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travel photography

Photography Travel

Las Fallas: Preparing the Fallas

Las Fallas is one of those large and wild festivals in Spain that should be on any festival-goers bucket list. What started as a feast day for St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, has evolved into a 5-day, multifaceted celebration involving fire and fireworks. Valencia, a quiet city with a population of just over 1 million, swells to an estimated three million flame-loving revelers during Las Fallas celebrations. I’m one of those millions of people currently in Valencia to take part in this festival.

During Las Fallas, hundreds of exquisitely-crafted monuments called “fallas” are set up throughout Valencia. Each neighborhood’s falla can cost hundreds of thousands of euros and teams of artists have work on these for an entire year.  Valencians create these fallas, which are incredible works of art as unique, funny, satirical and thoughtful tributes to past year.

The fallas have been getting set up over the last few days using cranes, workers to assemble each piece and craftsmen to touch them up with paint.   They must be completely assembled by tomorrow morning and then the judging will begin. The best fallas will receive rewards. They will be on display until March 19th, La Crema, when (you might have guessed) they set them all on fire!

As I’ve strolled around the neighborhoods near me and in Old Town Valencia, I’ve been photographing some of the fallas as they are being assembled to give you an idea of the amount of work and the scale of the fallas.

ruzafa 012 fallas 03 ruzafa 043 fallas 02 ruzafa 050 fallas 04 matematico falle 054 ruzafa 066 fallas 05 ruzafa 051 ruzafa 060 xerea 089 matematico falle 062 fallas 01 matematico falle 071

Photography Travel

Valencia: City of Arts and Sciences

Any visitor to Valencia, Spain, who is interested in cool architecture must visit the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias. The Cuidad covers 2 kilometers and contains complexes dedicated to arts, culture, science and leisure. The architects were  Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela and the project was completed in the late 1990’s.

After visiting it a few years ago when I came to Valencia the first time, I knew I would do a return visit so I could photograph it again. Here are some color infrared images as well as some monochrome images I shot in an afternoon at the Cuidad.

cuidad de artes IR 035-Pano-Editcuidad de artes IR 101-Edit cuidad de artes IR 068-Edit cuidad artes b01 cuidad de artes IR 072-Edit cuidad de artes IR 040-Edit cuidad de artes IR 027-Edit cuidad de artes IR 015-Edit cuidad de artes IR 042 cuidad artes b02 cuidad de artes IR 055 cuidad de artes IR 050 cuidad de artes IR 064 cuidad artes b03 cuidad de artes IR 084 cuidad de artes IR 086

Photography Travel

Valencia: Soldaditos

Valencia has a great museum dedicated to re-creations of historic scenes featuring over a million toy soldiers.  If you’re an avid toy soldier collector, this would be your Mecca.  I enjoyed photographing all the miniature diaoramas which where elaborately displayed throughout the museum.  The building itself is a very cool Gothic style palace that was the residence of the Marquis of Malferit and is well preserved. It was a nice little side trip as I strolled around a pretty part of old town Valencia.

toy soldiers 01 toy soldiers 02 toy soldiers 03 toy soldiers 04 toy soldiers 05 toy soldiers 06

Photography Travel

Valencia: My first Mascletá!

I’m reporting in from Valencia, Spain where I am currently documenting an amazing festival called Las Fallas.

The famous Fallas is Valencia’s most anticipated annual festival, featuring the ear-splitting Mascletá celebration which happens every day from the beginning of March until the end of the festival on the 19th of March. Each day, strings of hundreds of large firecrackers are hung by local groups in the town square. At 2pm sharp each day, thousands of onlookers and party-goers gather in the main square, Plaza del Ayuntamiento, to enjoy the explosive choreography of the petardos, the lighting of hundreds of firecrackers in all of their cadenced power and glory. Fireworks artists are allowed to use a maximum of half a metric tonne of black powder in their show as they compete for the best Mascletá.

mascleta 027 Las Falleras Mayores on the balcony of city hall getting ready to announce the lighting of the fuse.

mascleta 025 The crowd gathers at the Plaza. The barricaded area behind the tall fence is filled with fireworks.

mascleta 029-6 mascleta 029-12It was amazingly loud during those 6 minutes of non-stop explosions in the sky. I captured it on video while holding my camera over everyone’s heads.

La Mascletá in Valencia, Spain from Carol Watson on Vimeo.

I’ll be back again tomorrow to see what the next team of pyrotechnic freaks offers up to compete with today! My goal is to get to the plaza early and get in closer.

Life in Mexico Photography

Travels in Mexico – Bacalar, Quintana Roo

We recently had our first long road trip inside Mexico after being invited by local friends to stay with them as guests at a laguna-front casa in Bacalar located on the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula near the border with Belize.  We spent time swimming in the laguna, ventured into the jungle to see the Mayan ruins of Dzibanche and spent a day wandering the beach at Mahahual along the Costa Maya.  Here’s some IR photographs from the trip.

 

Life in Mexico Photography

Hacienda Dreams in Central Mexico

On Friday, we went searching near La Granja, Guanajuato for what we were told was an old hacienda. We took a narrow, washboard, rutted, boulder-strewn “road” for 10 kilometers off the main highway to the supposed location.

Initially we didn’t see anything worth exploring, but after asking at a little family “store”, it turned out we were a few hundred feet from the hacienda. We drove up to the exterior walls and found a chapel, some outbuildings, old farm equipment, a corral, and a large “lawn” in front of a house attached to the chapel.

While Carol was taking photographs, a man came out of the house moving towards a truck that was parked out front. I was uncertain what to make of the situation, as we were on what was apparently private property. But I called out to the man and approached him, telling him my name, and saying we had heard about the hacienda and were curious about it.

I asked him if it was still a working hacienda, and he said “claro, que si” and pointed to all the machinery (OK, that was a dumb question on my part, but I wanted him to talk about the place). He didn’t look entirely convinced of what we were doing there, but when I asked him what he raised, he seemed to soften a bit, and proceeded to tell me about the cattle and goats, plus the fields he had planted with sorghum (a special strain from the states called “Kickapoo”) for the livestock, and maiz and frijoles.

Somewhere along the way we made a personal connection, and before we knew it, he was taking us on a full tour of the entire hacienda. We wound up spending 2 hours being led around the property, listening to stories of the history of the area. We listened to the life story of this man who bought the hacienda 18 years ago, and has been lovingly restoring it ever since.

By the time we were finished, we had met his family, exchanged phone numbers, and walked off with gift of 1.5+ kilos of home-made queso fresco.

Only in Mexico.

— Writing courtesy of my husband, Charles Vance.