Costa Rica: Dec 2-23
Marianne Wells Yoga School (www.mariannewells.com) hired me to document a two week long intensive 200 hour teacher training, in the small Caribbean village of Cahuita, Costa Rica. I booked a ticket leaving 12/2/16, returning 1/1/17, with the intention of spending the latter half of the trip traveling around Central America after the teacher training.
Once we all arrived to Cahuita via a 4 hour bus ride from San Jose, CR, I was struck by how raw and un-polished this part of CR is. Cahuita felt like a primordial jungle, especially at night when the sounds of the jungle came to life.
Yoga practice is an especially vulnerable time to take photos, so I made every effort to make sure my presence was rarely noticed. At times, I would put down my camera as a respect to someone that was discussing a particularly difficult topic in their lives.
I quickly became part of this tribe of beautiful, strong people, and it was an extremely beautiful, cleansing experience for me. It's struck me how much more powerful the experience was as a student in the training - I was often moved to tears just as an observer. These people came to the training as strangers, and through sharing their experiences I saw such pure love grow between them.
There were tears, but so much more laughter and enlightenment. I learned that these yogis were more similar to myself than I would have ever expected.
As the training progressed, I found that my favorite time to shoot in the yoga studio was about 6:30am, as the rays of the rising sun were able to selectively highlight teachers in golden light. I also found that as time went by, that the students saw me as one of their own rather than "the photographer", and wanted me to help capture the beautiful moments they had with their new lifelong friends.
After I left the yoga teacher training midway through December, I wanted to keep a bit of that calm with me. I've seen more sunrises and sunsets during that time then I have in the past 10 years combined. I had gone from eating a massive amount of meat and drinking like any good New Yorker to an occasional glass of wine, and an almost entirely pescatarian diet.
Nicaragua: December 24-31
I had originally been keen on going to Colombia to visit a friend that would be in Bogota during that time, but after talking to people about Nicaragua, the beautiful colonial architecture in Granada called to me. After some scheduling snafus because everyone was trying to go from Costa Rica to Nicaragua for the holidays and many bus lines were booked, I made it to Granada.
I wanted to capture genuine, gritty photos of Granada locals, so each morning I would get up with the sun at 5:30am, and ask people if I could take their photos as they started their morning rituals. I however wanted to use my control of off camera portrait light to really highlight people's features and personalities. This is a small sampling of the best of them:
Through various coincidences, I ended up falling in with a group of ex-pats and locals that worked or were connected to a yoga spa called Pure Nica (www.purenica.com). I ended up joining them for adventures in Granada, Masaya and Laguna Apoyo and they really made it hard to leave central america!