Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Verde Gardens by Carlos Alves

Recently we had the opportunity to capture images of the recently inaugurated community park Verde Gardens in Homestead.  The park is part of the Carrfour supportive housing project supported by personalities like President Bill Clinton and former heat player Alonzo Mourning.

The park was designed by famous mosaic Miami artist Carlos Alves after being awarded by the Miami Dade Art in Public Places to lead the project.  The idea of the community park was to create a public plaza that would contribute to the identity of the community and bring a sense of ownership and pride to residents.

The result is an eye-popping mosaic based community park.  Carlos created a concept in which he integrated mosaic, native plants, metal, sculptures and other elements.  The park is intimate, relaxing and simple amazing.

Carlos divided the whole area into four individual theme areas and interconnected them with walkways, later adding his mosaic art to close the circle and create a space for all.

The meditation garden is a corner to relax and to inspire visitors there are ponds and mountains created with tiles where you can find fish and water concepts to calm your mind.

The butterfly garden has a series of benches and sitting areas to be able to rest and enjoy the views of colorful butterflies placed in the different pathways.

The sensory garden invites you to explore and stimulate your awareness of the surrounding by taking you through gorgeous paths embedded with different designs.

The gratitude garden a place that invites you to share with friends and play games, an area to relax after work with friends.

The central area of the park showcases two large metal leaves surrounded by benches engraved with tiles in the shape of flowers and plants.

 Carlos and JC took the time to incorporate native plants, which certainly enhance the experience, teach you about the surroundings and invites local fauna to move into a new home.  During the shoot we found birds, butterflies, caterpillars and even a frog hiding from the heat in his newly adopted home.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Eye of a Photographer

The world looks different to a photographer than it does to everyone else.  Why can a photographer capture flat images and turn them into art?  The eye of a photographer sees light, details, shadows, highlights, shapes and how they interact with each other.

The world looks different if you see it with both eyes compared to how you see it with only one eye.  Close an eye and look at an object, do you see what I mean?  Well, by doing so, before taking a shot, you will have a pretty good idea of what you can expect from your image.

Photographers explore the light and texture.  Light is probably their most important tool.  Photographers are intrigued by the way the nature of light affects the way things are seen.  Intensity, direction and type of light offer the photographer a potential for visual exploration.  Photographers have mastered how to use the rules of composition and know when to break them.  Photography is a process.

Our eyes work similar to a camera.  Here are some facts that you might even find amusing:  Our eyes have a resolution of around 560 megapixels, they can differentiate around 10M shades of colors.  The ISO of an eye is not great, it can be measured at around 800 and in low light they cannot see color.  The equivalent of the aperture would be f/3.5 with a focal length of 20mm.  The great thing about our eye is that it has auto white balance an auto ISO and it has a very high dynamic range.

Some photographers have the eye probably since they were born but most develop it after practice and training it can take several years to begin to notice things in a different way.  A photographer does not have to have all kinds of expensive equipment to take great photos.  The best camera gear in the world is not going to help a photographer see or be aware of its surroundings.  It’s all about the art of seeing.  With a photographer’s eye you are going to see things differently and you are going to cause an impression on the people viewing your images.

A photographer thinks in photography concepts and sees in terms of photography.  If you enjoy taking pictures you attitude will show up in the final image.  Everything has the potential to be captured.  It’s all about picturing an image in your head and making it happen.  The more it gets done the better you get at it. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Steps to Better Landscape Photography

How many times have you been driving and wanted to stop and take a shot of that breathtaking landscape.  You then stop, look around and the shot even looks better.  Your heart even skips a beat.  You go for it and return to the car with a huge smile.

When you get back home you download your pictures, process them and then you find out that what you shot was not what you placed your eyes on.  What went wrong?  Well its simple your lens and the sensor of your camera do not work like your eyes and your brain does.  You select different parts of the scene and produce beauty out of them, your sensor doesn’t.

So what do you now?  For landscape photography you need time and a couple of tips, follow them, practice and your shots will improve.

1.     The general rule for landscape photography is to keep as much of the scene in focus as possible.  This means that you have to maximize the Depth of Field or DOF.  In other words you have to choose a small aperture setting (remember small in this case means a large number) to obtain a greater Depth of Field.  The greater the DOF is the more focus you will achieve.  This also means that your shutter will stay open more than it would normally be.

2.      Since you are now using a longer shutter speed to maximize your Depth of Field you need to ensure that your camera is stable and not shaking.  The best thing to do is to use a tripod and a cable or wireless shutter release mechanism.  Doing so your camera will not shake and your photo will be not blur.

3.     Decide what your central point will be, what is your subject, where is it, what size is it, does it have enough contrast with the rest of the picture and how does its shape compare to the rest of the composition.  Your central point, know as Focal Point, is what will make your shot stand out and not allow the eyes of the viewer to wonder.  The Focal Point in landscape photography can take the shape of many different things, a building, a tree, a rock, a person, etc.  The placement of your subject is very important, use the rules of composition for this purpose.

