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Posts tagged Peru

by Tiffani “Oh, look, a llama!” Michele

Because everyone knows I get paid for some of my photos, whenever I go away on vacation (like, to Peru!) people expect that I will return with National Geographic quality photographs of my trip. Here’s why that will never happen:

1) It takes a lot of work to capture the feeling of place! Usually done in the hours right before/after sunset and right before/after sunrise. These are known as the golden/blue hours of the day. Everything is awash in soft filtered yellow or amplified by a gorgeous blue after-sunset sky. But as a tourist, you know what I call these times? Happy hour and “sleeping off a hangover” hour. Drinking and photography rarely mix well, kids. Put down the camera and pick up the beer glass!

2) It takes work and time to scout the location to find the best angles to take the photos. Good lord, if I were trying to get good quality shots of Macchu Pichu I would probably get there and just watch the location change in the light for a few days in advance before deciding where to go and what time of day to get the perfect photos. But when I’m on vacation, the only things I’m scouting for are good gelato places and possible napping spots.

3) As a photographer it’s also important to have your camera at the ready and your eyes ready to spot anything worth noticing. But as an idle vacationer, it’s more important to have a nice cocktail at the ready and a good book to read.

Therefore, when National Geographic pays me to take pictures in exotic locations, I will come back with badass photos. Which would make it not vacation at all. So instead I’ll stick to my vacation modus operandi…eat well, drink often, and explore much!

I do take pictures while on vacation though. But it’s more about having an obsessive vision than it is about a sale-able image. And trust me, photographers are some of the most obsessive people around town. Some become obsessed with sun flare, others with reflections in windows, or old people on bikes. Sometimes you show up to a foreign place and become obsessed with things within the culture.

If you were to look at my pictures of Peru, you’d see a lot of pigeons, llamas, alpacas, dogs, and policemen. Not a lot of grand sweeping landscapes or even photos of the most memorable spots in the country. Nope.

Pigeons were everywhere in Lima, and for some reason I took pictures of them. Lots and lots of pictures. Like, more pictures of pigeons than anything else in the beautiful city. I can’t explain it, it just happened!

Llama, oh llama. (And alternately, alpaca, oh alpaca. Which looks like a llama with a bad hair day.) You are gawky, ill formed, and crazy looking. You are graceless and a little spastic. You have large expressive eyes and long long eyelashes. You have bewitched me with your direct gaze and your long ass giraffe neck on a furry mule shaped body. If I am ever feeling cranky, I just look at the pictures of you and all is right in the world.

I seem to recall an animated movie that came out in the 80’s, called “All Dogs Go To Heaven”. My younger brother and sisters watched it on VHS all the freaking time. I was a surly junior or senior by then, so I never watched it with them. I remember it was about a pack of dogs trying to survive in NYC (?? maybe?). Peru reminds me of this. There are so many free range dogs, it’s like the world is a kennel and we’re just renting space. I became obsessed with the dogs I saw. What were their stories? Who was in their pack? Were they happy? They looked pretty content. In fact, I like to think that my little shih tzu Frito Bandito (RIP little lady) magically transported there and is still prancing around with lots of other dog friends.

Finally, I have lots and lots of police photos. They were so…present…everywhere. Guns, riot shields, stern looks. It freaked me out. Everything was calm and cool, so I guess they were strictly preventative. I also found them highly photogenic.

What do you love to take pictures of? Like, obsessive love. As in, you can’t pass by a window reflection without stopping to take the shot?

by Tiffani “Endless Summer” Michele

Dear internet,

My kids went to Alaska with their Dad on their summer vacation. While they were gone, I went on mine: Peru for two weeks. I met some new people. I drank some new drinks. I saw lots of new things. I guess it was OK.

The End.

And by that, what I mean to say is:

Dear Internet,

I went to PERU for two fucking weeks!!!!!!! 14 days of magic!!!!!! 14 days of pure bliss. 14 days of immersion in a language I don’t speak and a culture I don’t understand. It was like a dream come true, only better, because in a dream come true it always ends up being too real. But this, it was like a dream come true if you were dreaming of a dream come true. 14 days of listening, watching, learning, (sometimes) crying, laughing, dancing, eating, hooping, drinking, picture taking, and just being.

I realized a lot about myself, which is always the best part of any good voyage.

I realized that my heart beats in time to the sound of a city buzzing with activity. In order: Arequipa, Lima, and Cusco.

I realized that normal activity to one person could be a completely foreign and interesting activity to someone else. I loved watching Peruvians go about their daily lives, and I formed a deep respect for their hard working, baby wearing, brightly clothed, smiling ways. I didn’t meet a Peruvian I didn’t like. Not to say they aren’t out there, but I had the good fortune to run with some pretty awesome people and watch the quiet rhythms of daily routines.

I learned that not everyone has the same uptight high levels of safety that I’ve been brought up with. For instance, refrigeration? Apparently not as necessary as I thought (as long as you don’t mind going without milk and ice).

“I’d like a pork sandwich please!” “OK, let me pull back this blanket and scoop some meat from the bone!”

Most badass schoolbus ever? This truck in the Andes. It’s safe. It has a rollbar!

I learned that while there may be no more new frontier for mankind on this earth in general, there is plenty of new territory for me to explore. And sometimes in doing the exploring, I’m left with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude, humility, and awesome.

I give you Machu Picchu–the reason for my trip and the absolute highlight.

I realized that I could never ever actually capture the sense of place that I felt there in a picture, but it didn’t keep me from trying. I ate things I never thought I’d eat (alpaca) and had drinks that completed me (pisco sour). I fell to the depths of loneliness, as one does when one is traveling alone, and then popped back out the other side into the arms of the traveling community…in which you are truly alone only if you want to be.

I soaked in lots of affirmation and love, because one thing that latin american men are not shy of is expressing lots of strong feelings that I’m unaccustomed to hearing. Of course, I didn’t buy into it. Obviously not, seeing as I base my self worth on my own identity and not on what other people say about me *cough* I’m trying *cough* but the fervor and tone is hard to ignore. After watching me hoop around to music out of my headphones, an entire group of Brazilian men in the hostel I was staying at pledged their undying love. Which is ridiculous, you can’t love someone after watching them for 5 minutes. But they believed it. And they defended their love so vigorously I let go of my American skepticism and agreed that yes, they could carry on with all that undying and unrequited love business.

But my heart? It belonged to the llamas y alpacas. More than the fiery passion of latin american men, these creatures stirred in me an inner confidence. They are so completely themselves…awkwardness and silliness and all…I couldn’t stop watching them. They trip along rocks. Careen down paths. Wander willy nilly up and down. They chew funny. Make priceless expressions of awkwardness. Who among us is more silly and awkward than me? And who is more regretful of this than I am? No one but me. But watching these animals (that I’d never seen up close in person) owning their shit was really empowering. If I can love them for their strangeness, then perhaps someone can love me for mine. In fact, maybe that someone can be me. I’m thinking that if you love llama, you’d love me by extension.

I fell in love with Peru. I fell in love with new tastes, sounds, sensations. I fell in love with life.

And that’s what I did on my summer vacation.

How has your summer been? Did you travel anywhere? Do anything new? See anything with fresh eyes? Do tell!