The monument is adjacent to where Wisconsin Avenue crosses over the C&O Canal in Georgetown. It is effectively a zero mile marker, although not precisely, as the canal continues a few hundred yards past the marker to empty into Rock Creek. It commemorates the construction of the canal. I caught it right at “magic hour” when the sky is just dark enough that it matches the ambient street light, but is not so dark as to lose all detail and color. Here it has a wonderful indigo glow. And no, no flash was used in the making of this shot- this was purely ambient light from the street lamps and the sky.
More specifically, the Georgetown neighborhood. Georgetown may be many things (incredibly overpriced, a tourist trap, insanely busy and difficult to navigate because they refused the Metro when the system was being built) but it is very vibrant and there’s always something going on. It still retains much of the late 18th/early 19th century architecture from when Georgetown was actually a separate city from Washington DC, and has a very distinct feel. I like getting out and photographing there, especially at twilight into the sunset hour, because Georgetown’s position on the crest of a hill overlooking the Potomac really captures the light of that hour like no other part of the city.
This is looking east along M Street, one of the main commercial corridors in Georgetown, from the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street. The sun is setting, the light is fading, and the traffic and street lamps are glowing with the first hints of night lights.
The cyclist is moving just fast enough to be blurred as he passes through the scene.
Here is the famous Farmers and Merchants Bank at the corner of Wisconsin and M Streets. This is an absolutely iconic structure in Georgetown, and is instantly recognizable around the world to people who have visited Washington DC.
I love the dull gleam of the gilded dome of the bank catching the last rays of the sun.
And here is a glimpse of Georgetown’s industrial waterfront past, where the C&O Canal carves its last yards of waterway through the city before meeting the Potomac River, and where the warehouses for tobacco, wheat, corn, cotton and local products were stored, bought, and sold at the last navigable port on the Potomac.
Today, fancy boutiques and high-end condos line the canal, the smokestacks of power plants remaining as decorative follies to remind us of the town’s industrial past.
This was, to me, a bit of a risk-taking. I’ve done each of the components of these images before, in some way shape or form, but never the combination of all at once. I’ve done pinhole. I’ve done panoramic. I’ve done long exposures. I’ve done color. I’ve done multiple exposures. But never color long exposure panoramic pinholes, and even a color panoramic long exposure multiple exposure pinhole. So these are the results of my experiments.
The first frame is taken from the intersection of Park Road and 14th Street, looking down 14th Street toward the DC USA shopping complex. This was a 12-minute exposure, using the exposure calculator from my pinhole camera. This was at twilight, thus the (relatively) shorter exposure.
This next scene is at the corner of 18th Street and Columbia Road in Adams Morgan. I love the unpredictability of this kind of photography – you know you’ll get patterns of light, and can kind of figure out where they’ll be, but knowing for example that in the span of the 25 minutes of this exposure a city bus would pull through and stop at the light long enough for Woodley Park to dangle mid-scene like a disembodied phantom, well, I couldn’t have predicted or planned that, especially WHERE in the scene it was going to show up.
This last scene was a real experiment – Not only did I make a total of a 25 minute exposure, but halfway through I moved the camera about 15 feet closer to the primary subject and re-started the exposure.
Throughout the Centro Historico, there are organ grinders playing their portable instruments, hat in hand for tips. A five peso coin is sufficient a tip if you enjoy their music. I gave this man a 10 peso coin for photographing him.
At the Templo Mayor museum, this guy was washing the windows, dangling from the roof basically on a couple of ropes.
Mexico City is a very musical city, if you give it a chance. It has a definite rhythm, and part of that is the sounds. The organ grinders are out, cranking away, and on seemingly every street corner, there’s someone intoning the litany of what they have for sale. This lady was outside the taquería next door to my hotel every day, pretty much all day, reciting the kinds of tacos they had and extolling their best quality. I never heard her voice waiver or decrease in volume.
All around the Zocalo, and at various spots through the Centro Historico, there are these shoe-shine booths. While the canopies shade the patrons pretty well, the shoe-shine men (and women) are out there in the sun and the heat all day.
Another part of the daily rhythm of Mexico City – people hauling stuff on carts.This guy is pulling a load of plastic baskets, but this is a pretty small load compared to some I saw.