4.     Your horizon is the next step to consider and an important one.  Make sure your horizon is straight and in the lower third or the top third of the photo.  The rule of thirds applies very well to landscape photography.

5.     Now look for lines in your shot.  Lines are a way to guide the eye.  It gives your image a sense of direction.  Lines should direct the viewer towards your subject.  A line can be road, a river, shoreline, mountain edges, etc.

6.     Another element of your landscape composition that can create an amazing landscape shot is a foreground object, this creates depth in your shot and prevents it from being flat.  The foreground will help you balance your image.

7.     When possible convey and transmit the movement that you see, wind, water, moving clouds, a bird.  A static image is less dramatic than one that showcases movement, it ads drama, mood and creates a point of interest.

8.     Shoot landscapes either early morning or at dusk, light is the best at this point and colors, textures, patterns will pop out and impact your image. 

9.     Take your time before taking the final shot.  Try different points of view.  The same image will look completely different if you go lower or if you go higher.  So walk around, climb a little, get on your knees or in a ditch.  You will be surprise at what you see.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

10 Tips to Help You Improve Your Photography

Reading books, attending workshops and browsing the Internet are all good things that can help you take better photos.  Read the following tips, they will improve the way you create amazing photos and how you see photography.

Know your camera – Your camera has lots of features that most photographers including yourself never use, maybe not even know they exist or what they are for.  Aperture, shutter speed and focus are fundamental and very important, but they many more that can help you be a better photographer and spend less time retouching and fixing your average photos.  There are functions like multiple exposure, time lapse, mirror lock-up, metering and many others.  Take your time to learn about them and get creative.  Creativity will change your photography.  Do you know where your camera’s manual is?  Time to take it out, go through it, experiment with each function and learn what you can create.  You’ll be amazed.

Take your camera into your room and turn off the light – Literally follow this instruction go into any room in your house and turn off the light, grab your camera and lets see how much your actually learn about it.  Sit down and change the shutter speed, the mode, aperture, ISO, focus mode, etc.  If you can actually do this is because you really followed the first tip and you know your camera well enough.

Enter photography contests – This is a fun activity and a great way to learn.  Look for contests that will actually provide critique and feedback.  There are many contests out there that decide on the winner by how many friends you convinced to vote for your photo.  But there are also some great photo contests, just spend some time looking and finding them.

Choose your best 25 images and have friends rate them – Print your 25 best images and place them on a flat surface.  Ask each of your friends to order them from their favorite to the one he or her likes the least.  When they are finished ask them why they placed them in that order.  You will be shocked at some of the comments and how people that are not into photography view things.  Their comments will help you understand some concepts that will help you improve.

Choose a couple of pictures that you like from sites like flickr and 500pix – When you are done, compare them, analyze them and critique them.  See what you like the most and why?  Look closely and see what they have in common, look at the metadata and find out how they were shot and the settings used.  Think about why they used those settings and what would have happened if the settings were different. 

Join a photo club and go out with your photo buddies – Photography is lots of fun when you can share the experience with others.  Look for local photographers, or a local photo club and plan outings.  Going out with several photographers allows you to experiment with other cameras, with new lenses, learn new techniques and practice new tips.  It’s fun and a great way to learn.

Learn a new photo technique at least every week – There are many different techniques out there and nowadays it is very simple to find them and to learn from them.  Google “Photography Technique Tutorial” and you will find thousands of them.  If you are very visual use the ones in Youtube, they will guide you step by step.  Another great resource is Google+, the amount of photographers participating is growing every day and the tips are awesome.  After you see them or read about them go out and take a couple of shots using the technique you just learn.  Practice makes perfect!

Shoot night photography – Shooting night photography is probably the best way to learn photography.  Automatic does not work.  You have to learn how to balance ISO, aperture and shutter speed.  You are forced to use a tripod and by doing so you learn how to use it properly and reinforces proper shooting techniques.  You will also learn how to focus on the light.  At the end you will be rewarded with amazing images.

Learn as much as you can – Research, ask, practice and most important cover a wide range of topics and learn about different styles of photography.  After you’ve done that you will probably know by then which style you prefer the most.  When you do, dig deeper, learn and specialize yourself, there is a lot to learn.  When you become real good at one style, sit down, relax and decide what’s next.  Start learning a different style, it will be a completely different experience and you will love it.

Show-off your work – There is no better feeling than someone commenting on your image and liking it.  There are many ways in which you can show-off your work.  Post it online, for example in smugmug, here you can have your own mini-website and share your work.  Enlarge, print a couple of your images and hang them at home or at the office.  Build a photo page of your work in Facebook.  There are many options and at the end you will feel proud of your work and motivated to do better.

Enjoy shooting and creating GREAT images!!

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My First Impressions of Google+

As many of you know by now Google+ is a reality, today it had about 10 million users.  Not bad for two weeks and available only through invitation.  Yesterday the g+ iPhone application was also released to the public.  I can summarize up Google+ as a network that combines Facebook’s posting and commenting features; Twitter’s openness to the way people can follow you;  Skype’s video conferencing and flickr’s photo-sharing capabilities. 

