If you’re looking for a unique place in the world to photograph, then you should think about visiting Latin America. There you will experience a blend of the legacies from European colonial influence mixed with the traditions of native American culture. The people, traditions, culture, architecture, and the landscapes provide wonderful opportunities for all types of photography.
Cathedral and colonial buildings in Granada, Nicaragua.
First of all, there is the architecture. Many of the old cities from the colonial period still retain buildings that are hundreds of years old. The Spanish influence creates a special feel for those who enjoy photographing buildings and structures from another era. The buildings are usually painted in bright, exciting colors. Ancient doors and windows abound for those who like to photograph architectural details.
In some cities you can find modern neighborhoods that will gravitate toward the old style for buildings and are also painted in bright, fun colors. It’s all a part of the Spanish tradition dating back for centuries and can be found throughout Latin America and not just in a few sections here and there.
Speaking of architecture, don’t forget about the ancient ruins left behind by the native Americans. Famous sites include Tulum in Mexico, Tikal in Guatemala, and Machu Picchu in Peru. You will be left in awe for having visited these sites and amazed by the skill of the Mayans and Incas along with other groups. But there are many other similar sites throughout Central America and parts of South America if you can’t visit the more famous locations. So, there are many opportunities to photograph where you can also take in the remnants of the pre-Columbian period.
Machu Picchu in Peru.
If you want to experience the people, there are markets everywhere in the towns and cities where people go to purchase items for their daily needs. Textiles, fruits, vegetables, spices, souvenirs, furniture, and even open-air butcher shops with freshly processed meat hanging out and available for sale. In some of the more conservative areas of Latin America you will find people who will dress in traditional clothing and styles. Watching people gathering in the markets and dressed in native costumes makes for an exciting time for photography. You of course need to be discreet but if you ask politely some people will be glad to have their picture taken. Or they may ask for a dollar, a small price if the subject has a special look. If you use a telephoto lens you can be a little stealthier in photographing people.
Market restaurant in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico.
If you are in the more touristy places the people will be used to vacationers taking pictures but it’s still wise to use discretion.
The Gulf of Mexico boasts of some of the best snorkeling reefs in the world. Divers from around the globe will come to go diving and explore the underwater wildlife. If you’re into underwater photography, you will find many opportunities to indulge. When you mention diving you must also think about beaches and ocean landscapes which also makes for great photography.
The city of Campeche on the Gulf of Mexico.
Above the oceans rise great mountain ranges, rain forests, jungles, and some of the most diverse biological systems in the world. From insects to animals, the variety and opportunities for photography is among the best on the planet. It’s not uncommon to find parades of leaf cutting ants parading along the rain forest floor while being serenaded by howler monkeys.
The culture itself is a mix between ancient Indian beliefs and Spanish traditions. There are many annual events that attract photographers from around the world, but you could be wandering through a small town and run into a local festival with people marching and dancing through the streets in and around the village square. Again, people will be wearing traditional dress or whatever is the norm for the event, and you’ll be going crazy taking pictures. The atmosphere is electric as the locals celebrate life and their traditions.
The culture and traditions are intertwined within everything, including the churches and cemeteries. The Catholic church has had a heavy influence in Latin America and churches from the beginning of Spanish migration are everywhere. You can find churches from hundreds of years ago and many are open for tours and photography. The churches can be filled with antiquities and stand in grand opulence, providing even more chances to get in some great photography.
Colonial cemetery in Mompox, Colombia.
The cemeteries may be filled with tombs and crypts colorfully painted or decorated with exquisite detail. Respect for the dead must be given but the culture and traditions of how the passing of loved ones is a photographic subject that helps us to understand ourselves. Latin America provides its own take on humanity and that in itself is a subject worthy of photography.
Latin America surely should be on the bucket list of every photographer. The people, the culture, history, architecture, and even the nature provide a multitude for all types of photography. The culture and traditions, mixed with the old ways and the new, creates a unique region of the planet unlike no other. And when you go, make sure to bring your camera!