this photo is from my first trip to sayulita. i exited the bus from puerto vallarta and found myself on the side of the highway. taxis wait along the dusty turnoff, expecting to carry curious travelers like myself the short distance. sayulita is a quaint beach town on the western coast of mexico. it is growing in popularity and is on its way to being overpopulated by tourists – both foreign and mexican. loved by surf enthusiasts, it is inhabited with longhaired, sinewy hipsters who are drawn to the crashing waves. surfing is a crack-of-dawn, early morning enterprise. if you are blessed to wake in a breezy room overlooking the protected cove, you will hear the faint voices of surf students learning the craft from leather-skinned professionals. straddling their boards and basking in the pink and orange sunrise, the crashing waves muffle the instructor’s voices. you can’t make out exact conversations, but the occasional group celebration can be heard echoing across the water. successful wave riding deserves a cheer from your fellow schoolmates, right? days spent in sayulita are lazy. coffee is a must. breakfast is leisurely. meeting times are vague. it is assumed that there will be shopping, beach time and a late lunch. in between, many refreshing drinks will be consumed. casual cantinas with outdoor seating – sometimes swings – play everything from reggae to 80’s pop music. families with bronzed, sand-dusted children are seen in golf carts, on the way to the beach or picking up smoothies from the vegan café. the roast chicken stand on the corner has the best pollo i have ever tasted. it is especially delicious after a few tequila libations. while on a stroll through town, i discovered sleek and chic hotels, bohemian bed & breakfasts, alleys lined with traditional artisans, upscale boutiques, wine bars, colorful murals, international cuisine and the classic street vendors. i think sayulita has everything you could want in the way of a laid-back beach town. flip flops are considered formal attire. color and texture seem to be everywhere. this wall obviously called out to me and the wood grain of the shutters seemed its perfect complement. every time i scroll past this image in my phone, or online, it always makes me smile. it feels warm and bright and cozy. it might be time for another sayulita getaway.
celebrations in ajijic are festive. whether a carnival in town, a parade or celebration of a feast day, there is always music and color. evenings on the plaza are anticipated and the buzz of the community gathering is melodic. while mariachis assemble and don their fitted and tailored suits, families gather on benches to stake a spot for the evening. tubas and trumpets are warming up and coronas are kept icy cold in nearby buckets. multiple generations are all gathered together in expectation of music, gossip and laughter. the plaza is the village’s outdoor living room, where the town congregates to greet neighbors and share stories. sultry teenagers exist on the perimeter, primping and taking selfies. the air is fragrant with the smell of chicharones and churros. couples, young and old, will dance on the mosaic walkways around the historic gazebo. street dogs make the circuit, traveling in small packs, looking for scraps and attention. but the children are having the best time. they are seeking out the most colorful cascarones, which are sold in clear plastic bags by local vendors. parents are begged for pesos, so the kids can purchase the brightly colored egg shells which have been emptied, cleaned, dried and then painted. the eggs are filled with confetti and then sealed with a piece of tissue paper. and the fun begins. children chase each other, darting through the dense crowd, between friends and neighbors, and cracking eggs over each other’s heads. confetti bursts from the shells, spilling bits of color everywhere. sharp barber shop fades, perfectly-coiled ringlets and intricately-patterned long braids become adorned with glittery bits of pastel paper. their dark eyes trimmed with fabulous lashes twinkle as they feign surprise upon being christened. shrieks of laughter ensue and then the chase continues. parents and abuelas watch from a distance, keeping an eye on the little ones. after many hours of music and pageantry the children begin to tire. families eventually disperse, leaving the all-night revelry to the young people. it is guaranteed that distinctive banda music will be heard until wee hours throughout the surrounding neighborhoods. initially the polka-like back beat and repetitive compositions would keep me awake, but now they lull me to sleep like a brusque mexican lullaby. margarita-fueled late nights on the plaza are often followed by my need for strong coffee and a warm plate of chilaquiles. a quiet, morning walk through town in search of nourishment will reveal a patchwork of confetti and broken egg shells, dappling the cobble-stoned streets with bits of color. remnants of a proper celebration in our charming little town.
charming bella. never, ever have i been a cat person. but, my time here in ajijic, has been shared with two cats. damyn and bella. damyn was relentless. always on the kitchen counter. always underfoot. always pursuing an altercation with the neighbor feline. not cuddly by any stretch. he could hold his own with the dogs, but i never saw him really interact with bella. she spent her days hidden under the large, cluttered table in the art studio. she would shrink away from any comfort i was willing to give her. surfacing to be fed, she would immediately retreat to some dark corner, to avoid all forms of attention. when damyn died suddenly, bella evolved into a different creature. she became friendly, wandering the house looking for someone to purr at. in the early mornings, she would play very sweetly with the puppy, nuzzling him and circle-eighting her way through his legs. she was suddenly engaged. always sitting within reach, she would roll on her back in expectation of belly rubs. whole conversations were had with her and i said on more than one occasion, she is the cat that might make me love cats. after a particularly lengthy episode with the resident caninie bullies, she ascended to the roof and stayed there for a day and a half. perched above the kitchen, she would call to us, meowing her frustrations with her companions. she would implore of me to do something and scold them for their treatment of her. there wasn’t much I could do. they are dogs, after all. her silhouette against the blue sky was too irresistible. i snapped a photo. i begged her to come down from there and eventually she did. this image is a fan favorite and framed vertically, viewers often chuckle when they realize she is there at the bottom. my muse.
this is one of my favorite photos. however, it does not seem to be a fan favorite. occasionally a viewer at one of the art shows will scrutinize the image and understand what it is. but, i think most people glance at it and move on pretty quickly. in the photography workshop i took in santa fe, i was challenged to take five photos of a subject. whatever has caught my eye, i should study it from five different perspectives. chances are, the first photo will not be the best photo. taking the time to slow down, breathe, consider, move the camera around and move my body to experience the subject in a new way is key to getting the right shot. it is difficult to remember this tactic, when something shiny or quirky has caught my attention. my trusty canon is always in my bag and with me. so, my instinct is to reach for my camera or my phone and snap a quick photo and move on. but, my instructor, brandon, was right. taking just a few extra moments to really consider the scene is crucial. first photo is usually at the height of my eyes, right? not always the best angle for viewing. shots two and three could be from a lower perspective or maybe just off-center. by the fourth or fifth click, i have stepped back, contemplated the additional textures and objects in the direct vicinity of the subject. it is safe to assume i have found a more interesting way to capture the subject and the composition of the final few photos is more compelling. this photo, taken in tlaqupaque, is a perfect example. directly above this sidewalk was a canopy of colorful umbrellas. the natural instinct is to shoot the brightly hued umbrellas against the skyscape or the storefronts, painted in complementary colors. in a rare moment with light foot traffic, i noticed the shadows of the umbrellas that were cast on the pedestrian walkway. i took several photos from the opposite side and then decided to cross the walk, as the eight-pronged shadow was what had caught my eye. i had a better chance of framing it properly from the far side of the walkway. propped up against a short post, i specifically waited for the right moment. a break in traffic followed by impending shoppers and tourists gives some clarity to the photo. the inclusion of their flip flops and sneakered feet, informs your mind that it is a walkway with shadows from above. if someone has taken the time to study this image, they will eventually see my octagonally-spiked fixation. it always makes my day when a potential buyer comments on it.