Wyatt and I started day 4 just before sunrise. We watched the sun come up from the roof of his parent’s house and then decided to hop on the the ATV and dirt bike and make a quick run to the premier wave sailing spot in La Ventana called The Buffador. Buffador in Spanish means blow hole. At the Buff, as the locals call it, there are rock shelves that stick out into the water and when there is surf the surge blows through holes in the stone ledges spraying water way up in the air. Unfortunately the surf wasn’t big enough to cause the spray to blow up. We made it down to the Buff just in time for the sunrise to get really good.
We rode back to town, grabbed a quick breakfast and went on another tour of the town to try to get some photos of the local color. The photos we wanted most were of Pablo and his family as well as his store.
As expected the wind started to kick up pretty strong just before lunch. We were all looking to get some unique shots from some less popular areas. Tyson and I decided to zip down the beach to check on The Buffador to see if the wind and waves were coming together for a good wave sailing session. When we got down there it was pretty clear that we needed to go back to camp and gear up. The wind was cranking and the waves were decent. Tyson and I raced back to camp, the guys all geared up and did a big reach from camp all the way to The Buffador. By the time we all got down to the buff and started the shoot and lighting got kind of crummy. A thick layer of clouds had moved in and there wasn’t a lot of sunshine. The resulting shots were a little lackluster. The area really shines when the sun is out; most of the color of the natural landscape disappears without the sunlight. These shots were my least favorite from the weekend.
This evening everyone was pretty exhausted from the long day of sailing so there was no party. The guys pretty much got back to camp and passed out after dinner. I took a few sunset photos and called it a night myself. I headed back to the house to go through photos from the past few days and make sure I had backed up all my photos.
Day 3 started out with much more promise of wind. We woke up to small swell coming in from the North which meant that there was wind on its way much earlier than the day before. Before the wind showed up I had to get a few other shots. Josh wanted some overview shots of the camp. Just above the camp was a really high bluff that gave a commanding view of the entire sailing area. I was able to get up there just after sunrise and also right as the wind picked up. Being up there as the wind picked up was great because there were already a lot of windsurfers and kiters out which really gave an idea of how much sailing goes on there. The water was jam packed with peopleriding.
I decided that today would be an in your face action shot day. Wyatt had lined up a jet ski for me to ride on later in the afternoon so that I could get some action shots with the beach and camp in the background. The wind picked up right after breakfast and we all took to the water as quickly as possible. I geared up my water housing and swam out and pushed the guys to get as close to me as possible without hitting me. Wyatt took the prize and missed hitting me by a split second. He did a trick just upwind of me and crashed. His mast came flying down, headed straight for my head. I managed to duck underwater at the last second to avoid getting hit. The camera was shooting away during the entire sequence well past when I went underwater. It was pretty funny to look at back and see the look at Wyatt’s face as he realized what was about to happen. The rest of the day was spent shooting the action from as many different angles as possible; from the water, from the jet ski, from the top of a ladder, laying down in the sand for more foreground. All that we needed was a helicopter. That didn’t happen…unfortunately.
After a long day of shooting and sailing it was party time. We all headed over to Pablo’s Bar for some drinks and to look over the shots from the day. After raiding the bar across the street from the camp we headed back to where the real party was on the beach. The firewood collected the night before was already setup for a big bonfire. One interesting thing I learned about making a fire from dead cactus is that when you light the dead wood on fire, scorpions come pouring out of the wood and into the sand around the fire. Standard practice down there is to rake a nice smooth area around the bonfire so you can watch for scorpions and kill them before they crawl into your lap or your shoes. Luckily I only saw one scorpion and it was promptly picked up and eaten by Jay. On top of the bonfire we also had an assortment of illegal Mexican fireworks to set off. I stayed as far away from those as possible. Jay was the local pyrotechnic and put on a show with some big balls of steel wool attached to a wire. He torched the steel wool and swung the balls of fire around in circles creating a huge pinwheel of sparks.
Day two in La Ventana arrived with little hope for wind. Supposedly there had not been wind for over a week prior to me arriving. That information was not good news for the shoot. The guys all seemed to be going a little stir crazy from having no wind and too much beer around. We were all hoping for a good Norte to fill in and bring us great wind and possibly some wave action. We were up at sunrise and there was no hope for wind anytime before lunch; so to kill time we took to the preferred mode of transportation, ATV, for a quick tour around the town. After the quick ATV tour and breakfast at one of the local hangouts Wyatt and Tyson decided to take me down to one of the natural wonders of the area, a hot spring that bubbled up right on the beach and in the water. We drove down several miles of empty beach until we reached the spot. I couldn’t believe it; in the middle of nowhere on the beach I could drive my feet a few inches under the sand and hit 140+ degree water. I could also stand out in the water and feel the heat coming out of the sand. My comment was “why is there nothing here and why aren’t we taking advantage of this!” That was my elitist side coming out, any kind of fancy resort for a hot spring there would totally kill the vibe of the entire place. I was told that on occasion the guys will bring tarps down to this place, dig a hole, line the hole with the tarps and fill it with hot water coming out of the sand. The sand underneath the tarp is also heated so they end up with a hot tub literally right at the waters edge.
