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again and see what's new since A Leisurely Ramble Through Old San Juan
Hindsight is always ’50/50′
A while back, I went into Old San Juan to do a little black and white photography on film. I spent the morning with a friend, Fanny, from the SJ Photo MeetUp
I got exactly one roll out of my 35mm Olympus OM 4
before it died. It employs an electronic shutter so no batteries, no go.
I should have brought an OM-1
as backup since it works, with or with out batteries.
With no spare batteries for the OM-4, I switched back to shooting digital.
Fanny was shooting with a plastic Holga
120 rollfilm camera that does not use a built-in light-meter. You simply aim and shoot. The photo-lab does the rest.
I love these things and was slightly envious of hers.
They put the ‘fun’ back into photography. Lomography
actually makes a large variety of interesting, but cheap film cameras. They also come in a bunch of fun colors.
There’s a huge photo community devoted to these somewhat off color, retro looking analogue images. I like it.
I still have the roll of black and white Plus-X from the day.
At some point I’ll send it in for processing. That said, here are four ‘toned’ digital images from our shoot. Click any image to see them larger.
[See image gallery at robertospuertorico.com
The ultimate plan is to come back and spend a few days doing a detailed photo-study of OSJ using my Fuji GSW/III 690w
. A rollfilm camera.
My personal favorite. Then turn a few of those images into large B&W archival prints suitable for mats and frames.
This strictly manual camera features a 65mm lens covering a 6cm x 9cm frame using 120 or 220 roll film.
The ‘Texas Leica’ is a fixed lens, polycarbonate rangefinder with no automatic anything.
There are only 3 adjustments to this one- focus, shutter speed
. I have a Minolta spot meter for calculating exposure, but I usually use the OM-4 with a 28mm mounted for that. A 28mm lens on a 3:2 35mm frame is about the equivalent ‘view’ as that of the Fuji (same proportions).
So I compose with the OM-4 and use it to determine an exposure, but shoot with the Fuji.
Could I replicate the results with digital? Sure. But what fun would that be?
Anyway, I digress..
Old San Juan
IS one giant ‘Photo-Op’
The weather for the day was perfect. We covered parts of OSJ I had not seen before. Most of the buildings are in great shape. A little of it was boarded up, some of it was in a state of collapsing ruins.
There are ‘Classic Fine Art Photo’ opportunities at every turn.
Especially if you move off the main streets like we did. Most of OSJ
is well maintained and patrolled by police, but it still pays to be vigilant.
Beggars and vendors are seldom a problem. They usually stay to the high traffic tourist areas. Be careful of anyone that approaches you on the side streets. If that thought bothers you, don’t do it.
Always err on the side of caution when shooting in an area you are not familiar with. The more folks in your group, the better.
A highlight of the day was stumbling onto an old (OK, it’s all old) residence in the middle of being restored. The craftsman doing cleanup let us in to take some shots.
I could imagine how grand it would be when finished.
It even had a small outdoor patio off the kitchen. I have no idea what a place like this is worth in the local real estate market, but it can’t be cheap.
It was beautiful.
After that, we worked our way downhill to La Rogativa Park
. It has great views of the harbor and of the Old San Juan Gate
. One of my best shots ever, came from this location while shooting the reenactment of this particular part of history, ‘The Great Prayer Procession’
Then we made our way to an espresso shop for something chilled.
On the way there, we came across an old guy doing small paintings for the tourist trade. He graciously allowed me to photograph him working. I regret I did not get his name.
After the much needed break, we hiked back up the hill to an open air market at the Historic Art museum of San Juan
Most of the vendors were catering to tourists. It featured a little bit of everything. Fresh fruit, locally baked goods, Puerto Rican coffee, and a few hot food kiosks. I definitely want to come back and try some of Fifi Bernard’s
collection of Caribbean eats. It smelled awesome!
The hand carved, hand painted religious ‘Santos’
figurines are a common sight in Latin American countries and are just as popular here. Especially
the 3 Kings
motif. These were featured in a store front window.
Continuing on, we walked past La Perla to the OSJ cemetery.
I have yet to feature the infamous La Perla
, but it’s high on my ‘must shoot’ list. Not your typical tourist destination, for sure. It is an old ‘working class’ residential district. Most tourist maps of Old SJ don’t even feature La Perla.
Cementerio Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis
This cemetery is located to the west of El Morro
near the bottom of the hill and adjacent to La Perla. A narrow road leads down to the cemetery via a short tunnel. It’s best to walk this as there is no place to park, once you get to the cemetery.
I’ve driven past the cemetery many times, but this was the first time I ever went inside.
I’m not a particularly superstitious person so graveyards don’t spook me, but I try to maintain a sense of solemn reverence when shooting in one. Many of the graves were quite elaborate. Statues of angels were everywhere. The chapel was particularly impressive.
Cemeteries operate differently here than most places. You only ever ‘rent’ a plot and if family fails to pay the rent, they will dig you up and toss you in a pile. Some of the stories the locals tell would curl your toes!
One of my black and white shots features a bunch of rusting coffins (but no bones). Somewhere, there are skeletons in the closet.
It was here at the cemetery that I said my goodbyes and headed back to the car. We covered a lot of ground that day and I had the sunburn to prove it.
Thanks Fanny, for a great day! ARRG!
Minor Site Update:
I finally figured out how to imbed slideshows into posts. Wish I had done this 3 years ago. Hence forth, I will add a short gallery of larger images to those posts I feel would benefit from it. Wordpress and NEXTGen are very powerful tools!
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