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Photo Notes

Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quirigua

In 2010, I completed an assignment to Central America for the Our Place project shooting 8 World Heritage sites in Mexico and Guatemala.

My Kit for this assignment was as follows: 2 x Lumix camera bodies, a DMC-GH1 and a DMC-GF1. My two fixed focal length lenses were Lumix G 20mm F1.7 ASPH and a Leica D Summilux 25mm/F1.4 ASPH and I had also packed two zoom lenses, a 14-140mm / F4.0-5.8 ASPH. / MEGA O.I.S. and a LUMIX G VARIO 7-14mm.

In Guatemala, the Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quirigua provided a unique set of challenges. Three hours on a local bus, north-east of Guatemala City not far from the Honduran border, this location was far removed from the hustle and bustle.

Well, things can get interesting in Central America when you only have a basic grasp of the Spanish language. Here at Quirigua I had the task of making a series of images of 6 ancient stone pillars or obelisks. Comprised of stone carvings and monoliths dating back thousands of years to Mayan times, this World Heritage site proved to be a real challenge to photograph - as you can read below.

Under the bright sun of the day the obelisks did not look so exciting, so I decided that I would photograph them at night. As the stones are not illuminated at night, the solution was to "light paint" them. Shutter: 1/200 sec. Aperture: f/4, ISO: 100.

Armed with two cheap plastic LED torches, a tripod and escorted by Jorge and Roberto, 2 Guatemalan security guards with a level of English to match my Spanish, I set off into the pitch black night. Shutter: 60 sec. Aperture: f/2.2, ISO: 200

To paint with light it is best to be able to set a long exposure to allow plenty of time to apply a continuous light source away from the camera. After half an hour of exaggerated hand movements, charades and badly accented Spanish on my part, the three of us agreed on 3 words, “arriba” = up, “abajo” = down, “apagar” = stop. Shutter: 20 sec. Aperture: f/5, ISO: 100.

Of course, with this rudimentary language there were no nuances so it only half worked. Added to this difficulty, there were only 2 torches and 3 people, which complicated matters at one point when I stepped away from the camera to help Roberto with more precise lighting, when I turned around I could not find the camera again in the pitch black! Shutter: 60 sec. Aperture: f/2.5, ISO: 200.

But we persevered and 3 hours later, I had made 8 images. My new friends had learnt a new skill, albeit one they may never use again - unless of course, another crazy gringo lands up at Quirigua. Shutter: 20 sec. Aperture: f/4, ISO: 200.

Photo Notes:
Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quirigua
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