Outside the Catedral Metropolitana, skilled day laborers set up soliciting work. Here are two plumbers specializing in gas, an electrician, and a plasterer/house painter.
My first full day in Mexico City, I got up early and walked around through the Centro Historico and got to see the city as it was waking up. Here was a street food stall set up on a pedestrian passageway cooking breakfast for the businessmen and shopkeepers in the neighborhood.
Across from the cook was the lime juicer making fresh limeade.
This is my tour guide who led us up through the bell towers at the Catedral Metropolitana. The cathedral is the largest Catholic cathedral in the Americas.
These dancers in traditional Aztec/Mexica costumes could be found most days performing on the plaza beside the Catedral Metropolitana. Here they were sheltering from a light rain in front of the Hotel Ritz (which is, unlike its namesake in Paris, a budget hotel) after a performance.
In the park area across from the entrance to the Anthropology Museum these traditional dancers were performing. At the top of the pole is a musician playing a traditional flute. The dancers are suspended by ropes at the ankles, and spin around to extend the ropes and lower themselves from the top.
For the Memorial Day holiday weekend, I took a short vacation down to Mexico City. I wanted to do an art-themed vacation, taking in museums and popular art and crafts, to get some inspiration for my own work. And of course, to take images of my own. For this trip I decided to take my new Fuji X-T1 and a couple lenses because it was much more compact and less conspicuous than the Rolleiflex. It proved a baptism by fire for me with the camera, as I was shooting with it 10 hours a day every day for five days. This generally is a good thing, and I’ll write up my impressions in a separate post.
One of the first things I noticed about Mexico City is that it is a very young city – you can tell the population skews much more toward 20 than toward 60. There are young people everywhere, wandering the streets of the Centro Historico, visiting the museums, riding the subway. I spotted these two young lovers on the plaza in front of the Palacio de Bellas Artes. You saw many young couples like these two holding hands and being publicly expressive. This was a bit of a surprise to me as my last impression of Mexico City was 30+ years ago when it was a much more conservative, much more Catholic place, and this kind of public display between unmarried youth would have been frowned upon.
Further signs of change in Mexico City – young gay couples holding hands in public. These two were touring the Casa Studio Diego Rivera with me, and I caught them in an unguarded moment on the roof of the studio. I should have taken their portraits too, but I did photograph them together with their cellphone as they were trying to do selfies with not much success. They were very cute and sweet.
I also saw several other young gay couples out on the street holding hands in the Centro Historico, which surprised me a little as I was not expecting it there.
On another early Sunday morning, I took a walk through the Alameda park, which was just up the block from my hotel. This boy and his dad were out to go roller skating in the park. I loved his punked-out helmet with the spiky mohawk.
In a passageway between Calle Madero and Calle Tacuba, just behind the Banco de Mexico, there’s this big bronze bird bench (try saying that five times fast!). I spotted this lady taking a rest, smoking and playing on her phone. As is typical everywhere now, people of all ages are glued to their phones.
A handsome young man on his phone, outside Chapultepec Park. Hot travel tip for anyone planning to visit Mexico City – the entire city seems to roll up the sidewalks and shut down on Mondays, at least as far as attractions go – there’s maybe one museum open. They even lock up the gates to Chapultepec park and only allow bicyclists who are transiting through to enter!
I went out for an early morning walk my first full day in Mexico City, to see what the rhythms of life are like. This man presented a dramatic composition in the morning sunlight as he leaned up against the wall.
This is a view I’ve seen a number of times but wasn’t ever sure how to capture it until yesterday. I’ve always had the wrong camera with me, either from the focal length, the aspect ratio, or both, perspective. This is an outtake in the sense that I was doing a model shoot with a friend of mine on the pier of the old C&O Canal bridge that used to cross the Potomac River in Georgetown, so taking this photo was not the purpose of the shoot. This is the view looking straight down at the dock for the boathouse.
I was particularly drawn to the geometry and angles formed by the decking on the boat dock, with the red decking running perpendicular to the unpainted deck, and all the triangles formed by the perspective you have to take to see the scene in the first place. Even the boat, which has a totally different shape and texture to the decking, creates more triangles with its prow, and provides visual tension running the opposite direction so you move your eye around the image.