Tuesday, April 29, 2014
This Mexico jewel is like photographic candy
Located in southcentral Mexico, Oaxaca is a beautiful colonial city that has long been a favorite with photographers. Its cobblestoned streets and colorful traditional architecture, as well as the surrounding villages, are perfect backdrops for portraits, street scenes and slices of life.Markets And Dancing. Oaxaca has several lively markets. The Mercado Benito Juárez, just off the Zócalo, is mostly food, produce, flowers and craft stands. It can get pretty dark in there, so a camera with good high-ISO performance will stand you in good stead, and 1600 seems to be sufficient for the darker areas, along with an ƒ/2.8 or faster lens. The shops along the outside of the market are better lit.
Even bigger is the famous Mercado de Abastos, near the bus station, where you can get anything from lace underwear to live chickens. It's a scene, especially on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, when it's extremely crowded. Make sure your wallet and your bag are well protected as this can be a place where pickpockets operate. Traveling light with a body and a lens or two you can zip up in a vest or jacket, along with your wallet, is the way to do this one.
Pre-Columbian Archaeology. And as if all this colonial architecture wasn't enough, there are fantastic pre-Columbian sites to see. Six miles out of town on a large hill is Monte Albán, an ancient Zapotec community thought to be built up in the range of 200 to 500 B.C.
There are two big, flat-topped pyramids in a giant courtyard, and I like the view from the top of the South Platform steps. The site opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. on most days, and those hours prevent you from getting real sunrise or sunset light, but late afternoon from the South Platform gives some dramatic side lighting, especially if there are dramatic clouds scudding across the sky (as there often are in the late afternoon in these parts).
Tripods aren't permitted on the site. Last time I went, they took my full-sized tripod that was slung over my shoulder. (They're very nice about it; they store it in the office, give you a ticket and you can pick it up when you leave.)
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