Google+ came up with a concept called “Circles”.  You can create as many “Circles” as you want and group people where you believe they best fit.  Using “Circles” allows you to only post to specific groups of people.  This way you can post separately and privately to your family “Circle”, or specific posts to a group of people that you believe might be interested in that topic, or simply go public and publish to everyone, friends or just acquaintances.

Many people are talking about Google+ coming out to take over Twitter and Facebook, similarly to what happened to MySpace.  My initial thought is that this will not happen, but it has certainly shown the potential to be a really beneficial social media network to be used together with Twitter and Facebook (at least those are the two I use the most for personal and professional reasons).  Lots of Mothers are in Facebook and they have become very familiar and comfortable with the network as a way of following their friends and family.  So I find it very difficult for people to drop it because it has really become a family and friend cyber-gathering place. 

On the other hand Twitter is a very useful social media tool and you won’t see me or people and businesses just quitting.  Professionally Twitter is a very active social network to keep up with happenings related to my profession and the digital world itself.  I can easily follow clients, competition and prospects.

Google+ has taken video chatting to the next level with “Hangouts”, probably one of the coolest features in g+.  It is basically a video conferencing chatting room that can accommodate up to 10 people at a time.  “Hangouts” has the potential to turn into the place to meet people and make new connections.  I will probably be using it to chat with other Google+ users with similar interests, for example, photographers.

Before Google+ goes fully public it will probably include new features, make changes, improve functionality and prevent what ever happened to buzz.  If you need an invite send me an email Joaquin@theduenitas.com

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Traditional Mexican Temazcal

Recently I had the privileged of experiencing the traditional Mexican Temazcal at Rosewood Mayakoba.  To be completely honest I had not idea what was to come and just decided to go with the flow.  I do not want to tell you everything about it because it would certainly spoil the experience.

The Temazcal is a type of sweat bath that has been used for both healing and ritual purposes in Mexico for hundreds of years.  The Temazcal is incredibly cleansing and spiritually uplifting.  Aztecs and Mayans would have steam baths to seek vision, blessings, purification or enter a trance state to communicate with the gods and their ancestors.

Temazcal is an Aztec name that comes from the Nahuatl-Aztec language words Temaz – to bathe and Calli-house.  The inside of the Temazcal represents the womb of Mother Earth, it’s darkness is human ignorance, the hot stones the coming of life and the steam is a creative force of the universe.  The hut is constructed so that the entrance faces east-the source of life and power, dawn of wisdom and the fire place is directly east of the entrance and represents the undying light of the world.

The Temazcal is a closed structure with a small pit in the center and an entrance.  Participants enter through the door and gather around the pit.  The pit in the ground holds hot volcanic rocks that have been previously heated in the fireplace.  Water is poured on the hot rocks to produce steam.  The Temazcal traditionally goes through four rounds and participants can choose to stay or leave at the end of each round.  During each of the pauses, more rocks are added to the pile. Increasing the heat of the Temazcal.

At Rosewood Mayakoba the Temazcal goes a step further and the first part includes a Shaman – Mayan priest, that will recreate an indigenous ritual connecting the four cardinal points at a ceremony that takes place in the cenote, a sink hole, located a couple of steps away from the Temazcal.  The ceremony will connect you with your internal being – a circle of fire, an offering of love, worship and chants to nature and the universe.  After the ceremony they will guide you to the Temazcal and the first of the four rounds will begin.  The purifying steam bath is based on traditional Mayan healing methods, produced by water infused with herbs to purify, cure, revitalize and balance your body and soul.

The experience was intense and felt immediately, suddenly I was more aware and in a state of well-being rarely felt after a conventional spa treatment. If you ever have the chance to do it, go for it.  It will change the way you feel.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Curaçao Carnival 2011 a GREAT SUCCESS!

Without a doubt Curaçao Carnival 2011 has been a great success, some are calling it one of the best in history.  The show presented 33 groups, including a group from the Dominican Republic that brought its traditions as part of the festivities.

It was amazing to see the organization, the color and the roots embedded in the party.  This year the Tumba Zapato (Shoe) of the performer and singer Hendrik de Windt was a massive success turning the parade into a real road march.  At some point or another every group played it as part of their presentation.  The Tumba Zapato compel to thump your feet to its sounds.

All of the groups definitely had awesome presentations.   Curaçao Carnival 2011 was a unique and exhilarating experience, the Main Parade a long lasting celebration for both spectators on the roadside, as well as for the participants who marched and danced.  The fun event invited people into the celebration.  The customs were colorful, exotic and vibrant.  The customs presented by local artist Nena Sanchez was inspiring and represented the colorful aspects of the island. 

The success also went to the people that danced, partied, celebrated, enjoyed and turned Curaçao Canival 2011 into a real fun family event.  No major incidents were reported and even traffic did not seem to bother anyone. 

Curaçao well done!!