Thursday, March 24, 2011

Travel Photography Tips from Our Ports of Call - Mexican Dancers in Chiapas

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Copyright 2011 David/Anna Smith
More photo tips from David and Anna's Excellent Travel and Photo Adventures TM

Dancers in Chiapas, Mexico
When our Oceania Cruises Marina ship docked in Puerto Chiapas on the Pacific Coast of southern Mexico, I knew from previous visits to that port of call that there would be a photo op extraordinaire. Young men and woman would be dancing on the pier in their tradional costumes to welcome visitors and more dancers would demonstrate ethnic dances and music inside the nearby visitors centre all day.  Well I was not disappointed.

My travel photography hints to cover a cultural event: 

  • Get up early and be the first on the scene.  I was the first to hit the gangway and get on the pier so all of my photos were taken without any audience in view.
  • Meet and greet the dancers before they hit the "stage". This enables me to develop a relationship with each person and capture candid close-up portraits of each dancer. I asked each of them permission to photograph them and showed them their images on my camera's LCD screen. Because I took the time to chat with them in my "tourist Spanish" they fully cooperated with me throughout the entire day - during their dance demonstration, breaks and later in the day. 
  • I set my Canon 7D SLR camera to fast continuous shooting mode (i.e. several RAW photos per second) in P mode and used a standard 17-85mm and a 70-200mm telephoto.  The bright day meant all shots were at least 1/500 second at 400 ISO to freeze motion. I also shot in Shutter Priority Mode at 1/10 to 1/30 second @100 ISO to record motion blur from time to time. I also recorded about 6 one-two minute HD video clips for later use in multimedia slide shows. During the 20 minute fast moving dance demonstration  I  continually positioned myself to avoid conflicting backgrounds and line up several dancers and face close-ups when possible. The cruise ship's white hull made for an excellent backdrop but I had to watch for and avoid port hole windows in the background.  In some shots I later cloned out the port hole in Photoshop.
  • In the 20 minutes I shot just over 300 images and later selected just 10% (i.e. 30 images)  for my online gallery of Ethnic Dancers in Chiapas Mexico. By the time the dancing was over a few cruise ship passengers came over to see what was happening but most missed this incredible and memorable photo opportunity.

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Later in the day, all of the dancers saw me returning to the port from touring the Chiapas region and insisted excitedly that  I join them to chat and for more photos. In fact they wanted to take photos of me with the entire group.  When they found out I had a Facebook page and I would post their photos there they all smiled and wanted to be my Facebook friend.   Within 2 hours of posting on Facebook a few days ago I had 10 new and wonderful Facebook friends from Chiapas Mexico.   Gracias amigos!

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