Since opening my photography business back in 2007, I have been stedfast in my opposition to photographing Pets, Weddings & Children. Well in the past few months, I have pointed my lens at two of those items (my nieces wedding shots). The latest being a photo shoot I did yesterday with my partner's family dog Odiseo. I would like to say I had a moment of weakness when I agreed to do this shoot. You see, Odiseo is a 12 year old Schnauzer and adored by his entire family. Knowing that he is coming towards the end of time here with us and the fact that I have had some regrets that I never took the time to photography my own beloved dog (except for cell phone pics) before he passed away last year, I just could not resist. What do you think? Should I perhaps start offering this as part of my business?
On my last visit to Costa Rica, I had the pleasure of visiting the Parque Nacional (National Park) in San Jose. Through February 20th, 2018 you can see the EXPOSICIÓN HUMANISMO EN EL SIGLO XXI by the amazing sculpture artist Edgar Zúñiga Jiménez.
His work is quite impressive and he has no doubt been influenced by Auguste Rodin. Like Rodin, his sculptures feature oversized hands and feet along with the human body in exaggerated poses. The sculptures in this exhibition are all made of resin and also combine various metal/steel structures. Each sculpture tells a story and that is a testament to his abilities as an artist. If you find yourself in Costa Rica, do yourself a favor and look for his work. A native Costa Rican, his work has been displayed around the world.
On December 31, 2017 I had the pleasure of visiting the Duran Sanatorium (El Sanatorio Durán) located about 7 kilometers north of the city of Cartago, Costa Rica. Lucky for me, my partner is a Tico (native Costa Rican) and we have a home near his family in Cartago. The drive to the sanatorium is quite beautiful as you ascend up winding roads scattered with sprawling farms along the side of the Irazu Volcano. Cartago is in the Central Valley of Costa Rica which is east of the Capital city San Jose. It is about a 30 to 45-minute ride from the capital city (depending on traffic).
The city of Cartago is the former capital of Costa Rica and I highly recommend a day trip to visit it. It sits a little over 4,700 feet above sea level surrounded by mountains and the Irazu & Turrialba Volcanoes. Irazu last erupted in 1994 and Turrialba in December 2016, which I was able to witness from the balcony of our home. Costa Rica has several active Volcanos which have been known to disrupt air travel whenever they erupt. In general, the eruptions create heavy ash clouds, but do not pose much of a threat to life.
The Duran Sanatorium has been declared the most haunted location in Costa Rica. So, of course I was very excited to check it out and see 1st hand what everyone has been talking about. It was even featured on an episode of Ghost Hunters International. The Sanatorium was founded in 1918 by the eminent Dr. Carlos Durán. He also briefly served as the president of Costa Rica from 1889-90. While treating patients and living at the facility, Durán's own daughter contracted tuberculosis and later died on site. There was no known cure for TB in Costa Rica during this time. It is rumored that one of the ghosts that inhabits Durán's former residence is a young girl, wearing a blue dress, whom may be his daughter.
The sprawling facility had space for 300 patients. It was believed that the altitude, temperature and humidity were ideal for the treatment of this highly contagious disease, also known as consumption, or the white plague. The elevation is a little over 7,700 ft. above Sea Level. If you are like me and have lived at about 10 feet above sea level the majority of your life, you might find yourself getting short of breath walking around and climbing the stairs inside. However, your body adjusts pretty quickly and thankfully I survived. Unfortunately, the majority of the patients treated there did not survive and they succumbed to the disease in the many buildings throughout the grounds.
It operated as a hospital for tuberculosis patients for many years, as well as an asylum for the mentally ill. After 1963, the Sanatorium ceased to be operational, since tuberculosis was no longer an issue and the mentally ill could be treated in bigger, more humane hospitals. For a while, the place operated as an orphanage, and then later it was turned into both a maximum and a minimum security prison. It was permanently shut down in 1973 when it sustained significant damage from an eruption of the Irazu volcano.
