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Alex Eaton

[ Stillnotes ] 25 — Little details from Oaxaca

Published 11 months ago • 2 min read

25 » Little details from Oaxaca

Hey y'all,

I just returned from a few days in Oaxaca, Mexico. A few thoughts from the trip, but first the image above. On first glance a pleasing shot. Nothing crazy, but good colors and the accoutrement on the horses saddles provides some nice context and detail. The handler sitting down on the right gives some nice balance to the frame and another piece of interest overall.

Where the photo shines for me is if you zoom in on the details.

The horses, completely still, resting with their eyes closed while standing up. The handler also with his eyes closed. A group of hard-working folks taking a breather.

More context gives even more depth to the image. It was taken at Hierve el Agua, a beautiful area east of Oaxaca City where mineral springs have created what looks like a waterfall on the side of a mountain. It's heavily touristed, and these three work the area. I took this during the heat of mid-afternoon, which shows why the handler is resting in the shade. I tried to show this through the warmth in my white balance.

I get a lot of gratification out of a photo like this. Best viewed slowly, not on Instagram (you can't even tell the eyes are closed on insta - I posted with zoomed in views there as well), where the details bring a new element to the overall thing.


So, Oaxaca. Amazing place. The food is spectacular, the city colorful and boisterous, the people kind and patient. My Spanish sucks, but like most places they seem to appreciate it if you stay humble and try.

However, for the most part I think my photos suck from this trip. My lack of street photography eye and skills was apparent. I ended up with mostly snapshots, which I'm still happy to have for memory sake, but don't do much for me as a photographer.

There was plenty happening where a street photographer would have a field day. There was a protest all throughout the city one day, a political rally and parade to match one evening, bands and kids dancing in the street. I just wasn't ready to get in there and capture it. There's a different mindset and willingness you have to have for good street photography that I certainly don't have right now. A few takeaways for me from Oaxaca:

  • I am a nature photographer. Ha! It was still good to try and stretch the comfort zone a little bit though, to try something different.
  • You won't be good at something first try. I never shoot street, no reason I'd be great at it out of nowhere. This also applies to my nature work in the sense that daily practice makes for better photos. I haven't had a daily practice at all this year, its a reminder to make sure I'm shooting more often just to stay sharp.
  • I only brought my tiny 35mm prime lens on my Sony. This was a great decision because I never hesitated to have my camera on me at all times, and I felt less like a sore thumb in the city than I would've if I had my huge 24-70 on. However, 35mm seems to be an awkward focal length for me still. It felt like an awkward in-between where I'd want it a bit wider or more zoomed in. I'm wondering if 28mm and 50mm are more suited to me. More experimentation needed.
  • I needed some cultural travel. All my travel lately has been hard in physical ways, not mentally and culturally. I got what I wanted and it made me want to pursue more of that moving forward.
  • Always get the late night tacos.

I came out of Oaxaca inspired in my journaling moreso than my photos. Which is interesting for me, so I'm spending some time seeing where that takes me. I also ran into a lot of social inspiration there, the sense of community is palpable and I found myself craving it. The reasons for that may not always be positive, but there is a lot of positivity to find in it and relate to my own life.

More to come from Oaxaca, but as you can see a lot I'm parsing through from the trip.

Good to be back!

-Al

Alex Eaton

Writer, photographer

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