuminated, the ofrendas (altars) create a dramatic, festive atmosphere for the ensuing all-night vigil. This man and young boy were adding the final touches to their display.
A fishing family at Playa San Marcelino in El Salvador pushes their heavy lancha to the surfline. Two fishermen will spend the night at sea tending their nets, and hopefully they'll return in the morning with a bountiful catch.