Day of the Dead Photography

In 2013 I was invited to San Miguel de Allende by a dear friend to attend Day of the Dead celebrations. I didn’t know what to expect but I thought I could figure out how to shoot it when I arrived. The mistake I made was relying on the newspaper for the time and location of events and as it should be no surprise to anyone who’s visited Mexico, I missed everything.

In 2014, I was prepared. I double verified time and schedules and I knew that the Catrina parade would have to start at the Rosewood hotel. Makeup artists had been busily applying their art at the Rosewood all day in anticipation of the parade. Surely if I just followed the Catrinas I would be in the thick of it. At approximately 7pm, the ghosts set out and I planted myself in the middle of the parade.

The faces and outfits were extraordinary people dressed up as “muertes” or dead brides and grooms, children, and banditos. However being an art photographer I didn’t want the standard tourista images, I wanted something more dramatic.

I had just purchased a small, lightweight Fuji rangefinder camera so I would not have to rely on auto focus in the dark allowing me to be faster and more spontaneous. I had also purchased a trigger for my flash so I could use it off camera. I took my girlfriend Jamie, who’s a great sport, but knows nothing about photography out for a little training session before the event. I had her hold the flash low and off to the side of the practice people to get a more dramatic “scary” look. The result was great; being in almost full darkness the people I photographed were not aware of what I was doing until after the flash went off. Judge for yourself.

My camera settings were:

24MM (zoom lens 24-70)

ISO 6400

f/5.6

Manual focus the camera at approx. 6ft.