For me, I was very impressed with the beauty of the decaying buildings. When you enter the grounds, you are giving free rein to explore all the buildings on your own. As I walked throughout the various buildings, I couldn't help but be struck by the eerie feeling each room, hallway, staircase or broken window gave me. Although there is graffiti throughout the buildings, some of it is quite artistic. We visited in the early afternoon on our way down from the Irazu Volcano, which has an elevation of 11,260 ft. above sea level. For me, it was the way the natural light reflected on the floors and walls of the various buildings that I found most intriguing. Something truly beautiful happens when natural light shines through and illuminates a room. In the case of the Duran Sanatorium, that shadows and light enhanced the overall eerie feeling you get walking around inside the buildings during the day. Did I see any ghosts? No, I did not. But, I will admit that when I entered the room where they conducted operations, I got a cold chill come across my body and goose bumps on my arms. Was it the cool winds blowing from the mountains or a spirit making itself known to me? For an admission price of about $2.00 USA, I highly recommend this be included in your trip to Costa Rica. You can spend 1 to 2 hours exploring the Sanatorium either on your way up to the Irazu Volcano and National Park or on your way back down.
I have been asked many times over the years to photograph various weddings. My answer has always been the same: "I do not photograph Weddings, Children or Animals!" Why? Well, I just do not think I have the patience or personality needed to be good at these types of shoots. But, that may have all changed recently while photographing my nieces pre-wedding events.
Sydney & ReaganSydney & Reagan Wedding Rehearsal
On Decemebr 16, 2017 my niece Sydney was married to an amazing man named Reagan Jones. A few months before the wedding, my sister called me and said the following: "I know you do not photograph weddings, but your niece Sydney would be honored if you would consider doing something else for her. We have hired a great wedding photographer Amber Joy Malone, (Wow! you must check out her and her husbands work, they are amazing!) so we want you to come and enjoy the wedding. But, would you be willing to photograph her and her bridesmaids the morning of the wedding while they are getting ready?" How could I say no to my sister and beautiful niece? I agreed that I would bring my camera gear to Savannah, GA and shoot the girls all getting their hair and makeup done prior to the wedding. Once I arrived in Savannah, I decided to bring my camera with me to their Rehearsal as well. Of course my sister had a huge smile on her face when she saw I had brought my camera. It warms my heart to make my family happy, so I was happy to do it.
Sydney & Her BridesmaidsRehearsal Day Fun!
From what I have learned, many Brides & Grooms do not get photographs of their Rehearsal or Pre-Wedding functions for various reasons. Apparently, the main reason is it is cost prohibitive as they would rather spend money on capturing the actual wedding. Also, some wedding photographers do not offer this as part of their services. For me, as a photographer that has avoided shooting weddings because of the stress I assumed it would cause me, I found shooting these pre-events for my niece to be fun and non-stressful. To be fair, my aversion to weddings came from shooting a wedding many years ago and that one experience left a bad taste in my mouth. It was chaotic and the families of the Bride & Groom were just way too pushy and opinionated for my taste. Almost every shot that I had planned in my pre-meeting with the Bride & Groom were hijacked by their respective families and I found myself shaking at the end of the day and vowed to never do it again.
However, my experience shooting the pre-wedding events for my Niece was the total opposite of what I experienced many years ago. What I experienced this time was the family and wedding party were in a more relaxed mood at the Rehearsal than they are on the actual wedding day. I was able to interact with them, laugh with them and found the entire experience inspiring and quite fun. The morning of the wedding, my niece and her bridesmaids were all getting their hair and makeup done and I just floated around between them shooting and having casual conversations with them as I photographed. I brought my partner JC with me and he was a great help in pointing out opportunities for some great shots. They were all having a great time with each other and in turn with us. Mind you, I did not know her Bridesmaids personally (out of the 12, I only knew 2) but in this environment, I found it easy to engage with all of them and gain their trust. I found this experience to be much more relaxed than photographing an actual wedding. As a result, I was able to capture some special moments that would have otherwise been lost to a memory. This entire experience has me re-thinking my aversion to wedding photography and perhaps I will include a few more in my future. Perhaps there is a market for a Pre-Wedding Photographer and I might have a new niche. What do you think?
The Morning Of The WeddingSydney and her Bridal Party Prepare
The Bridal PartySydney basks in the sunlight surrounded by her Bridesmaids before the wedding
They say "The Eyes Are The Windows To The Soul" and in this image of Vince Irish, I agree.
© Gio Photography