The hot spring got pretty boring after about 5 minutes so we high tailed it back to camp to gear up for some spear fishing. The guys said they knew a great spot fish at a place called Bay of the Dead which, for tourism reasons, had been renamed to Paradise Cove or something fun and inviting like that. Made me real comfortable about diving in the water there. On the way down we made the morning beer run. The guys always made sure to keep their Ballena bottles so that they could bring them into the shop the next day to get cheaper beer. I think the Ballena’s were $1.60 or something cheap like that but when you bring the empty bottle back they trade you for a new, full bottle for only $0.60. Needless to say a lot of beer was consumed; its safer, cheaper and more readily available than the water there. The drive down to the Bay of the Dead was a little hairy with the mandatory broken down van. I am not sure what adventure would be complete without some kind of serious automotive failure. Luckily Wyatt knows his van really well and assured us this had happened before and he knew exactly how to fix it. He managed to get the van going again and we kept on to the Bay of the Dead. We really didn’t spear anything, I think Wyatt managed to get one small fish that wasn’t even a keeper. I managed to get a few cool photos despite a small leak in my housing that caused my port to fog up everytime I went in the water.
After a couple hours of swimming around we were all kind of chilled down and ready to get out of the water; plus the wind was starting to fill in. I am not sure what was more motivating, the cold or the wind. We raced back to camp watching the white caps pick up far to the north and slowly fill in towards the sailing area. I think its safe for me to speak for everyone when I say we were all pretty stoked that there was finally some wind. Lucky for the guys all their gear is rigged 24/7 in their camp. All they had to do was pull up, park the van, grab a board and sail and hit the water. Earlier in the morning I had scouted a couple of shots for when the wind picked up. I grabbed my camera and started taking photos. I focused almost entirely on the pulled back scenics with the exception of one or two attempts at trying to get a shot that might be cover worthy.
The day ended with a trip to gather some dead cactus for firewood for the next night and a good sunset.
On the weekend before Christmas I took a very quick trip down to La Ventana, Mexico for a Windsurfing Magazine photo shoot. Josh Sampiero, the editor at Windsurfing, had called me up a few weeks prior needing someone to go down last minute to shoot pro windsurfers Tyson Poor and Wyatt Miller. After a little fussing around with dates and times and budget I was finally able to clear some time and pin down some dates that would work out for the shoot. The plan was to have Wyatt and Tyson pick me up from the airport and I would start shooting photos 24/7 from the time they picked me up until the time I left. I think I managed to meet that requirement. My assignment for the shoot was not to get really close up crazy action shots but to focus more on the town and the environment that the guys were living and sailing in. Most of the action shots were to be pulled out and more† scenic; which just happens to be more my style. The first day was pretty low key. The guys picked me up at the La Paz Airport with Pacifico Ballena’s in hand and took me immediately to one of the best Mexican restaurants I have ever been to (what do you expect in Mexico). After dinner we started the short drive down to La Ventana with a quick pit stop at a Mexican fireworks store. I think the fireworks are illegal because they seemed pretty sketched out by me having my camera in the store. Apparently in the past the police have cracked down hard on the fireworks stands. We got into La Ventana a little later in the evening and pretty much sat around camp, drank some beer and hung out with all the various characters that seemed to gravitate towards the 5-piece sectional that Wyatt and Tyson had setup in their camp on the beach. Their camp was the place to be most nights. I decided to not sleep down at the beach but to enjoy the good life a little bit and stay in Wyatt’s parent’s house with a nice tempurpedic mattress and a hot shower. The following morning I was treated to a great sunrise from the roof of the house I was staying in. Seeing a great sunrise was such a nice change of pace from LA. We just don’t get that many great sunrises in LA; or maybe I am just never up early enough to see them.
I had seen photos of smoke many times before and had always wanted to try it. My friend Oscar had just tried it and said it was really easy to get good results; as his photos showed. Having spent most of the day doing taxes I decided to take a break and have some fun with smoke. Lindsay and I both took these shots. The hardest part was trying to get the smoke to rise where we wanted it. The setup was simple: Incense burning on a table, A black background (back of a diffuser cover) 2-3 feet behind the smoke, Nikon SB800 speedlight 90 degrees to the camera as close to the smoke as possible at full power. A snoot can also be helpful to reduce light spill onto the black background. I had one on originally but found I didn’t need it. Not having the snoot let me move around a lot more to follow the smoke and not have to constantly adjust the camera. Camera settings were 1/250th, f/8 ISO100 with a 24-70mm lens. Manual focus was the most efficient way to follow the ever changing smoke. We just let our imaginations do the work and pressed the shutter when something looked cool; never really knowing exactly what we were going to get.