After a delayed flight leg from Houston, Eric and I arrived in Guatemala City at about 10:00pm Monday. Checked into our hotel (the Barcelo – quite nice) at about 11:00pm, checked out at 4:00am to get to the bus station – making our stay about $20 an hour!
Tuesday was an all-day bus ride from Guatemala City to La Ceiba, Honduras. Fourteen hours, with a bus change and layover of 2 hours in San Pedro, Honduras. Met our cab driver in La Ceiba and took the 45-minute ride up the dirt road to Las Mangas.
After disembarking in San Pedro my iphone was “disappeared” – slipped out of my pocket in the seat, and I was off the bus before I realized it. A “search” by the bus service personnel turned up nothing. Mysteriously I was not allowed back on to look for myself.
So much for keeping in touch by email – all of my contacts were on the phone, not yet in this new computer. Hopefully I’ll be able to restore everything from the backup when I return and get a replacement.
The next two days were spent teaching photo classes to the students at Guaruma, the school project here. Originally started as a photography school for the children in Las Mangas, the project now has expanded to include environmental awareness studies and English, and has a second location about 5 kilometers farther up the mountain in El Pital.
The project we created for the kids was a simulated magazine cover, to teach the students awareness of shooting pictures for a specific format and subject, and then laying out the cover with their photos in Photoshop.
Wednesday we met up with Guaruma’s assistant director, Chris Poliquin and the school’s English teacher, Erin Coutts. That day we worked with the students in Las Mangas, and the theme of their assignment was “form and color in nature”. We took a walk along the nature trails that Guaruma maintains up the road and across the river just outside town.
The kids here are very much into macro photography, and their sensitivity and awareness of their environment is great to see. A few leaves on the jungle floor become a carefully composed still life, often displaying the subtle interplay of muted greens and browns, other times exploding in the vibrant colors of jungle flowers.
And insects – Oui! They have a critical eye for the smallest creature resting on a leaf or poised on the end of a branch, and work their subjects like a fashion photographer working with their model. Incredible shots of what others might think of as mundane and perhaps something to be dismissed and avoided.
After shooting their photos, we returned to the school where they loaded them onto the computers and learned how to combine the images in Photoshop into a template Eric created as the cover layout.
Then they played with changing type colors and fonts, moving type around the page, and learned how working with layers simplifies so many things. The students were excited to discover what they could do in the program and quickly realized how these techniques could be used with other projects.
Thursday we went up the road to El Pital and worked with the students up there. Neither of these “towns” are even wide spots in the road, but El Pital is a bit more “rustic”. There’s no nature trail there and the focus of their shoot was portraiture of the townspeople.
After some pointers on the do’s – and don’ts – of taking people pictures along with an explanation of how to shoot for a specific format, we unleashed this gaggle of paparazzi on the town.
While a few held back and preferred the comfort of using each other as subjects, most were quick to engage people they met (of course in this town, everyone knows each other) and ask to take their picture. Most were willing subjects and enjoyed working with the kids.
After corralling everyone and herding them back to the classroom, the kids went through the same process of putting their photos into the “cover” template. This group was a bit less computer-savvy than the Las Mangas kids, but nonetheless picked up the concepts and techniques pretty quickly.
This project gives the students an opportunity to learn practice skills that they’ll be able to apply to all of their photography as they move forward in developing their skills.