Mexico, Photographs, Travel

The Steps of Guanajuato (Photo of the Week)

This week’s Photo of the Week was snapped from the stairs of the University of Guanajuato, which look like this:

Photo by André

Photo by André

That’s 113 stairs on one of the most stunning and asymmetrical old timey buildings I’ve seen. I don’t know what kinds of classes are held at the top, but I hope the professor gives extra credit.

The stairs also double as amphitheater space during the Cervantino, Guanajuato’s annual festival of arts, culture and theater. The Cervantino is named (and held in honor of) Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. Like many longstanding traditions it makes little sense: Cervantes wasn’t born here, never visited here, and set none of his fiction here. The best explanation I’ve gotten is that when one of Mexico’s presidents visited Guanajuato, he watched a live street play that just happened to be about Cervantes, and thought it was so brilliant he declared they should do a big drama festival. That kind of sounds like a folk story, but it also sounds very Mexico. The result is bronze statues of Cervantes, Quixote, and Sancho all over downtown, and costumed actors who lead tours and reenact scenes.

The Cervantino is in November so I won’t see it, but it’s a major international festival with the arts of one Mexican state and one foreign nation singled out each year. During that time, there are many performances outdoors (as well as in the city’s two historic theaters and many smaller stages) and the 113 steps offer plenty of stadium seating for one of the most popular venues.

But when I ventured up it was pretty empty, because rain clouds rumbled down the mountains just as the church bells rang 6 o’clock. I managed to catch church, clouds, mountains and a fellow intrepid photographer all in one shot::

Photo by André

Photo by André

I’m a little timid about calling that Photo of the Week. My photography skills just aren’t where I’d like them to be, and someone else could have gotten a much more dramatic shot. (I already know where I wished I would have stood instead, which is more behind her to put the focus on her view of the horizon).

But I like this shot for several reasons:

  • I finally got a candid shot of a local in the foreground, which is incredibly hard to do without them staring at you.
  • I got a foreground figure at all, whereas normally I just photograph what interests me: landscapes, buildings and moods. Boring stuff to most people.
  • I’m finally getting a sense of how to use the Dutch tilt to good effect. It used to be I’d tilt the camera A TON to kind of scream GUYS IT’S DRAMATIC (like in the first photo), or I’d realize how contrived that is and just shoot flat angles. But this picture has a slight tilt that adds movement without waving its arms for attention, and compliments the natural angle of the mountains versus the buildings.

Still, it’s not an amazing shot, and I welcome critique. By the way, that statue in the background? That’s Pípila, a guy you should totally read about. And yes, I did hike up the mountain to see him (instead of taking the cable car), but you should have already guessed that.

Any feedback on the photo, photographer friends?

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2 thoughts on “The Steps of Guanajuato (Photo of the Week)

  1. I am only an amateur, but if I were composing the pic, I’d angle down a touch more (more stairs, less sky), and move the yellow building a touch to the right. It’s the most visually stunning part of the image, and I like to offset those. And, like you say, take just a step or two closer to the photographer and turn a little further out. But that’s just me. :)

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